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Sitting tall and possessing a wide frame, it’s hard to believe this beefy-looking sport utility vehicle is viewed as a midsize crossover. One would swear that the Honda Pilot rests on a truck frame and belongs in the large SUV category.

But that’s the outward beauty of the Pilot – looks can be very deceiving.

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Even if it doesn’t have the same type of handling capability one comes to expect from the many sleek crossovers that now inhabit the road, for a fairly big SUV the Pilot is hardly truck-like, even if its boxy and upright exterior appearance suggests otherwise.

This is the 10th year for the Pilot, a midsize SUV that comes standard with three rows of seating and can accommodate eight people. Back in 2003 it was the first SUV that was a car-based model in this category, although that’s no longer the case.

2013 Honda Pilot

  • Performance: 3.5-liter, V6, 250 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 18-25 mpg
  • Price: $29,520 to $41,270
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain 5 years/60,000 miles; corrosion 5 years/unlimited

The Pilot remains among the industry leaders in this segment. But the competition is tougher than ever. Vehicles like the Dodge Durango, Ford Flex, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Hyundai Santa Fe, Chevrolet Traverse and Dodge Journey are all rivals.

There were some telling changes with the 2012 Honda Pilot, whose last major redesign came in 2009. The exterior changes a year ago included a front end with a restyled bumper, headlights and grille. Interior changes were a more colorful, appealing dashboard, additional gauges, and Honda ditched some of the cheap plastic.

The Pilot delivers a solid combination of utility, comfort and relatively high quality features that honestly reminds some people of the popular Honda Odyssey mini-van. The Pilot is offered in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive mode.

All Pilot models share the same engine – a 3.5-liter, V6 that produces 250 horsepower and has 253 pound-feet of torque. The engine is very smooth, but the performance isn’t overly impressive and doesn’t match some of the competition. The Pilot goes 0-60 mph in 8.9 seconds.

Still, for every-day use the Pilot provides the basic necessities. Although now more rugged in appearance than ever, don’t plan on any off-road adventures. The towing capacity is 3,500 pounds with the two-wheel drive and increases to 4,500 in all-wheel mode.

The Pilot possesses some car-like qualities, so it continues to deliver a comfortable ride on most road surfaces. The Pilot scores near the top in many safety aspects. Gas mileage has increased the past few years and now averages 18-25 mpg.

The sticker price for the top-of-the-line, all-wheel drive Touring model, which includes a top-tier navigation and DVD entertainment system in the back seat, is relatively high at an estimated $41,270.
Additional standard equipment for all 2013 models – most notably the rearview camera – jumps the price to $29,520 for the entry-level Pilot.

The Pilot previously received criticism for its smallish third seating, which most owners probably lay flat and leave unused. Last year the third row seating was increased in overall size, but it’s still only marginally suitable for adults.

However, the second row offers supportive seating with good head and leg room. The Pilot’s cargo space ranks high and really opens up when the third row goes down. There is an abundance of storage bins that give the Pilot some suitable family versatility.

The Pilot has considerable competition, but remains a good buy. It’s good to excellent in practically every category and has the stellar Honda name and resale value going for it as well.

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