Honda has a reputation for reliability, dependability, and functionality. The Pilot is a family-styled SUV that is more of a mini-van for hauling children than some mini-vans. Honda furnished a 2016 Pilot All-Wheel-Drive vehicle for a week-long test-drive recently. It was an enjoyable week and an easy-to-drive car-like SUV although there were several concerns and bothersome features.
The 2016 model is the third generation of the popular Pilot which had started to become nondescript and boxy in appearance. This new version is somewhat sleeker and more pleasing to the eye. It is also larger than the last model Pilot. It is almost 2 inches wider and 3 & a half inches longer. It actually ‘felt big’ on the inside.
The test-drive model was the trim-level called Elite, which is the top end and loaded down with a boat-load of features and premium touches. This is not a luxury vehicle by any means, but it certainly attempts to cater to parents and their children. As a grandparent, I was even impressed with the conveniences. The exterior color was called Steel Sapphire and the interior was a basic gray.
The Pilot is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, but it is a new, direct-injected engine that is taken from the Acura MDX. It provides 280 horsepower which is better than last year’s 250 horsepower. The Elite model was matched to a nine-speed automatic which was also copied from the Acura. The less-outfitted LX, EX, and EX-L trim level Pilots utilize a six-speed automatic. During the drive, I really did not notice any appreciable value in having 9 speeds instead of six. The test-drive model was All-Wheel-Drive, although a 4-wheel drive system is available.
In mini-van fashion, the Pilot has three rows of flexible seating arrangements with fairly easy access to the seats as well as the cargo area. As with most other three-row vehicles, the third row is better suited to smaller children. The interior features and styling is more mainstream and less low-end than previous models.
Overall, the 2015 Honda Pilot provides a very comfortable ride. There were some feelings of being rocked back and forth, somewhat like driving a large over-sized box down the road. But on good roads and highways, the Pilot performed very well. The cabin is very quiet and it is to carry on conversations without shouting.
A major concern that loomed all during the week was the confusing infotainment screen. It seemed to always take excess time to get anything, whether it was navigation adjustments, radio stations, or other standard features using the center stack. Honda engineers chose to provide ‘voice commands’ for the operations and the button on the steering wheel was repeatedly hit accidentally, prompting a loud request from the car asking for a ‘command.’ Because there were no dials or switches, the only other option was to use the touchscreen which was also a pain-in-the-neck. It was not easily responsive to the touch. Often, the vehicle had to be stopped along the side of the road just to ‘work’ the radio.
The frustration of attempts to operate the infotainment touchscreen was increased by the reflection of fingerprints whenever there was any appreciable sunlight. This was very frustrating and was very distracting while the car was moving.
Despite the lack of dials and switches, the Pilot is a joy to drive. Perhaps that is because it is almost a glorified minivan. Some drivers like minivans and some do not, but the 2016 Honda Pilot is making an attempt to provide it easy for parents to provide the transportation needs for a busy family.
The test-drive model had a base MSRP of $46,420, which was fully loaded with an abundance of features. The only additional charge was destination and handling for $880, so the bottom sticker price was $47,300. It was EPA rated at 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, and 22 mpg average overall. For the week, I hit the 23.6 mpg average with mostly rural roads.
Check the new 2016 Honda Pilot AWD Elite yourself at a Honda dealership. This alternative for a family-minivan just might be the vehicle you have been wanting.