Honda Pilot is a top SUV seller
Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 2:36 p.m.
Honda is well known for its fuel-efficient cars. But the Japan-based automaker also sells America's second most popular sport utility vehicle that can accommodate at least seven people.
2010 Honda Pilot 4WD Touring R&N
BASE PRICE: $27,895 for base 2WD LX; $29,495 for 4WD LX; $30,745 for 2WD EX; $32,345 for 4WD EX; $33,845 for 2WD base EX-L; $35,445 for 4WD base EX-L; $37,045 2WD base Touring; $38,645 for 4WD base Touring or 2WD Touring with rear entertainment system and navigation; $40,245 for 4WD Touring with rear entertainment and navigation.
AS TESTED: $40,955.
TYPE: Front-engine, four-wheel drive, eight-passenger, mid-size crossover sport utility vehicle.
ENGINE: 3.5-liter, single overhead cam V-6 with variable cylinder management and i-VTEC.
MILEAGE: 16 mpg (city), 22 mpg (highway).
TOP SPEED: NA.
The sizable Honda Pilot beat out the Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander in calendar 2009 to take second spot in U.S. sales of SUVs with three rows of seats.
The Pilot also garnered top, 5-out-of-5 stars ratings from the federal government for passenger protection in frontal and side crash tests, and it's a recommended buy of Consumer Reports.
Only the Chevrolet Traverse topped the Pilot in seven- to eight-passenger SUV sales in the United States last year. While the Traverse also is a Consumer Report recommended buy and has top safety crash test ratings, its starting retail price is higher than that of the 2010 Pilot.
Specifically, starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $28,605 for a 2010 a two-wheel drive Pilot with 250-horsepower V-6 and automatic transmission. The 2010 Traverse has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $29,999 with two-wheel drive, 281-horsepower V-6 and automatic transmission.
The test Pilot, a top-of-the-line Touring model, was comfortable for passengers, had 87 cubic feet of cargo space, provided great views out over traffic and had video and audio features to keep riders occupied.
But I took a big gulp when I saw the price tag of more than $40,000, which takes this top version of Pilot into the luxury price category.
To be sure, the leather seats looked and felt good. But the hard plastic on the Pilot dashboard and doors wasn't quite up to luxury tastes.
The ride in the tester felt sturdy and comfortable. I didn't feel isolated from the road, but the Pilot's ride wasn't overly firm. The Pilot is a crossover SUV, which means it blends a car-type platform with an SUV look and accouterments. This contrasts with more brutish SUVs which use truck-based platforms.
Women will like the large storage console between the two front seats. I could put my purse in there and close the cover, keeping my purse from flopping around on the seat or between the front seats.
This storage spot is right at the base of the center stack of the dashboard, so it's easy for short-statured people to access. Honda moved the Pilot shift lever up onto the dashboard in order to accommodate the console. Typical center storage areas are at the back of the middle area between front seats and therefore can require a short driver to wrench sideways to see what's inside. There are ample other storage spots, too.
The tester had a navigation system and display screen that was large and colorful. Best of all, Honda tucked the screen under a plastic brow in the dashboard so sunlight shining in from the windshield doesn't wash out the display the way it does in some competitors.
Honda hasn't forgotten its fuel-efficient heritage in this nearly 16-foot-long SUV.
The Pilot's 3.5-liter, single overhead cam V-6 has Honda's i-VTEC variable valve system as well as an additional layer of fuel efficiency via variable cylinder management (VCM). VCM automatically shuts off two or three cylinders when they're not needed as the vehicle travels, such as at low speed. This happens without the driver really noticing, and the power delivery remained smooth through the five-speed automatic transmission on the test Pilot.
Note that variable cylinder management used to be available only on the top Pilot models. It was expanded to all Pilots in 2009.
Torque, or that low-end feeling of "oomph" , is 253 foot-pounds at a fairly high 4,800 rpm. This contrasts with at least 266 foot-pounds at 3,600 rpm in the Traverse. Overall, the test Pilot accelerated adequately.
The federal government rating for the 2010 Pilot ranges from 17 miles per gallon in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway for a two-wheel drive model to 16/22 mpg for a four-wheel drive model. The test, four-wheel drive vehicle, averaged 18.2 mpg in city/highway travel.
With a 21-gallon fuel tank, the Pilot can travel about 395 miles in combined city and highway driving. This is less than Chevy's Traverse, which has a slightly higher government mileage rating and a 22-gallon fuel tank.
I did hear road noise in the Pilot, but wind noise wasn't too bad. The Pilot maneuvered easily in parking lots and garages, like a smaller vehicle. Gauges in the instrument cluster are cool-looking.
The second row of the Pilot has enough legroom that I can stretch my legs. Climbing into the third row isn't too awkward, either. There's 32.5 inches of legroom in the third row, compared with 33.2 inches in the Traverse.
All safety equipment is standard, including electronic stability control, traction control and curtain air bags. The Pilot is rated to tow up to 4,500 pounds, compared with 5,200 pounds for the Chevy Traverse.
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