By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 10/19/2011
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.
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.