• Updated for 2019
  • Refreshed styling 
  • Retuned 9-speed automatic transmission
  • Standard Honda Sensing with Lane Keep Assist
  • 7-passenger and 8-passenger versions
  • On-sale now
  • Pricing starts at $32,445 including destination
  • Winner of the KBB Midsize SUV Best Buy of 2019 award

 

The best years of my childhood were spent in Portland, Oregon. Every Autumn mom and dad would take me and my brother to pick pumpkins on Sauvie Island, a bucolic rural wonderland located a mere 30 minutes North of downtown Portland. Mention Sauvie Island and I’m frozen in reminiscence. Sweater weather. Bright red leaves. Halloween. The gentle orange sunlight of northern latitudes, recalling the dreamy color of a Terrence Malick film. Nostalgia is a powerful force. Why not use it to test the revised 2019 Honda Pilot?

The plan: recreate the magic of those mid-1980s pumpkin quests with a family trip to Portland. This time with my parents recast as grandparents for my 3-year-old daughter. To haul our trans-generational squad from one wholesome activity to the next we enlisted Honda’s 7 or 8-passenger, 3-row Pilot SUV, which for 2019 has been endowed with refreshed exterior styling, smoother behavior from the 9-speed automatic transmission, and a range of other improvements. Our test subject was an all-wheel drive Pilot Elite trim. That’s the fanciest one, equipped with leather, 20-inch wheels, wireless phone charging, and other delights. Grand total, $48,020.

Challenge #1: Get brunch

Upon arriving at Portland International Airport my top priority was to motor west to Tasty n Sons for the planet’s best brunch (try the steak and eggs!). But first, I had to load 3 generations of Muzio and all our gear into the 2019 Honda Pilot. Complicating matters is the fact that my daughter is legally required to sit in a bulky car seat. Also, my mom overpacks. She brought 4 pairs of shoes for what amounts to an extended weekend. Nevertheless, with one of the 3rd-row seats lowered, everyone and everything fit. Good thing, the hangry gene curses all 3 generations.

Challenge #2: Crank up the nostalgia

If you really want to toy with your parent’s emotions, try mining the musical hits of their past. Using the 2019 Pilot’s Apple CarPlay smartphone integration I effortlessly initiated hits from their bygone Portland years. Keeping that emotionally manipulative music flowing throughout our trip was a breeze thanks to Siri voice recognition and Honda’s cleanly arranged 8-inch touchscreen. For the record, Paul McCartney’s 1989 album Flowers in the Dirt totally killed.

Challenge #3: Dazzle my father

My dad is a lovely man who happens to have a skeptical view of technological advancement. Despite his occasionally progress-averse nature, I know that with the right demonstration he can be converted. For example, he has expressed doubt and disdain for the concept of autonomous vehicles. Our Pilot’s standard Honda Sensing suite of driver assist technologies allowed me to nudge him in a slightly more accepting direction.

While heading southbound on Highway 5, I set the cruise control and let the 2019 Pilot automatically keep pace with the vehicle ahead. Slight intrigue/approval from the elder Muzio. I then demonstrated how Lane Keep Assist could steer the Pilot around corners (supervised by my watchful eyes and close hands, of course). Neither feature transformed my dad into raging autonomous vehicle advocate but, like the 2019 Pilot, his course seems to have shifted for the better.

Challenge #4: Appease the child

My daughter is an absolute delight but she’s also three years old. When our trip to the Enchanted Forest (a comically-cheap yet charming “theme park” south of Salem) was brought to an unceremonious end by an outburst of screaming and tears, I wasn’t surprised. Naturally, my goal when driving is to keep her screaming and tears to a minimum.

Our Pilot Elite trim included a range of peace-keeping tools, among them a built-in 10.2-inch rear seat entertainment system…that we never used. It turns out the Pilot’s dynamic attributes kept my speed-loving daughter plenty entertained. When the mood turned fussy, a little full-throttle acceleration from the Pilot’s 3.5-liter V6 (280hp, 262 lb-ft) worked wonders. Same deal when negotiating Oregon’s winding mountain roadways. With nearly car-like ride and handling, the Pilot hustles better than you’d imagine. And honestly, what caring father would deny his daughter the thrill of needlessly speedy cornering?

Challenge #5: Dazzle my father, part 2

The Honda Pilot offers a feature called Cabin Talk. Press a button on the center screen and the driver’s voice is amplified to rear seat passengers via the car’s speakers and wireless headphones. This turned into quite the parlor trick during our trip. Father Muzio was duly impressed. Later when I’d convinced him to swap his hilariously outdated iPhone for a brand-new model he marveled at the Pilot’s wireless phone charging abilities. Like I said, he’s resistant but pliable.

Challenge #6: All Aboard

Getting into cars is no big deal for me, a reasonably fit man of 40. But my daughter is an adorably tiny human and my 60-something mother has a bum hip, plus she recently endured surgery on her little toe. Despite being afflicted by youth and age respectively; my daughter and mother were each able to board the 2019 Pilot SUV without much struggle. Critical help came via strategically-placed grab handles and a flat step leading to the 3rd row seats. As a bonus, when disembarking my daughter had the unique pleasure of operating the Pilot’s one-touch 2nd row seat release. Nothing we get her for Christmas will top the fun she had flipping those seats forward with a press from her wee little finger.

Challenge #7: Pick those pumpkins

I won’t bore you with the details of our trip to the Sauvie Island pumpkin patch, other than to say it was a thrilling convergence of rekindled memories and new adventures, as seen through my daughter’s inquisitive eyes. From an automotive perspective the Pilot proved easy to park in the impressively congested dirt and gravel parking lot. The 2019 Pilot doesn’t offer 360-degree camera system but it does offer good driver sightlines and a highly-useful multi-angle backup camera. With those aides at my disposal I confidently nestled the Pilot rearward into a cozy spot…a scant ½ mile (or thereabouts) from the pumpkin patch. Pro Tip: park nose out for a quick getaway when the hot cider runs dry and your little one’s mood flips from angel to Halloween horror mode.

According to Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again. True enough. I’ll never recapture the easy joy and youthful wonder I felt scouring the patch for perfect pumpkins as a child in the 80s. Looking rearward is a dead end. But you can take familiar foundations and build fresh memories. You can hitch your emotional wagon to the jubilant star of a child…or grandchild.

For 2019, Honda took the familiar 3rd generation Pilot and sprinkled it with newness. I can verify, the resulting SUV is an exceptional family hauler. In similar fashion, the Muzio family took a familiar jaunt to the Sauvie Island pumpkin patch and sprinkled it with the newness of my daughter. The resulting adventure was exceptional. Just like cars, sometimes life can benefit from a mid-cycle refresh.

When does the 2019 Honda Pilot go on sale?

The 2019 Honda Pilot is currently available at Honda dealers nationwide.

How much does the 2019 Honda Pilot cost?

Pricing for the 2019 Honda Pilot LX trim starts at $32,445 including destination. Move up to the more-desirable EX trim and the MSRP rises to $35,325, while the top-tier Elite trim clocks in at $49,015. On all trims, all-wheel drive is an $1,900 option.

Should I wait for the 2019 Pilot or buy a 2018 model?

While updates for the 2019 model year are modest, collectively they address the most irritating issues found in the 2018 Pilot, including its annoying lack of a volume knob. Add updated styling, a better-behaved 9-speed automatic transmission, and newly standard Honda Sensing and the 2019 Honda Pilot is clearly our preferred choice.

How many seats does the 2019 Honda Pilot have?

8 seats come standard in the LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring trims. 7-passenger seating with 2nd row captain’s chairs is standard in the highest Elite trim and optional for the Honda Pilot Touring trim. 

Advertisement
New Car Spotlight

Advertisement

Advertisement