2016 Honda Pilot: big improvements

We finally got around to reading the very negative review of the 2015 Honda Pilot in Consumer Reports magazine after spending a day driving our 2016 Pilot around western Connecticut one rainy Wednesday. We couldn’t believe we were reading about the car we’d just driven – and we were right to be skeptical. The Pilot has been completely redesigned for 2016, and the improvement is stunning.

In its April 2015 edition, Consumer Reports portrayed the 2015 Pilot as noisy, awkward around corners, a little thirsty, and indifferently finished inside. Although acknowledging the beefy crossover is roomy and functional, the magazine couldn’t recommend the Pilot because it fared poorly in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small-overlap crash test.

It didn’t take us long to discover the 2016 Pilot is quiet, handles competently, gets decent fuel economy, and exudes quality inside and out. Then we called up the IIHS site. Lo and behold, “The redesigned Honda Pilot, a midsize SUV, has aced the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap front test. With an available front crash prevention system earning a superior rating, it qualifies for the 2015 Top Safety Pick Plus award.”

Our Pilot was a top-of-the-line Elite model with all-wheel drive. With a sticker price north of $47,000, the Dark Cherry Pearl SUV was loaded with performance, luxury and safety features, including push-button 9-speed shiftable automatic transmission, 280-horsepower V-6 engine, leather upholstery, satellite radio, power liftgate, rearview camera and blind-spot warning system. In base LX trim, the Pilot prices out at about $30,000.

All Pilots are equipped with the same 3.5-liter V-6, but this smooth, responsive engine is paired with a 6-speed automatic in the lower trim levels. With the exception of the Elite, which has captain’s chairs in the second row and seats seven, all Pilot models seat eight – an advantage over competing crossovers that lack the third-row seat.

The Pilot can’t compete with the big Odyssey minivan when it comes to cargo-carrying potential, but it’s pretty roomy for an SUV. With all the seats upright, the cargo compartment accepts 18 cubic feet worth of luggage, and there’s a roomy tray under the false floor. Lowering the third seat is easy, and cargo room expands to 55 cubic feet in the few seconds it takes to lay the split seat flat. Space increases to 108.5 cubic feet with the rear captain’s chairs lowered. By comparison, an Odyssey in full load-carrying mode has 148.5 cubic feet of cargo room.

The Pilot is easy to maneuver and corners comfortably. Power is ample unless the Eco Assist system, activated by a green button on the left side of the dash, is engaged. It caused the Pilot to feel underpowered on the hilly highways and streets of western Connecticut. With or without Eco Assist, we were attaining fuel economy in the low- to mid-20s in this much-improved crossover.

Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

 

Price: $47,300

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 280 horsepower, 262 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: shiftable 9-speed automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Ground clearance: 7.3 in.

Weight: 4,044 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 20-in. alloy

Tires: 245/50R20 H all-season

Max. towing capacity: 5,000 lb.

Seating capacity: 7

Luggage capacity: 18 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 108.5 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 19.5 gal.

Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline

 

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