Family-friendly SUV gets complete restyle
Roseville, Calif.- When it comes to midsize SUVs, the Honda Pilot has always been among the top choices.
Although the competition has increased in recent years – most notably the Kia Telluride and its virtual twin, the Hyundai Palisades – the reliable and well-rounded Pilot has remained in the upper echelon for families seeking a three-row midsize SUV. It still offers versatility, comfort, efficiency and retains Honda’s reputation for reliability.
The 2023 Honda Pilot has been completely restyled and has slightly larger dimensions. The new exterior and interior styling has helped modernize the Pilot, giving it a boxier, more rugged appeal with less curves. It remains an appealing family-friendly SUV that has lots of storage and above-average performance.
The Pilot enjoyed its best-ever sales year with 143,062 sold in 2021, but dipped to 99,567 one year later. That broke a stretch of 12 straight years where Pilot sales reached or exceeded 100,000.
The latest version of the Pilot has an appealing offroad model, the new all-wheel drive TrailSport trim. Standard equipment includes higher ground clearance, steel skid plates, all-terrain tires and off-road tuned suspension. The TrailSport trim previously debuted on the Honda Passport.
One of six Pilot trim models (LX, Sport, EX-L, TrailSport, Touring, Elite), the TrailSport has 8.3 inches of ground clearance, an inch more than the standard Pilot. That’s still shorter than the 8.7-inch clearance of the Ford Explorer Timberline and Subaru Ascent, both three-row rivals with similar offroad packages.
Performance remains a strong selling point for the Pilot. The engine is a 3.5-liter, V6 that produces 285 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. That’s a small horsepower increase (5 hp) for the Pilot, which also features a new 10-speed automatic transmission, replacing the 9-speed transmission.
The front-wheel drive Pilot (AWD is an option) goes 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds and gets 19-27 mpg. It has seven drive modes – Normal, Econ, Sport, Snow, Trail, Sand, and Tow. The maximum towing is 5,000 pounds when equipped with all-wheel drive.
Adding to the Pilot’s overall appeal is its ability to deliver a comfortable and composed ride. It offers reasonably precise steering and gives the driver a feeling of confidence in all situations. That includes an ability to maneuver on challenging roads, where the Pilot is steady and predictable.
The suite of driver safety assistance features includes automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlamps. There’s also a standard Traffic Jam Assist system that allows the adaptive cruise control to eventually come to a stop while keeping the Pilot in its lane.
AT A GLANCE – 2023 HONDA PILOT
- Performance: 3.5-liter, V6, 285 horsepower
- Mileage estimate: 19-27 mpg
- Price estimate: $39,200 to $52,100
- Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 3 years/36,000; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited
Honda addressed some interior deficiencies with the redesign, but some issues remain. It comes standard with a smallish 7-inch touchscreen at a time when some rivals have a 12.3-inch screen. Even the Pilot’s optional touchscreen is only 9 inches. Overall technology is also a Pilot shortcoming.
Seating is comfortable in the first two rows. Second-row seating has been greatly improved, thanks to 2.4 inches of additional leg room. Even though third-row seating has been increased by 0.6 inches, it remains an uncomfortable place to sit for adults. Space behind the third row has increased to 22.4 cubic feet, among the best in the class. With the two rows folded to the floor, the Pilot offers a massive 113.7 cubic feet of cargo room.
The redesign has fixed several weaknesses, pulling the 2023 Honda Pilot closer to its primary rivals. It remains a strong choice among all three-row, midsize SUVs.