Adding a bit more style, a handful of welcome creature features and boasting even-better fuel economy, the 2012 Honda Pilot is stepping up its competitive game for the coming year. The most obvious change to this midsize crossover-utility can be seen up front, where a focused facelift that includes a reshaped soft fascia, new three-bar grille design, revised headlamps/running lights and an aerodynamically-cleaner front air dam give it a more contemporary appearance. Save for the base Pilot L, that retains its existing 17-inch styled-steel wheels and 245/65 tires, the EX, EX-L and Touring variants all move up a size and now fill their fenderwells with new 18-inch alloys wrapped in 235/60 rubber.

Inside, the Pilot offers an even quieter environment, thanks to a host of noise-abatement and isolation improvements along with acoustic glass in the windshield -- a feature previously reserved for EX-L/Touring models. Upgraded trim, modest revisions to the color palette, revised gauge faces and a more refined center-stack layout endow the 2012 Pilot with a more sophisticated character, while an enhanced Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System2 -- standard on the Touring and optional on the EX-L -- now offers tri-lingual voice recognition, real-time FM Traffic updates and 60GB of storage with 15GB allocated for user media.

To help boost its EPA numbers, the 2012 Honda Pilot benefits from a number of subtle but effective tweaks, to both its standard 3.6-liter V6 and its running gear. For openers, the operational range of the engine's Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system that allows it to operate on three or four cylinders as load demands has been broadened. It features new dual-electrode spark plugs, a load-variable alternator, and reduced internal friction and is lubed by lower-viscosity oil -- also used in its five-speed automatic transmission. In addition to its cleaner nose and reduced frontal area, the 2012 Pilot also boasts a variable-displacement power steering pump, low-rolling-resistance tires, and low-drag front-ventilated and rear-disc brakes. Collectively, these modifications add one mile per gallon to the Pilot's EPA city stats and two miles per gallon to its highway figures, raising numbers on front-drive models to 18/25 mpg -- the best of any eight-passenger SUV -- and bumping mileage to 17/24 mpg on 4WD versions, a move that earns them best-in-class status among the midsize 4WD SUV set.

On sale now, pricing for the 2012 Honda Pilot ranges from $29,280 for a front-drive Pilot L model to $41,630 for a 4WD Pilot Touring with Navigation and a Rear Entertainment System.

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