The Honda Pilot is much better than what you might expect just from reading about it. It has a unique but stylish boxy design, a really nice interior, and plenty of storage space inside. This 3-row SUV is one of the best in its segment. We tested the TrailSport version, and while it excels in various aspects, it does exhibit shortcomings in terms of fuel efficiency, third-row room, and cabin noise at highway speeds due to its all-terrain tires.
In contrast to other Honda models that merely market the TrailSport trim as a gimmick rather than a genuinely capable option, the TrailSport version of the Pilot truly lives up to its name. It has higher ground clearance, a suspension made for off-road driving, strong steel plates on the bottom, and a special “trail” driving mode. All of these features make sure you can handle any road, path, or trail with confidence.
All Pilots are equipped with a strong V6 engine that produces 285 horsepower and 262 lb. ft. of torque. Honda also offers their cylinder deactivation system on the Pilot, known as VCM (Variable Cylinder Management). This system operates much like other cylinder deactivation systems, temporarily shutting off three cylinders under specific driving conditions. While it aims to enhance fuel efficiency, we’re not big fans of this system because of its reliability. Historically, such systems have been prone to issues. Personally, I’ve had experience with a 2019 Mazda 3 featuring a similar system, and it suffered from noticeable vibrations at certain speeds due to this technology. Fortunately, I didn’t encounter any such issues with the Pilot, but it’s something worth noting.
The V6 engine isn’t very exciting, but it does a decent job of moving this SUV. During our testing, it took us a reasonable 7.9 seconds to reach 100 km/h. Paired to the V6 is a 10-speed automatic transmission that works smoothly and finds the right gear under most driving conditions. The transmission is controlled with buttons to save space and while it does make the center console look cleaner, we rather have a regular gear shifter instead.
In our evaluation, we had the opportunity to test the TrailSport version of the Pilot, which comes with higher ground clearance, a suspension specifically designed for off-road adventures, strong steel plates protecting the undercarriage, and a dedicated “trail” driving mode. These enhancements make this 3-row SUV remarkably capable and you can confidently tackle rugged trails with your entire family on board.
The Pilot’s steering feels light, which makes it easy to steer this large SUV. However, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t expect much in terms of road feedback, which isn’t typically a high priority in this segment so no points are lost for the Pilot.
Similar to the other new models in Honda’s lineup, we really like the interior of the Pilot. It’s practical and offers ample space. Everything inside is well-organized, making it easy to find what you need. The first and second rows provide plenty of room for most adults. If you opt for the Trailport version, like the one we tested, the second-row captain chairs make the cabin feel more open and spacious. However, the third row is where things start to feel cramped, and on long drives, most adults will find it uncomfortable.
The seats themselves are comfortable and suitable for road trips. If you choose the TrailSport version, you’ll get seats with a TrailSport badge and eye-catching orange stitching, which adds a nice touch. This orange stitching is also present on the doors, armrest, and passenger-side dashboard, giving the cabin a unique look without overdoing it.
When you’re behind the wheel of the Pilot, it offers a smooth ride, just as you’d expect from a vehicle in this segment. The suspension system also does a good job of handling bumps in the road. One downside of going with the Trailport trim is the road noise. At highway speeds, there is noticeable road noise, mainly due to the all-terrain tires that it comes with.
The climate control system is user-friendly, with physical buttons that are easy to operate, unlike some competitors that hide controls in the touchscreen. It also efficiently cools the cabin, thanks to vents in each row.
All Honda Pilot models, except for the base Sport trim, come equipped with a 9-inch infotainment screen that serves as the centrepiece in the cabin. This intuitive infotainment system not only comes with a user-friendly interface but also quickly responds to every input. One of its standout features is the inclusion of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which seamlessly integrates with your Apple and Android devices. However, it’s worth noting an interesting quirk when comparing the Pilot to its smaller sibling, the Accord. The Accord comes with a bigger 12-inch infotainment screen, that not only looks good but functions well thanks to the Google Assistant integration. The decision by Honda not to offer this larger screen on the Pilot is weird, especially considering the size of this SUV. Perhaps Honda might include this when the Pilot is refreshed.
For those who rely heavily on staying connected and powered up on the go, rest assured that the Pilot leaves no room for disappointment. The cabin comes with a generous amount of USB ports to accommodate all your charging needs. At the front, you’ll find two USB ports, including one USB-C and one USB-A charge port in the dash. Moving to the second row, there are two more USB-A chargers, and for the third row, an additional pair of USB-A chargers ensures that no device is left unattended. In short, you’ll have ample charging options to keep your phones charged, making long journeys and road trips a breeze.
And if you’re not a fan of the tangled cables, the Pilot offers a wireless charging pad. The charging pad is located in the big slot right in front of the gear shifter and cup holders. This ensures that you don’t need to go out of your way to enjoy the convenience of wireless charging. This allows you to not only keep your phone powered but also allows you to utilize wireless Apple CarPlay without worrying about running out of battery during your travels.
Additionally, the Trailsport model comes equipped with a 7-inch digital speedometer. While the 7-inch speedometer isn’t necessarily problematic, it has a part digital and part analog design, which we weren’t big fans of. If you want the fully digital 9-inch speedometer, you’ll have to go for the Touring or Black Edition trims.
One area where Honda shines is in offering their driver assistance systems even on the lowest trims. Similar to Honda’s other new models, the systems in this car generally perform well. However, we did encounter some challenges with the lane-keeping assist, which occasionally had difficulty maintaining the 3-row SUV within its lane. The driver assistance systems offered on the Pilot include:
1. Blind Spot Information system
2. Rear Cross Traffic Monitor system
3. Traffic sign recognition
4. Traffic Jam Assist
5. Collision Mitigation Braking System
6. Forward Collision Warning
7. Lane Departure Warning
8. Road Departure Mitigation
While it may not claim the top spot in its class, the Honda Pilot still delivers a good amount of cargo space. We tested the TrailSport trim and the cargo volume behind the third row is measured at 618 L, slightly below the 635 L offered on other trims. If you fold the third-row seats down, you’ll get an impressive 1685 L of storage capacity, providing ample room for your belongings.
However, if you ever find yourself going on an IKEA shopping spree or needing to transport longer items, the Pilot truly shines. With the seats in the third row tucked away, you’ll get a generous 3219 L of cargo space behind the first row when everything is folded flat. It’s worth noting that when it comes to folding the third-row seats, you’ll have to do it manually, as there isn’t a power-folding option available.
Inside the cabin, you’ll discover a well-thought-out design that offers numerous places to stow your personal items. A generous slot in front of the gear shifter and cup holders provides an excellent space for your essentials, including your phone, wallet, and keys. Additionally, the passenger-side dash offers a deep slot that’s both spacious and accommodating, giving your front passenger ample room to store their belongings as well.
The Pilot TrailSport uses more fuel compared to other Pilot models. It’s rated at 13.0/10.3/11.8 L/100km (City/Hwy/Combined). In our tests, we averaged 11.6 L/100km with both city and highway driving.
If you want to save at the gas station, you might want to look at the other Pilot trims. While the difference isn’t huge, the other trims do offer a bit better fuel efficiency.