By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 9.5
Honda’s venerable Pilot SUV for 2017 provides 3-row convenience in a vehicle noted for its reliability and strong resale. This 3rd-generation Pilot is slightly smaller than the last, but the design is sleeker and more upscale. The Pilot sacrifices some interior room to the design, making it smaller inside than the aging Chevrolet Traverse, but still slightly larger than the current Ford Explorer. The 2017 Pilot is also up to speed on the latest safety features, offering driver-assist systems like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and crash-detection and mitigation. On the road, the Pilot is every bit the equal of the Toyota Highlander and Nissan Pathfinder, although it can’t match the off-road prowess of a Ford Explorer or Land Rover Discovery.
With its eye-appealing style, luxurious interior appointments and impressive driving characteristics, the 2017 Honda Pilot is the 8-passenger, 3-row family SUV by which to judge all others.
If you need lots of cargo space behind the 3rd-row seat or need to tow serious loads, a full-size SUV like the Chevy Tahoe or Nissan Armada makes a better choice. Those looking for base-model pricing with advanced driver-assist features will need to look to the Toyota Highlander.
KBB Expert Ratings
After a complete redo last year, the 2017 Honda Pilot SUV sees only minor changes. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are made standard on EX trims and higher, while the black interior option is now offered on all trims wearing White Diamond Pearl paint.
It doesn’t take long behind the wheel of Honda’s 2017 Pilot SUV to determine this might just be the best-riding, best-handling 3-row family transport under $40,000. You can find more...
... powerful competitors, even hybrid options, but for our tastes the 280-horsepower V6 is more than adequate. The smooth-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission performs without fuss, although its 1-mpg improvement over the standard 6-speed automatic can’t really justify the extra cost. We wouldn’t classify the Pilot’s performance as sporty, but rather overwhelmingly confident. On the road, the Pilot feels nimble and maneuverable, with a very tight turning radius that makes it easy to navigate in tight spots. The Pilot’s switchgear and instruments are all logically arranged and easy to access, and the low levels of wind and tire noise are commendable, as is the ability to hold a conversation over two rows even at highway speeds.
Available on all but the base LX trim, Honda Sensing bundles lane-keeping assist with rear cross-path detection, adaptive cruise control and road-departure mitigation as well as the Pilot EX’s LaneWatch monitor in a safety suite designed to help the driver both see and avoid potential hazards.
You’ll like what Honda has done to improve storage without impinging on passenger comfort. The hidden cargo area behind the third seat adds about three cubic feet of storage and has a sturdy reversible cover carpeted on one side that conveniently stows away at the bottom of the cargo well.
The 2017 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 upgraded its 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 2017 Honda Pilot shuns the first two generations’ boxy styling in favor of sleek lines 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 current Pilot SUV looks better overall. We particularly like the LED accents in the headlights, and a taillight design that reflects the same pattern. However, some may find the cargo floor is a couple inches higher than need be, while other will lament the glass on the rear hatch no longer opens independently of the hatch itself.
The basic front-wheel-drive (FWD) 2017 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, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto 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 2017 Honda Pilot: a 3.5-liter V6 putting out 280 horsepower. This engine is offered with either a 6-speed automatic or, in Touring and Elite models, a 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 manufacturers’ 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)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
A base FWD 2017 Pilot LX carries a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just under $31,500 including the $900 destination charge. The much nicer EX and EX-L grades start a few thousand higher, at $33,900 and $37,400, respectively. Touring models start at about $42,500. Adding the Honda Sensing system to any model increases the cost by $1,000. Add $1,800 if you want AWD. The top-line 2017 Honda Pilot Elite model tops out at about $48,000. Overall, Honda’s Pilot SUV for 2017 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 Honda Pilot will hold its value better than the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Dodge Durango and Chevrolet Traverse.