Kelley Blue Book Best Buys of 2017: Midsize SUV
Honda’s 3-row SUV bests the rest in almost every meaningful measure
You always said you’d never drive a minivan, and three kids later you’re sticking to your guns. You’re not the only one. Today, 3-row midsize SUVs -- the most popular minivan substitute -- outsell minivans 2 to 1.
And no SUV does a better minivan impression than the latest Honda Pilot. The roomy Pilot boasts the most accommodating third row in the segment, a bounty of family-friendly conveniences and a comfortable highway ride, all topped off by Honda’s sterling reputation for long-term reliability and excellent resale value.
Sure, the available all-wheel drive, confidence-inspiring ground clearance and up to 5,000 pounds of towing capacity make it an especially attractive option for outdoorsy and northern-based families, but the Honda Pilot is now a back-to-back Kelley Blue Book Midsize SUV Best Buy because of just how well it tackles a typically over-scheduled school week.
Midsize SUVs don’t offer a lot of rear cargo room when all three rows of seats are in use (a minivan advantage and deciding factor for some families), but the Pilot offers a bit more room than most. The cargo area also includes a neat underfloor bin that can be used to hide valuables from prying eyes or to prevent glass jars from rolling out onto the driveway when you open the liftgate. The removable floor panel stores neatly at the bottom of the bin when not in use, a clever touch.
Fold down the third-row seats and the cargo area expands to accommodate maybe 95% of the loads that will ever be thrown into it. Fold down the second row as well and the Pilot transforms into a small moving van.
Moving from payload to people, the Honda Pilot’s third-row seat is the best in the category. While many competitors seat just two in the way-back, the Pilot’s third row offers seating for three and brings max seating capacity to eight. Legroom, headroom and the overall seating position are also exceptional back there. Topping it all off, it’s also among the easiest third rows to access, especially in upper trims. In Pilot EX-L models and above, just press a clearly marked button and the spring-loaded second row collapses and slides forward.
The roomy second row -- available with a three-across bench or dual captain’s chairs -- will comfortably seat just about anyone, sliding fore and aft to optimize for passengers, cargo or whatever combination the day dictates. Available second-row niceties include dedicated climate controls, USB ports, power ports, manual window shades and an integrated video entertainment system -- just about everything you might find offered in a minivan.
Moving to the front row, life-easing highlights include a giant bin between the front seats, well-placed cupholders, heated and cooled front seats, plenty of easy-access space for personal items, power and USB ports, plus mostly intuitive climate and infotainment controls (the lack of a proper volume knob continues to bedevil several current Honda models).
Once upon a time, SUVs were built like trucks and carried all the same ride, handling and efficiency baggage. Today, most SUVs are built using the same unibody construction as cars, making them better in every area that matters to most owners.
And no 3-row midsize SUV delivers a better all-around drive than the 2017 Honda Pilot. Plenty of its competitors offer good ride and handling, but the Pilot takes it a step further with steering, braking, handling and acceleration refinements that combine to deliver a more comfortable, more confidence-inspiring driving experience.
One related shopping note: We much prefer the Pilot’s 6-speed automatic transmission (EX-L and below) to the newer but less-refined 9-speed (Touring and above).
The Pilot also offers a variety of cutting-edge comfort and convenience technologies, like adaptive cruise control and a lane-keeping assist system that reads lane lines and actively helps steer the vehicle to stay in the lane (within limits). We’ve put these systems to work during long highway drives, with meaningful reductions in fatigue.
The Honda Pilot doesn’t have the tightest turning circle in its class, but good outward visibility and available rear cross-traffic alert help make things easy in a parking lot.
Even if the Honda Pilot weren’t among the roomiest, most practical and best-driving midsize SUVs on the market, it would still have a powerful ace up its sleeve. Honda has earned a reputation for building high-quality, long-lasting vehicles, a standing reflected in the fact that Hondas are among the most highly regarded and sought-after used cars.
This reputation benefits new Honda buyers in at least two ways: A higher likelihood of trouble-free ownership, and high resale values that make for lower overall ownership costs. Spending $35,000 on a 2017 Honda Pilot, for example, will likely cost you measurably less over a full buy-own-sell ownership cycle than if you’d spent $35,000 on most any of its competitors.
The best for less? In the case of the 2017 Honda Pilot, that’s exactly what you get.
More 2017 Honda Pilot
Build and price your own 2017 Honda Pilot to unlock its Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own and more, or check out our full review for more insights. Still unsure if the Honda Pilot is the best choice for you? Visit our Midsize SUV Buyer's Guide to explore all your options.
KBB Video: 2017 Honda Pilot
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