Looking past its understated design, average fuel economy, and fussy nine-speed automatic transmission, the 2018 Honda Pilot offers solid, predictable handling, a well-organized and nicely-appointed cabin, and an attractive array of advanced safety features.

Best Value

Prices for the Pilot begin at $31,875 for a front-wheel-drive LX and top out at $48,445 for an all-wheel-drive Elite. In between is a bewildering array of trims that can be chalked up to Honda's reliance on distinct models rather than trim-level option packages. Thankfully, choosing an engine is simpler – the only choice is a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 paired with either a six- (on LX, EX, and EX-L models) or nine-speed automatic (on Touring and Elite trims) transmission.

The usual power features are accounted for as well as keyless push-button start, a 5.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, LED brake lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a rearview camera. EX and EX-Ls with Honda Sensing – along with Touring, and Elite trims – come with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, and road departure mitigation. Honda's Lane Watch passenger-side camera is standard on EX, EX-L, and Touring models, while Elites have blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

Considering the Pilot's family-friendly mission, we'd suggest the mid-range EX-L with Honda Sensing that features easy-to-clean leather seats and additional standard features like a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, three-zone automatic climate control, One-Touch second row seats that electrically move forward for easier access to the third row, roof rails, a power driver seat, heated front seats, satellite radio, and fog lights.

Here’s how we’d build it:

  • Model: 2018 Honda Pilot EX-L
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6
  • Output: 280 hp / 262 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • MPG: 19 City / 27 Hwy
  • Options: All-wheel drive ($1,900), Honda Sensing ($1,000)
  • Base Price:$37,735 (including the $975 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$40,635

Performance

Honda Pilot

The V6 offers crisp acceleration and pairs nicely with either the smooth-shifting six-speed or the double-downshift-capable nine-speed automatic that holds gears longer. The ride is soft with plenty of compliance, the AWD system is quick to respond, while the driver-selectable traction-management system provides very good all-weather capability.

At the same time, the six-speed automatic is slower off the line and winds higher at highway speeds, the nine-speed suffers from occasional jerky shifts, and, the suspension seems sloppier with less control over wheel rebound and more noise compared to rivals. Additionally, the steering is also light with little feedback to the driver, fuel economy is only average, while advanced safety features are unavailable on the base model.

Style

Although understated, the Pilot's design still manages to hit the the sweet spot between too dressy and overly macho. It's wrapped around a well-finished interior that takes its design cues from the latest Accord and storage solutions from the CR-V. Seating is supportive, the driving position is high and commanding, and the controls are intuitive. Storage includes 109 cubic feet behind the front row, 55.9 cubic feet behind the second row, and 18.5 cubic feet behind a third row that features enough space for adults.

Minor nits include no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto on the LX, the lack of a One-Touch second row on LX and EX models, mediocre leather seat side bolsters, and – most glaringly – the absence of a volume knob on the radio.

The Best and Worst Things

The Pilot tempts with a nicely-trimmed cabin that offers plenty of cargo space. We only wish the nine-speed automatic was smoother and the driving experience was more engaging.

Right For? Wrong For?

Honda Pilot

The Pilot's spacious, well-appointed interior and long list of advanced safety features should entice safety-conscious families.

At the same time, enthusiasts will find that a number of competing vehicles offer crisper handling.

The Bottom Line

Despite middling fuel economy, a finicky nine-speed transmission, and the lack of a volume knob for the radio, the 2018 Honda Pilot's confidant handling, spacious and well-organized cabin, and broad lineup of advanced safety features make it a top choice in its class.