The decision: The fourth-generation Honda Pilot is tremendously improved and now not only a minivan in SUV clothes.
Versus the competitors: With a legit off-road trim degree, clean V-6 energy, aggressive towing capacities and much better multimedia system usability, the 2023 Pilot is as soon as once more a viable alternative in a crowded class — however not essentially the front-runner.
The 2023 Honda Pilot is totally redesigned, with the fourth-generation SUV serving as a tacit admission by Honda that its predecessor was not the precise strategy for the section. Whereas the third-generation Pilot (which ran from the 2016-22 mannequin years) had a powerful and succesful all-wheel-drive system, its look was that of a minivan pretending to be an SUV. As trucklike three-row SUVs started to flood the market, the Pilot was left within the lurch. An atrocious infotainment system that relied on far too many touch-sensitive controls didn’t assist, both.
Associated: 2023 Honda Pilot Racks Up Area, Security, Off-Highway Chops for TrailSport
Honda is correcting the look with this new Pilot, giving it a a lot squarer look and, notably, a very succesful off-road trim within the TrailSport model. The TrailSport trim debuted on the 2022 Pilot, however other than a slight suspension raise, it was largely an look package deal — not out of the norm amongst unibody three-row SUVs, the place off-road trims just like the Hyundai Palisade XRT and Kia Telluride X-Professional are extra present than go. The up to date TrailSport trim for the 2023 Pilot comes with a 1-inch suspension raise in addition to an off-road-tuned suspension, knobby all-terrain tires, a revised AWD system particular to the TrailSport and precise underbody safety. Different updates embrace a change to one among Honda’s extra fashionable and easier-to-use touchscreen multimedia programs, although curiously not its largest or newest.
I not too long ago traveled to Sedona, Ariz., to drive the 2023 Pilot TrailSport and Elite trim ranges on native roads and even go off-roading in a TrailSport in a fashion the common proprietor most likely by no means would. (Per Vehicles.com’s ethics coverage, we pay for our airfare and lodging when attending such manufacturer-hosted occasions.) The outcome: The Pilot is a way more traditional-looking three-row SUV that doesn’t essentially break new floor within the section, however quite brings the Pilot again as much as snuff in a preferred and crowded class.
The Pilot’s new light-truck structure — shared with the Acura MDX — is far stiffer than its predecessor, in accordance with Honda. The suspension has been considerably revised, as nicely, with new entrance struts and an all-new rear multilink suspension.
I drove each TrailSport and Elite variations of the Pilot on the road, and I used to be struck by how comfy the journey was no matter trim. The roads we drove had been largely clean save for the occasional cattle guard, however each variations felt comfy and composed. The Pilot is just not a small SUV, and is definitely round 3 inches longer in each total size and wheelbase, so “competent” is perhaps a greater phrase to explain its dealing with than “nimble.” Even so, the physique roll I felt in corners was nicely managed and switchbacks didn’t unsettle both Pilot or require extra braking — and talking of brakes, the Pilot’s are bigger on this technology. Pedal really feel stays good and linear with out extreme grabbiness.
The Pilot TrailSport, with its further inch of floor clearance and off-road-tuned suspension, was much less blissful on pavement, however not by a lot. One other trade-off in selecting the TrailSport are its extra aggressive all-terrain tires, and whereas they weren’t as noisy as extra aggressive off-road tires one may discover on, say, a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, there was extra noticeable vibration transferred into the cabin in comparison with the Pilot Elite’s avenue tires. Alternatively, the Pilot Elite’s 20-inch wheels and tires had been extra prone to pavement imperfections than the TrailSport’s 18-inch wheel-and-tire combo. That mentioned, I might nonetheless name the Elite’s journey comfy.
All Pilot trim ranges are powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine paired with a 10-speed computerized transmission. A V-6 of this dimension is widespread within the class, and energy from Honda’s is clean and sufficient for freeway passing and merging, although it doesn’t make the SUV really feel fast. The brand new 10-speed computerized is a big enchancment over the outgoing nine-speed computerized, however whereas Honda touted fast four-gear downshifts underneath arduous acceleration, it nonetheless felt a bit ponderous to me; the downshifts appear to occur one after the other quite than dropping all 4 gears without delay, however as soon as the ability comes on, there’s greater than sufficient. The transmission additionally fixes a difficulty that’s vexed me for years in earlier Pilots: When letting off the accelerator pedal, earlier Pilots would quickly decelerate and never enable for significant quantities of coasting. This might be an issue when approaching a site visitors gentle on a higher-speed street; you see within the distance that the sunshine is pink, however there’s no have to brake simply but. The brand new Pilot can truly coast, which can most likely delight me and solely me.
The earlier technology of Pilot additionally used a 3.5-liter V-6, although the 2023’s has been revised and now produces 285 horsepower (up 5 hp from the earlier Pilot) and 262 pounds-feet of torque (unchanged). Most towing capability, which requires all-wheel drive, stays 5,000 kilos — sufficient for many toy-hauling excursions — however now not requires a dealer-added transmission cooler. Entrance-wheel-drive variations supply 22 mpg mixed, in accordance with Honda estimates, whereas AWD non-TrailSports prime out at 21 mpg (the TrailSport will get an estimated 20 mpg mixed). That’s according to the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride’s gasoline effectivity, nevertheless it trails the up to date 2023 Toyota Highlander with its new turbocharged four-cylinder engine — in addition to the Highlander Hybrid. Regardless of Honda’s hybrid push in different in style fashions just like the CR-V and Accord, the Pilot doesn’t presently supply a hybrid powertrain.
Spectacular Off-Highway, However for Whom?
Taking the TrailSport off-road was spectacular; I’ve seen what related merchandise can do and know that Honda’s AWD system is extremely succesful, however the TrailSport’s all-terrain tires and underbody safety let it go locations house owners will possible by no means enterprise. TrailSport and Elite fashions additionally add a TrailWatch digicam system that gives helpful views across the Pilot at speeds beneath 15 mph; switching to the Path driving mode prompts the digicam, as does a button on the tip of the right-side stalk on the steering column. The views aren’t fairly nearly as good as in a Jeep, and I discovered the dynamic tips indicating tire place a bit missing, however having a digicam system like that is extraordinarily useful and welcome. Whereas related programs have a devoted washer operate, the Pilot’s is tied to the windshield washers — use the entrance washers and the entrance digicam will get a spritz. Identical goes for the rear washer and rear digicam.
The TrailSport can actually sustain with the Ford Explorer Timberline and Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek, which, in contrast to many different “off-road” three-row SUVs, add greater than only a rugged look. Whereas the TrailSport’s capabilities are spectacular, I do surprise what the use case is for the common purchaser past considering it appears cool. We tackled reasonably troublesome trails within the TrailSport with out problem, however I’d need one thing extra sturdy — a Jeep Wrangler, Ford Bronco or Toyota 4Runner TRD Professional — for frequent off-roading. That’s very true as a result of the TrailSport’s underbody safety is just not as sturdy as what’s on extra aggressive off-roaders, and enormous entrance and rear overhangs and common floor clearance will restrict what terrain is satisfactory in inventory configuration.
A Aggressive Inside — Lastly
Once we final in contrast three-row SUVs, the third-gen Pilot got here final in a area of seven due largely to its abysmal Show Audio touchscreen multimedia system, which relied on touch-sensitive controls and was gradual and troublesome to make use of. The brand new Pilot doesn’t use Honda’s newest or largest touchscreen know-how, nevertheless it does transfer to a brand new 9-inch show on all however the base trim. This new show is far simpler to make use of, has a bodily quantity knob and tuning buttons (a tuning knob could be preferable, however bodily controls are nonetheless welcome) and wi-fi Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity. It’s a serious and welcome improve, although it’s disappointing that the 12.3-inch touchscreen within the upcoming 2023 Accord didn’t make it to the Pilot.