The 2016 Honda Pilot is a little like that girl who used to live down the street from you in junior high school. Although very athletic and smart, she wasn’t the most attractive girl around. She moved away during high school and one day you ran into her on your college campus and were amazed. Still athletic and smart, now she had looks as well. Suddenly, she was the entire package. (OK, before I come off as too sexist, feel free to change “girl” to “guy”. After all there were plenty of geeky dudes in junior high… and I might have been one of them.)
Honda says the 2016 Pilot is all new and they mean it. This isn’t some mild refresh. The Pilot looks different inside and out. It gets a new engine as well from what Honda calls its EarthDreams Technology. Basically, it’s supposed to give as much or more power and be more efficient. In this case, the Pilot has a direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 engine with Variable Cylinder Management. It pumps out 280 horsepower through a nine-speed automatic transmission. (Remember when we thought five-speeds were a big deal?). Even better, it has improved mileage getting 19 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway. The combined number of 22 mpg is 2 mpg better than the previous model. I managed 23 mpg during my test week.
But enough about the engine. Let’s talk about what you’ll notice first: the looks. The old pilot was, well, sort of boxy. If you loved it, great. But it was definitely an acquired taste. I think people bought it in spite of its looks. I’m not going to say the new Pilot has jumped into super model status, but it’s definitely attractive. Most importantly, it fits in well with the competition in the mid-sized SUV world. You can stand up proudly and say you bought the new Pilot because of its looks.
Of course looks aren’t everything. Honda brags about its Advanced Compatibility Engineering that reduces noise, vibration and harshness enhancements. The Pilot also has a new “3-Bone” structure that Honda says will help prevent injuries during accidents. It directs energy around the passenger cabin in the event of a frontal collision. I told you she was smart.
Inside, the interior has been bumped up a notch as well. It looks and feels better. My test car had heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, captains chair seats in the second row were heated as well. About the only complaint I had was the arm rest on the right side of the driver’s seat. I constantly had to reset its level after unhooking my seat belt. On the other hand, if that’s my biggest complaint, it’s an impressive package overall. The Pilot has a third row seat which is always handy and Honda brags about the amount of space with the seat up as being large enough for a large ice chest. Party time!
One big leap forward is the entertainment and navigation display. It is much better than the previous version from Honda. It is a single monitor on the dash that actually looks like it was part of the design rather than tacked on afterwards. The only thing you have to get used to is the fact that there is no volume dial near the display. You can increase it on the touchscreen or on the steering wheel. I spent plenty of time reaching for the knob that wasn’t there, but I’m sure owners will get over that reasonably soon.
Base price for the Pilot is $31,145. My test car was Elite model that was fully decked out with lots of bells and whistles (lane keeper assist, avoidance collision) and the price came in at slightly over $47,000. That’s not cheap, but it has plenty of value compared to the upper range SUVs like the Acura MDX and the Lexus RX350.
And the best part it that it’s a Honda. Everything is going to work and work well. So if the old Pilot was never on your list because of its geeky looks, it’s time to take a fresh glance at the kid with the killer makeover.