Saturday Road Test – Piloting a Pilot

             

 

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                                 Honda Pilot

                                All New for 2016

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Even Europe has gone crazy for crossover vehicles and SUV’s that have dominated sales charts here in the U.S. for what feels like centuries.

 And Honda is ready for Gen Y members who might start out in the HR-V, then move up to the CR-V when that first move to the suburbs occurs, and then visit the dealer for the Pilot as demand increases for the transportation of  kids, buds, and their abundant collection of stuff.

 Honda knows this crowd, It claims to have the youngest buyers, average age 47, among key competitors and the top brand loyalty. A brand retention of nearly 63 percent.

 To lure in more adults yearning to pilot a Pilot, Honda has introduced an entirely new one for 2016.

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 There is a new exterior design that looks less truck like, a richer looking interior with storage room galore, more horsepower, more leg and headroom, and additional sound proofing to make long trips easier on the ears.

 Even the stuff you can’t see has been changed with a stiffer structure with additional high strength steel, and yes, you now can be a “Man of Steel.” Yet the Pilot lost 250 pounds in the makeover.

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 Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 with 30 extra horsepower over last year. That comes out to 280 ponies with 262 lb-ft of torque. Transmission wise, lower priced models get a six speed automatic, while the Touring and the test Elite get a nine speed.

 The six produces more than enough power and can tow up to 3,500 pounds. While the 9-speed behaved most of the time, it occasionally seemed to be momentarily trying to find just the right gear. I liked the push button gear selection on the center console that frees up even more storage space.

 As fuel prices edge up just because summer is ahead of us, the Pilot is rated at 19 mpg city, 26 highway for a combined 22. I came in at 24.

 While only a handful of owners will make an off-road excursion, the Elite had settings for Snow, Mud, and Sand to complement its all-wheel drive.   

 Moving up to the new Elite trim brings LED headlights and taillights, 20-inch wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second row captain’s chairs, heated steering wheel, blind sport indicators, auto high beam rain sensing wipers, HD radio and for the first time, a Panoramic glass roof that opens the sky to second and third row passengers.

 Touring and Elite models come with 5 USB ports and conveniently enough, the test Pilot had a 9 inch rear entertainment system.  

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 There was ample storage for just about anything within reason. Lots of upscale trim and materials with soft surfaces gave the test rig a nice touch of upscale ambiance.

 The center screen is now 8 inches large with a so-so Garmin navi system. Unfortunately for passengers wanting to adjust audio volume there is still the sliding switch instead of an easier to adjust knob. Drivers have a volume control on the steering wheel.

 All models except the Elite will seat eight, but the top-of-the-line comes with two captain’s chairs in the second row for a total human capacity of seven.

 Access to the third row was made easier thanks to a one touch control for sliding the second row forward. Access is now 1.5 inches wider and 1.2 inches lower. Adults can find enough back row room for short trips only.

 There are lots of cup holders and a max cargo hauling of nearly 84 cubic feet. A nice touch is extra storage under a panel to the rear of the third row seats.

 Congrats to Honda for separating the ventilation controls from the touch screen.

 The driver’s seat, both heated and ventilated, was 10 way powered adjustable with two position memory and lumbar controls. Despite the multitude of controls, it took a while for me to find a comfortable position. Your experience may vary.

 The 8 inch center dash, better known as the “Electrostatic Touchscreen,” controls the audio, navi, voice recognition, and “multi-view rear camera.” Honda’s HD traffic system was more than bit hyper, finding traffic jams a mile or so ahead that simply were not there.

 Drivers will face a 4.2 inch multi-information display that was easy to read under all lighting conditions and featured lots of easily accessible information.  

 There was a three zone ventilation system, Pandora internet radio interface, and second row sunshades. Being a top-of-the-line model, all of the expected safety features were present and accounted for.

 Without a single option, the Elite carried a $47,300 price tag including transportation. The base LX model carries what could be a more budget pleasing MSRP of $30,145 to start on up to $32,580 for the EX, next up on the Pilot lineup.

 The Pilot was first introduced in 2003 and was one of the first unibody SUVs. In the 14 years since Honda has sold more than 1.4 million of them. And there is a reason: They last!

 With more consumers taking out longer term loans to get their new set of wheels, it should be comforting to know that when most Hondas hit 100,000 miles they are good to go for many more. In fact, the Honda Accord just topped a Consumer Reports list of the cars most likely to last 200,000 miles.

 It has been my experience that dealer maintenance is expensive. And before you sign on the dotted line, make sure the dealer has not tacked on hundreds of dollars in extra equipment that you can live without and will mean nothing come trade in time. To be fair that trait does not live exclusively at the Honda garage.

 You will come away with a high quality, and in the Elite trim, rather luxurious SUV that will carry today’s first graders off to high school if not college.

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