Honda piles more into Pilot
Honda has given its Pilot new direction for 2009, including a brand new top-of-the-line Touring edition. The second generation of the SUV has more power and greater economy, along with a bag full of new technology and greater standard content. Better yet, the MSRP hasn’t changed despite the new features.
Built on a new platform, the eight-passenger vehicle is longer, wider and taller than the 2008 model and rides on a wheelbase extended by 75 mm.
The exterior has a somewhat softer look, even though it’s bigger than the 2008 version and it has a stronger stance to match the refined capabilities inherent in what the company calls an “intelligent adventure vehicle.”
A test vehicle from Honda Canada comes in the new Touring configuration. There are no options, and there isn’t much you can add to the fully-featured package.
My first reaction on climbing into the Pilot’s pilot seat was simply “Wow, what a change.” Inside, the Pilot is noticeably larger, but still carries a rugged feel. And the open shelf is still on the lower part of the passenger side of the dash.
The centre console is huge, with the forward section hidden under a sliding tray just in front of a large covered box that houses, among other things, power connections and input points for phones, Ipods, computers – just about anything that will plug in.
The steering wheel, which now has a tilt/telescoping feature, holds switches for audio, cruise and a driver information centre. Switches are easy to reach and the standard navigation with voice recognition is easy to get to know. A dash-mounted shift lever falls readily to hand.
Visibility around the vehicle is excellent, and a backup camera uses the nav screen to provide a clear view of what’s behind you as you back up.
Leather-trimmed seats are comfortable for everybody, and the front seat riders get the advantage of seat heaters that seem slightly warmer than in the previous generation. But my butt tells me it could use more BTUs.
The 60/40 split bench second row seat has more fore/aft travel which simplifies access to the 60/40 slit third-row bench, but it’s still a bit of a chore to get there. However, once you get there, you will ride comfortably, even if you’re on the taller end of the size scale. Incidentally, the number of LATCH child seat anchors has been doubled from two to four – so go ahead and plan for that bigger brood. There’s room.
Second- and third-row seats fold flat to provide a massive cargo floor (total volume is 4,941 litres, up 116 from 2008) reached through the power liftgate. If you want to load smaller items, the rear glass flips up for easy access.
Under the hood is enough power to move all of you pretty much anywhere you want to go. The new 3.5L i-VTEC V6 with variable cylinder management turns out 250 hp and 253 lb.-ft. of torque. In the Touring edition it’s hooked to a five-speed automatic transmission and Variable Torque Management all-wheel drive system.
Transport Canada estimates fuel mileage at 13.1 L/100 km city, 9.1 highway, which would be a combined figure of 11.1. During more than 900 km of driving, I averaged 12.1 L/100 km combined in the real world – not bad at all for a vehicle this large.
There’s a small “ECO” light on the dash which indicates when VCM is operating in either four- or three-cylinder mode. On the highway, that light is illuminated for a great deal of the time.
Like most Honda engines, the Pilot’s propulsion system provides plenty of off-the-line grunt and lots of passing power. The five-speed automatic transmission goes about its business without undue drama.
I expected the ride to be a bit on the stiff and jouncy side given the SUV configuration. Wrong! Pilot is perfectly at home on smooth highways and rough backroads, handling both smoothly and effortlessly.
Road noise is minimal, enabling you to enjoy the sounds emanating from the audio system while the kids enjoy the standard (on Touring) entertainment system.
Safety gear includes electronic stability control (Honda calls it vehicle stability assist), side curtain airbags and front side airbags with passenger side occupant position detection.
You get an integrated trailer hitch to take advantage of the Pilot’s 4,500 lb. tow capacity.
I put the Pilot to good use during its time here and never got tired of driving it. My wife, who doesn’t normally like SUVs all that much, thought it would be one she could easily live with long-term.
High praise indeed.
- Fuel consumption:This is a roomy, brawny, frugal ute.
- Value for price: Lots of stuff in there for your buck.
- Styling: Boxy exterior (what else?), tough interior.
- Comfort: Nicely padded seats and soft leather upholstery, and good leg and headroom.
- Performance: Excellent handling and ride.
- Overall: Lots of space, good economy, plenty of techie stuff.