By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 8.0
The 2012 Honda Pilot SUV nails the right combination of size, power, ability and value. Not as gargantuan as the Chevy Tahoe or Suburban, the Pilot can still accommodate eight people, has plenty of room for cargo and gets reasonably good gas mileage for its size. On the downside, the Pilot offers only a V6 engine, can't tackle Jeep-style off-road situations, and can only tow up to 4,500 pounds (2,000 pounds for the 2-wheel-drive model). To spur sales, the 2012 Pilot SUV receives new styling that somewhat negates previous complaints about the vehicle's lackluster looks. Of course, with fierce competition from such heavyweights as the Mazda CX-9, GMC Acadia, Ford Explorer and Toyota 4Runner, the Pilot isn't a shoo-in for best-in-class, even with its lofty Honda pedigree. Lacking some more modern features, such as the Explorer's adjustable AWD terrain settings and SYNC communication technology, the Pilot may not cut it with avid off-road junkies and techno types. But, for those who simply seek dependable, efficient and comfortable transportation for themselves and their family, the 2012 Honda Pilot SUV is an easy choice.
If you need a vehicle that provides 8-passenger capacity but are dead set against driving a minivan, the 2012 Honda Pilot makes an excellent alternative. Strong, safe and easy to drive, the Pilot SUV can tackle jobs no minivan would dare; and with 4WD, snow days for the kids are a thing of the past.
Honda has a bad habit of bundling popular options by trim alone. If you're someone who thinks you shouldn't have to move to the highest trim level just to get navigation or a power liftgate, there are better choices. Those who need to tow heavy loads or enjoy going far off-road will be better served by a V8-powered body-on-frame SUV such as the Chevy Tahoe or Ford Expedition.
The 2012 Honda Pilot SUV receives a major front-end makeover, with more rounded edges, a softer grille and more chrome trim. EX and EX-L trims gain updated audio systems that include a 2GB CD library, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, and streaming audio, while the EX-L gains an 8-inch color Multi-Information Display. All trims see a 1 mpg increase in fuel economy.
Driving Impressions Despite its size, the 2012 Honda Pilot SUV rides and drives very much like a large car. The firm suspension limits body roll, squat, and dive, yet is not so...firm as to punish its passengers with every passing pothole or road distortion. We found the Pilot's steering a bit heavily weighted, but it is very precise and offers good feedback in the turns. On the highway the Pilot SUV tracks straight, and even strong wind gusts can't deter it from its intended course. The interior seems quieter than many large SUVs we've tested, but that's not a scientific finding, only a sense we get from test driving so many of the Honda Pilot's competitors. We love the 3.5-liter V6 for its gutsy response when we demand to go fast, and for its smooth, silent operation. We also like the fuel economy, which is near the best in this class. Although we didn't have a chance to test the Pilot's AWD system in the snow, we did venture up some dirt fire roads and found the VTM-4 AWD setup to be fairly capable of keeping the Pilot SUV moving forward through dirt, loose gravel and mud. A lock mode on the Pilot's transmission mimics a low-range transfer case, keeping power permanently flowing to all four wheels at speeds under 18 mph.
Rearview Mirror Camera Display
Available on the EX-L trim, this 2.5-inch LCD display – conveniently located in the rearview mirror – shows you what's behind the vehicle while in reverse.
Second Row Seating
The 2012 Honda Pilot SUV's second row offers excellent room for taller passengers and also provides LATCH systems for three child seats.
In keeping with Honda's simple but functional design philosophy, the 2012 Pilot SUV's interior is a study in efficiency. The dash and instruments are easy to operate and logically placed. There are no fancy light shows here, no radical designs that look neat but don't work well in the real world, just the basics. Of course, the Honda Pilot's interior is by no means stark, and in EX-L trim it is downright plush. Legroom is more than adequate in all three rows, an unusual and welcome attribute in this class. Rear cargo space with the third-row seat in place, however, is not so abundant. Luckily, there is a large cargo bin below the floor for storing items, as well as ample roof space for a carrier rack. Fold the seats flat, and the 2012 Honda Pilot SUV can be used like a small pickup truck, or a sturdy steel tent with cozy accommodation for two.
With its new face, the 2012 Honda Pilot SUV somewhat softens its boxy and bland image, making it a bit more palatable to the fashion-conscious SUV driver. Still present are the Pilot's long wheelbase and short front and rear overhangs, a design that not only makes the 2012 Pilot SUV look more solid and stable, but that allows for easy maneuvering in tight spots. Honda's ACE (Advanced Compatibility Engineering) body structure ensures maximum strength from the unit body, permitting the front end to absorb more energy in the event of an impact and keeping the passenger compartment (and its contents) from harm. Stylistically, the new 17- and 18-inch wheels really bring out the best in the Pilot SUV's design, while clever features such as the flip-up glass window on the tailgate and the standard integrated tow-hitch serve a more functional purpose.
A base 2012 Honda Pilot SUV comes with sport cloth seats, remote entry system, automatic headlights, power windows, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, 17-inch wheels, front and rear air conditioning, an integrated rear cargo net and under-floor storage, auxiliary input jack and an AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers and a subwoofer. The EX, EX-L and Touring Pilots add an 8-way power driver's seat, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, daytime running lights, Bluetooth and heated side mirrors. Exclusive to the EX-L is a rearview camera with a display screen imbedded in the rearview mirror.
Most of the additional features for the 2012 Honda Pilot SUV are tied to trim level and are not available as stand-alone extras. These options include a 512-watt AM/FM/6-disc CD premium audio system with 10 speakers, leather seats, power moonroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, corner and rear backup sensors, power tailgate, side-mirror turn signals, HD navigation system with voice recognition and rearview camera, 115-volt power outlet, a USB port and second-row integrated sun shades. A rear-seat DVD entertainment system is available only on the EX-L and Touring trims.
The 2012 Honda Pilot's engine comes equipped with Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) technology, allowing for an uptick in horsepower and torque, as well as improved fuel economy. This VCM technology, similar to the system used in the current Honda Accord, allows the vehicle to seamlessly run on three, four, or six cylinders, depending on driving conditions and requirements.
250 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
253 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25 (2WD), 17/24 (AWD)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2012 Honda Pilot LX SUV starts just over $29,000 and tops out just shy of $42,000 for a loaded all-wheel-drive (AWD) Touring trim with navigation and the DVD Rear Entertainment System. Its base price is on par (or lower) than the entry prices of the GMC Acadia and Ford Explorer, and even the Pilot's Touring trim level remains competitively priced in its segment. Be sure to take a look at the Kelley Blue Book's Fair Purchase Price to see what consumers in your area are currently paying for the Pilot SUV. As for residual values, the 2012 Honda Pilot is projected to hold values on par with the Chevy Traverse and Ford Explorer, better than the Mazda CX-9, but below the Toyota 4Runner.
By adadto3 (VA) on Monday, December 09, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 61,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great poor weather/snow vehicle"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"In 2009, purchased a new 2009 Pilot Touring 4WD and with 61000 miles on it now, I really have few bad things to say about it. Getting used to the feel of the vehicle when it is in ECO mode was an adjustment but other than that very satisfied. Seats 8 (several of them need to be small people to be comfortable), very good audio system, and slices through snow with little effort. It can carry a lot of people or stuff but not both. The fold down seats allow you to do a little of both but it is not a massive SUV. Gas mileage is OK, I get about 17 in the city and have done as good as 26 on the highway with 5 passengers total, no AC. Stock tires (in 2009) on the vehicle really provide great grip and I was able to get them again when I replaced them around 50000. They are more like an off road tire than a road tire but they do well and were quiet until about 50000. Honda needs to redesign this vehicle and when you buy the top trim level there is an expectation for things like automatic retracting side mirrors for example and even the 2014 doesn't offer them. Had a couple of quality issues with a visor (installed with no screws) and a rear power plug and needed a transmission repair (under an extended warranty) but other than that and regular oil changes, it has been dependable and inexpensive to keep on the road. Finally, this vehicle drives more like a truck than a car and provides that elevated view that I like. I would purchase another one but not before a redesign."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Dont Buy Honda (NY) on Tuesday, December 03, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "It starts in the morning"
Cons: "Paid $30,000 + for a re-furbished vehicle"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Purchased a NEW (2 miles on it) Honda Pilot. Within 3 weeks I noticed a 'defect' in the paint. After working with the dealership and Honda it was confirmed that, at the Honda Plant, they repainted the rear quarter of the vehicle. Honda's response was to paint it a 3rd time and they would give me some mudflaps for my inconvenience. When they repainted it (at the Factory), they left masking tape under the wheel well, re-installed rubber moldings that are warped and did a poor job painting it too. Honda will not stand behind their vehicle that should have had the paint work disclosed in the first place."
By Lee in Missouri (MO) on Tuesday, September 24, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 11,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Very smooth and quiet driving SUV"
Cons: "Not enough power, needs more HP, and 6 speed trans"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"My Pilot EX-L has 11000 miles on it. It drives very quiet and smooth.MPG'S average about 19-21, highest on trip was 26.5. Seats are very comfortable with power adjust. Lumbar does not work very well. Dealer service has been excellant, with reasonable service prices. This is my 3rd Honda,( 2 prior cars were Odysseys."
7 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Jeff (AZ) on Friday, September 13, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Utility, Smooth, Quiet Ride, Nice Electronics,"
Cons: "Cheaper Plastic dashboard, cluttered controls"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I purchased a new 2013 Pilot EX because of the room inside to put two bikes inside. I've had a Grand Cherokee, a Cherokee, an FX35 and now the Pilot EX. What I love: I get 24MPG city (got an extra 2MPG after replacing the air filter with a K&N). I can always tell when the ECO kicks in. It was annoying at first because you can feel the bump in the engine, but after a while, it reminds me to make subtle changes to the accelerator to keep it in ECO mode. I also love the bluetooth audio streaming and phone connections. The milage screen is awesome! Radio is adequate in the EX, but just adequate for a sub $30k automobile. Acceleration is also adequate, but not abundant. It's fine for me, because mileage is my priority. The car tends to look boxy, but I do like the look. The car is comfortable and quiet, despite some of the prior reviews. Storage is amazing and the car is forgiving and handles like a much smaller vehicle. This is one vehicle that once I get in, I don't speed and enjoy the ride. I find myself not in a rush all the time. What I don't love: The plastic dashboard and squeezed in controls. My Infiniti had all the buttons in the world but was smartly designed. The buttons, especially the A/C controls, are squeezed in together, which requires excessive looking when driving. The plastic dashboard makes it look "childproof," which was not the look I was going for, as a single guy. But overall, I'm very satisfied!"
10 people out of 11 found this review helpful
By AMH (OK) on Saturday, September 07, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 25,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great to drive, lots of space, and safe"
Cons: "Would always love better gas mileage!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I tell my husband all the time, "I love this car!" I love how it drives/handles, I feel very safe in it, I love the height/visibility, and I love the space for my kids. Strollers fit easily in the back and we can haul the kids, the dog, and all of our gear. Before this, I had two different Mercedes and then we had kids. We had a Jeep with a V8 that I enjoyed driving once strollers entered the picture, but the gas mileage was out of control. We got rid of that and bought this and could not be happier with the Pilot. Oh, I also love the fact that it takes regular gas and the maintenance compared to the German cars is wonderfully priced. I will drive these for a long time."
7 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Emma (CO) on Wednesday, September 04, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 27,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have owned 4 Hondas over the years and switched to the 2011 4runner limited and wished I had purchased the pilot, I traded it in for the Honda and love every thing about it. I use it to tow a trailer and it has better power than the 4runner had. I will never buy anything but Honda from here on, lesson learned!"
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful