By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 9.6
The 2016 Honda Pilot crossover SUV marks the third generation of this popular 3-row family hauler, and it evolves not just to stay with the times, but to remain a step ahead of its ever-tougher competition. The sleek new shape is slightly smaller, and while it sacrifices a smidge of interior space, it's still comfortable for eight passengers. The trade-off is a downright luxurious all-new dash and interior design, and a feature-packed Elite model that drives the premium feel home. The new Pilot also offers electronic driving aids like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, crash mitigation, and so on. Throw in excellent driving dynamics, and the new Honda Pilot is sure to give its Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer competition night sweats.
The combination of sharp styling, a comfortable and luxurious interior, lots of available features and high-tech equipment should make the new Honda Pilot a front-runner for anybody considering a 3-row crossover SUV.
KBB Expert Ratings
The only thing that remains the same on the 2016 Honda Pilot is the name. Otherwise, virtually everything else is new, from style, to interior and features, to engine and transmission.
It took about 100 yards for our editor to determine that the new Honda Pilot was dramatically improved over its predecessor, and about 10 miles to conclude that it might...
... be the best-driving crossover SUV in its class. It's not the fastest, but with 280 horsepower from its V6 engine it certainly is no slug, and the 9-speed automatic transmission was surprisingly smooth and quick with its shifts. It's not sporty from behind the wheel, but the suspension and steering give the Pilot an instant feeling of confidence and familiarity from behind the wheel, and we don't just mean where switches are located. The big Pilot is surprisingly nimble, yet with a small enough turning circle to remain helpfully maneuverable in parking lots. As for road noise, the new Pilot moves up to the head of the class, commendably controlling tire and wind sounds penetrating the cabin.
Honda Sensing combines adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-path detection, and a host of other active safety systems designed to keep Pilot drivers on the road and safe. Best of all, it's available on all trim levels but base LX as a stand-alone option.
We like the Pilot's hidden cargo area for three reasons. First, it adds about three cubic feet of storage. Second, the reversible cover has a nice-looking carpeted side and an easy-to-clean hard plastic side. Finally, it eliminates the where-do-I-put-this conundrum by storing on the bottom of the cargo well.
The 2016 Honda Pilot interior boasts soft-touch surfaces on the dash and doors, which combine with on-road quiet and comfortable seats for a sophisticated feel. The comfort combines with practicality with a generous cargo area, and a huge center console bin with plenty of storage space. Thankfully, Honda has finally ditched its ancient navigation system for one from Garmin, although not everyone will like the cartoonish colors. The 2nd-row seats are comfortable, and the one-touch folding mechanism borrowed from the Acura MDX eases 3rd-row access. We also like the multiple USB ports (up to five), and the available HD rear-entertainment system.
The previous Pilot's block-like styling is gone, replaced with sleek lines on the Honda Pilot that are clearly designed to evoke a family resemblance to the smaller CR-V and HR-V. While it no longer stands out in a parking lot, the new Pilot SUV looks better overall. We particularly like the LED accents in the headlights, and the new taillight design that reflects the same pattern. However, the cargo floor is a couple inches higher than it used to be, and the glass on the rear hatch no longer opens independently of the hatch.
The basic front-wheel-drive (FWD) 2016 Honda Pilot LX comes standard with a multi-angle rearview camera and a tire-pressure-monitoring system that flashes the lights when you've filled a tire to its proper pressure. Cruise control, audio and phone controls are all located on the steering wheel, and all Pilots come with Bluetooth, a 4.2-inch information screen between the gauges, push-button start, and an Eco mode to help fuel economy. Still, it's worth upgrading to at least the EX model, which adds Honda's Intelligent Traction Management system, an upgraded audio system that includes HondaLink, and Honda's clever LaneWatch right-side-view camera.
The new Honda Pilot breaks most of its options into different models. For example, if you want things like dynamic guidelines on your rearview camera, you'll have to step up to the EX model. If you want leather, you're in EX-L territory. The 9-speed automatic is standard once you get to Touring and Elite models. All-wheel drive (AWD) is optional on all models, except for Elite, where it's standard. Also available on all new Honda Pilot models (besides LX) is the Honda Sensing suite of collision and road-departure mitigation and warning, lane-departure warning, active cruise and lane-keeping assist.
There's only one engine available for the 2016 Honda Pilot: a 3.5-liter V6 putting out 280 horsepower. It's an improved version of the old engine, and comes with either a 6-speed automatic or, in Touring and Elite models, a new 9-speed automatic. We were impressed by the 9-speed transmission’s operation, particularly because this ZF-supplied transmission has received mixed reviews in other manufacturer's cars where it's used. All models offer AWD, and the sophisticated system is standard on Elite models. Interestingly, a traction-management system that optimizes the AWD and FWD function for snow, mud or other surfaces is standard on all but LX models. The engine offers an Eco mode that shuts off half the cylinders under light throttle to help improve fuel economy.
280 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
262 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy (estimated): 19/27 mpg (6-speed automatic, FWD), 18/26 mpg (6-speed automatic, AWD), 20/27 mpg (9-speed automatic, FWD), 19/26 mpg (9-speed automatic, AWD)
A base FWD 2016 Pilot LX is about $100 more than last year's model, with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just under $31,000 including the $880 destination charge. The much nicer EX and EX-L grades start a few hundred higher, at $33,300 and $38,500, respectively. Touring models start at about $42,000; that's about $1,000 higher than last year's prices, but that's attributable to the standard Honda Sensing system, which is a $1,000 option on the rest of the lineup. Add $1,800 if you want AWD. The all-new Pilot Elite model tops out at about $47,300. Overall, the 2016 Honda Pilot is priced competitively against the Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer. Be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid, and be comfortable knowing that over the years your new Honda Pilot will hold its value better than average.