By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating:
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 Jay (NJ) on Friday, April 12, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,600overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Nice looking reliable"
Cons: "Only 5 speed tranny, remove start? change holder?"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"My review is for the technical type person; take it for what its worth. It is rather critical. I am not bashing my fellow Pilot owners if you love your Pilot and feel compelled to defend it at all costs; I am not like that. I do not have buyer remorse, but some things were lacking after I bought. All vehicles are designed and I figured the brilliant Honda engineers would have added the features I list in my cons. I will make my comparison to my old SUV which was a 2005 Suburban 1500 Z71 4x4.(yes I know I am comparing a full size 18 MPG max SUV but this is a reasonable comparison) Forgive me if I only list cons. You and I know the pros which is why we bought a Pilot CONS: 5 speed instead of 6 speed like the rest of the industry, this causes a 1000 rpm drop in the 2-3 or 3-4 shift. Honda, why not upgrade your tranny? I suspect the outdated tranny results in the dismal gas mileage. No remote start at least on the EX-L. Honda how can you skimp on a $50 electronic device. No change holder? Isn't this a no brainer? Top Heavy feel at highway speeds; ...the Pilot lets you know to be careful when making lane changes at 60 MPH. I suspect this may be due to undersized anti-sway bars but I am not sure. This is a comparison to the full size 8 passenger Suburban which is probably not a fair comparison given Suburban's wider stance and longer wheel base. Maintenance seems difficult, even an oil change. It doesn't look like the engineers thought much about the mechanic who has to work on the vehicle. Stupid method to engage 4WD = You have to shift into a low gear and then press the 4WD button? What if I need 4WD at speeds above 25 mph? I really did not pay attention to this aspect of the Pilot until later. I thought all modern 4WD vehicles allow you to drive at speeds up to 50 mph. Not the Honda Pilot. Even if you start out in 4WD, once you shift into drive at highway speeds, the smart engineers at HOnda designed your Pilot to shift out of 4WD. The Driver Information Center lacks the ability to easily change settings like when doors lock. The vehicle feels under-powered at all times. While the economy bar and eco button are nice, I find I am not rewarded for driving as efficient as possible. Yes I am complaining about my average city + combined mileage, which is 19.5 mpg. OK here is one positive in the midst of all this carnage; I drove from Atlantic City to the Poconos, all highway miles. I reset the trip odometer which also resets the mpg and I saw for the first time sustained gas mileage of 24.5 mpg at 65 to 70 miles per hour. Towing? Nobody at local Honda dealers knows anything about towing or electric brakes. The manual says you can tow, you have to dig real hard into the owners manual to find information about plugging in a wiring harness and electric brakes. Dealer, while willing to sell me a new SUV almost cautioned me to not treat the Pilot like it was a SUV. I read the owners manual and I am aware the max rated towing is 5000#. Back to the tranny: I think first gear should be geared lower for towing situations,...but alas Honda did not really envision the Pilot to tow anything more than a Jetski. Back window has 2 giant washers at the top. When you go to wash and squeegee the back glass, the big washers get in the way. I never had that problem before."
15 people out of 19 found this review helpful
By Bud (FL) on Monday, April 08, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 45,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Smooth, Quiet, Very Comfortable, Giant Cargo Area"
Cons: "Too many buttons for climate control"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought my Pilot as a certified pre owned 2 years ago and it is a fantastic vehicle. It is a wonderful driver and great on long trips. After 45000 miles it has very few rattles and drives like a brand new vehicle. Smooth and quiet with plenty of power and all of the seats in the back fold flat for maximum cargo. The seats needed to fold flat for my job and I literally looked at all SUV's in its class and it has by far the best cargo area. Plus my dog loves it back there. My only complaint is too many buttons for the AC. It is virtually impossible to adjust the controls without looking. Best just to leave in on AUTO and let the climate control do its job. For those who have never owned a Honda, it truly is a different experience. The dealers treat you better than any non luxury brand on the market. It is no wonder that Honda can sell plain looking cars and have such loyalty from its customers."
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By RGL (KY) on Wednesday, March 06, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 400overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Quality, Value, and Room / Space"
Cons: "Just a little negative is comfort and design"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Just like any Honda...the value, reliability and quality are present and accounted for! I traded-in a leased 2011 Toyota Rav4 Limited to a 2013 Honda LX to get more rear seat room for my growing son. While I was initially concerned over losing several features to keep my payment similar, it hasn't been much of a struggle because Honda does a good job...even on the base LX. There are certainly a few things I miss like Auto On lights and heated leather seats but that's not why I ever so slightly dinged the interior and comfort (i.e. an 8 out of 10 isn't bad). DESIGN - The molded plastic dash and cloth side door molding aren't quite the greatest...has a dry and brittle texture if that makes sense. Still, pretty good but could be better is all. Also, lots of buttons and knobs in the center console that take a little bit of getting used to. Not that the dash is overwhelming or not user friendly...just that it could be laid out a little bit better possibly. How I don't know. But the car I traded in had a lot more features (top of line vs. base model) and it seemed to flow more naturally I guess is the word I am looking for. Again, it's not complicated and not a huge ding. COMFORT - Honda seats are woven tightly with what seems like limited padding so the seat feels a bit firm and unforgiving. Keep in mind this is a base model so it's mostly to be expected. On the plus side is literally EVERYTHING else. The drive is very good. And the extra room (research showed this is the largest of the mid sized SUVs) is fantastic. And not just for my teenage son in the 2nd row but even for those of us upfront as there is more space left-to-right so it doesn't feel as cramped. I just don't think anyone is going to go wrong buying a Honda. Definitely not the 2013 Pilot!"
8 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By ME (KY) on Monday, February 11, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I really enjoy this car, however I have been a little annoyed with the # of recalls since owning it. Time isn't a luxury I can afford and having a one year old it's been difficult to find a time to take it in to have the recalls checked out/fixed."
7 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By rjturn on Thursday, January 24, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,400overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Very roomy and can hold 8 people"
Cons: "Miss having smart key with push button start."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I bought the Touring model and it is very roomy and with SUV loaded with family of 4 and dog got 24 MPG on trip to Dallas from Houston. I seem to get better MPG than some other reviews but have a long ride to work and back and just yesterday was able to get 28 MPG back home from work. The ride is great and road noise seems minimal to me. There is lots of room for almost any item in the SUV and the features all work great. Best SUV I have owned at this point."
9 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Rob (VA) on Saturday, November 24, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Quality, Fun to drive, Dependable and best deal."
Cons: "MPG, Control buttons, No HID,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Excellent driving vehicle, superb handling and the Pilot is a quality SUV for the money. They are just a bit behind in the technology department with the competition. They need to offer more safety features on the touring model (ie: blind spot indicator, HID headlights and easier controls). And I don't understand why they only put two sensors on the front bumper corners, it should have four with such a large hood. The one that annoys me the most is when going in reverse, only one of the mirrors tilt down. I am pretty picky, but could not afford the vehicles that meet all my desires, but overall the Honda Pilot is a Best Pick. My mpg is not so good, I get 18-19 mpg and I drive like a grandpa. I can't even get 20 mpg with cruise control. But, my biggest reason for getting a heavy SUV is the safety aspect for my family if involved in an accident."
27 people out of 27 found this review helpful