Wide-ranging safety. On the 2019 Honda Pilot, the automaker's suite of advanced active safety features – called Honda Sensing – is standard across all trims. This includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, road departure mitigation, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist.
Additionally, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are now standard on EX and EX-L trims, with blind-spot monitoring also standard on the Touring model. Automatic high-beams are standard and only offered on the Elite.
Comfortable, versatile interior. With a revised grille and updated taillights for 2019, the exterior design manages to nicely occupy the middle ground between a minivan and crossover, although the Pilot's cabin betrays much of its commonality with the Odyssey minivan – mostly in a good way.
All seven or eight seats (depending on trim) – a count which includes the third row – are supportive, nicely bolstered, and capable of transporting adults in comfort, making Honda's largest crossover the perfect vehicle for families that need (but really should buy) a minivan, but wouldn't be caught dead in one.
Hardly luxurious, the interior hits all the high points with class-competitive materials, soft surfaces at all touch points, and thoughtful touches that include numerous bins and pockets, as well as a console that can be configured for individual storage needs.
Cargo volume hardly takes a back seat (ahem) either, with most models offering 16.5 cubic feet behind the third row, that rises to 46.8 cubes with that row stowed, and expands to 83.9 cubic feet with second row seats that fold flush to the cargo area.
Although the interior is class-competitive to around a $40,000 price point, it should look more upscale for the $49,000-plus suggested price of the Elite trim. At the same time, the Odyssey still works best for families looking for the ultimate in interior space and versatility.
Smooth V6. Although only a single engine is offered on all Pilots, it's a nice one: a luxury-grade 3.5-liter V6 that develops 280 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 262 pound-feet of torque at 4,700.
Strong enough to achieve a zero-to-60 mph time of less than seven seconds, front-wheel-drive models are capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds and all-wheel-drive models are rated at 5,000 pounds with the right setup. The engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission in LX, EX, and EX-L models, while Touring and Elite trims are given a nine-speed automatic.
But lacking a hybrid option, overall fuel economy is only average. LX, EX, and EX-L FWD models manage an EPA-estimated 20 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, and 23 combined, and 18/26/21 mpg (city/highway/combined) with AWD. Touring and Elite models hold the middle ground with FWD models managing 19/27/22 mpg and AWD versions posting 19/26/22 mpg. By comparison, the 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid garners 28 mpg combined.
Solid features. At around $32,500 with front-wheel drive, the LX trim comes nicely-equipped with the usual power features (windows, locks, mirrors) and Honda Sensing, plus 18-inch alloy wheels, LED low beams, daytime running lights, and taillights, rear privacy glass, keyless push-button start, and a 5-inch entertainment display screen.
Our choice, however, would be the $35,375 EX model that adds intelligent traction management for snow (FWD)) or snow/sand/mud (AWD), along with heated outside mirrors with turn indicators, walk away auto locking, LED fog lights, three-zone automatic climate control, an overhead conversation mirror, a power driver's seat, heated front seats, one-touch second row seats, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display with satellite radio, HD radio, HondaLink remote services, and Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and CabinControl Remote capability, Bluetooth, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Smooth ride, awkward transmission. All Pilot models offer a smooth, comfortable, and quiet ride. But while the LX, EX, and EX-L models are offered with a conventional gear lever and smart-shifting six-speed automatic, Elite and Touring models are equipped with a nine-speed automatic that, despite refinements for 2019 (second-gear launches under light-to-moderate throttle for smoother acceleration, avoiding some of the previous version's clunkiness), can still get confused when it's called upon for single or multiple downshifts. Exacerbating matters is an awkward multi-button interface that's hardly intuitive.
Final thoughts. Although the Odyssey and other minivans are the superior people movers, and buyers looking for more ruggedness would be better served with a more specialized SUV, the 2019 Honda Pilot makes sense for many families, despite its flaws, thanks to its comfortable and smooth ride, technology, and wide range of standard safety features.
In terms of competition, the Mazda CX-9 features a more sophisticated and premium look inside and out, the Toyota Highlander offers more maximum cargo space with many of the same safety features, while Dodge and Ford offer more performance choices with the Durango's 360-hp 5.7-liter and 475-hp 6.4-liter Hemi V8s, and the Explorer's 365-hp and 400-hp 3.5-liter turbocharged V6s.
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