New 2019 Honda Pilot SUV New 2019
Honda Pilot SUV

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KBB Editor's Overview

By KBB.com Editorial Staff

The 2019 Pilot is Honda’s largest SUV, a 3-row family hauler that can accommodate seven or eight passengers depending on configuration. It competes with other popular midsize crossover SUVs such as the Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer and the new Subaru Ascent and Volkswagen Atlas. Roomy, comfortable and surprisingly adept, the Honda Pilot is among the most recommendable midsize SUVs, routinely winning the Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Award for its segment. For 2019, Honda has revised the Pilot and addressed its few sticking points, including a hesitant 9-speed transmission on higher trims and the lack of a volume knob. This new Pilot also gets a freshened exterior design, newly standard safety systems, and revised technology, making an already highly recommendable SUV something of a no-brainer for busy families.

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You'll Like This SUV If...

With its standard suite of safety systems, roomy and versatile cabin, and the reliability and high resale value inherent in Hondas, the Pilot is the benchmark for 3-row crossover SUVs. Standard V6 power and the availability of an impressive all-wheel-drive system are icing on the cake.

You May Not Like This SUV If...

The Honda Pilot is comfortable but not very exciting to drive. If you want a 3-row SUV with fun-to-drive dynamics, check out the Mazda CX-9. Though beefed up for 2019, the Pilot’s rounded design isn’t for everyone. If you need to tow more than 5,000 pounds, look to a truck-based SUV like a Chevrolet Tahoe.

What's New for 2019

The Honda Pilot receives a mid-cycle refresh for 2019 that updates its front and rear fascias, makes the Honda Sensing safety system standard, and adds amenities like a hands-free power tailgate. Honda also addressed prior nits with the Pilot by adding a volume knob and refining the 9-speed automatic transmission.

Driving It

Driving Impressions

Let’s start with the elephant in the room regarding the Honda Pilot: the 9-speed automatic transmission found in the higher Touring and Elite trims. In the outgoing model, it was cited for hesitancy and un-Honda-like refinement. After testing the new Honda Pilot, we can happily report that the engineers’ work at making it smoother has paid off. By programming the transmission to start in 2nd gear in most situations, the subsequent gear changes are smoother than past models (the other trims continue to use the smooth, tried-and-true 6-speed automatic). Other aspects of the Pilot remain, and that’s a good thing. The 2019 Honda Pilot favors a comfortable, quiet ride. It has a sport mode that tweaks throttle mapping and the transmission, but it can’t keep the Pilot from protesting when thrown hard into a corner. This is no canyon carver. On an off-road course, an all-wheel-drive Pilot proved remarkably adept, with the ability to bound over rocks, crawl up a nearly 30-degree dirt grade, and claw itself through sand. Thanks to its multi-mode terrain system (snow, mud, sand) it can send up to 70 percent of power to the rear wheels. We had fun actually fishtailing it around a dirt track.

Favorite Features

TORQUE-VECTORING ALL-WHEEL-DRIVE
The Pilot’s all-wheel-drive system uses a sophisticated torque-vectoring system, similar to that of models in Honda’s luxury brand, Acura. This enables the Pilot to vary the power output going to each rear wheel, giving priority to the wheel with the most grip. You can switch between terrain modes, but the Pilot is smart enough to do the rest.

HONDA SENSING, NOW STANDARD
Honda’s suite of active safety and driver-assistance features are among the best in the business. Now, the system is standard on all 2019 Honda Pilots, giving every model the ability to automatically apply the brakes to prevent an accident, keep the vehicle in lanes, and use active cruise control to pace the car ahead.

Vehicle Details

Interior

All Honda Pilots have 3-rows of seating, but you have a choice of seating for seven or eight. The majority of Pilots are configured for eight via a 2nd-row bench. That can be replaced with a pair of captain’s chairs (optional on Touring, standard on Elite models) that makes for a more comfortable experience and easier access to the third row, but lowers total passenger count to seven. The Honda Pilot stands out with a roomy interior that has more total space than a Toyota Highlander, but slightly trails that of the new Subaru Ascent and Volkswagen Atlas. We like the integrated front-seat armrests – a small feature that can make a big difference on longer trips. Another small detail that resulted in big complaints has been rectified for 2019: The Pilot once again has a volume knob instead of a touch-based sliding control. Base LX trims, with their small 5-inch display and cloth seats, are on the basic side. The most popular trim, the EX-L, has a more upscale feel with leather seating.

Exterior

Honda knows that ever since it said goodbye to the blocky design of previous-generation Pilots, it has appeared soft. While its overall shape remains predominately rounded, for 2019, Honda has tried to toughen it up with more aggressive front and rear styling. Our eyes find the results something of a mixed bag. Yes, it looks more aggressive, especially in front, but there’s no getting away from its rather bulbous rear. Roof rails come standard on Touring and Elite trims to add utility and further the SUV image, and they’re optional on other trims. Wheel sizes range from 18 inches on LX, EX and EX-L model to 20-inch rollers on the topline Touring and Elite trims. If you want a power-operated tailgate (and who doesn’t), that’s another reason to step up to at least the EX-L trim.

Notable Standard Equipment

The 2019 Honda Pilot comes in five major trims: LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and Elite. The least-expensive Honda Pilot, the LX, includes the Honda Sensing safety and driver-assist suite, push-button start, Bluetooth connectivity, and a small 5-inch color display. It is quite basic other than that. We recommend stepping up to at least an EX trim, which adds popular features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, a snazzy new 8-inch touch-screen display, tri-zone climate control, heated front seats, one-touch folding 2nd-row seats, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, illuminated vanity mirrors, and Honda’s CabinControl, which lets passengers change audio, climate settings and more via an app on their smartphone.

Notable Optional Equipment

Except for all-wheel drive, most options on the 2019 Pilot SUV come as you climb trims. Stepping up to the volume seller, the EX-L, adds leather interior, moonroof, power tailgate, power-adjustable front-passenger seat, acoustic windshield for a quieter cabin, universal garage remote, and the Odyssey minivan-derived CabinTalk feature that lets you speak to the kids through their headphones. Stepping up to the Touring trim grants a hands-free power tailgate (it opens with a kicking motion of your foot), a 590-watt premium audio system, the 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, roof rails, parking sensors, blue ambient interior lighting, heated 2nd-row seats, and an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot (requires AT&T data plan). The top-line Honda Pilot Elite is loaded with standard all-wheel drive, standard 7-passenger seating (optional on Touring), panoramic roof, ventilated front seats, wireless phone charging cradle, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and heated steering wheel.

Under the Hood

All models of the 2019 Honda Pilot use a 3.5-liter V6 engine. It’s smooth and refined, and at 280 horsepower is quite robust, though not quite as powerful as the Toyota Highlander with its 295 horsepower. The Pilot comes standard in front-wheel-drive (FWD) form, with all-wheel drive (AWD) optional. On all but the LX trim, if you opt for AWD you also get a terrain management system. The Pilot is tied to either a 6-speed automatic transmission or, in Touring and Elite trims, a 9-speed automatic. We weren’t a fan of the past 9-speed, but its latency issues have been addressed. These topline models also use an engine start/stop system that turns off the engine at idle. If you don’t like the engine starting and restarting, it can be disabled at the press of a button. The Honda Pilot is rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds for AWD models and up to 3,500 for front-drive models.

3.5-liter V6
280 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
262 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 mpg (FWD, 6-speed automatic transmission), 18/26 mpg (AWD, 6-speed automatic), 20/27 mpg (FWD, 9-speed automatic), 19/26 mpg (AWD, 9-speed automatic)

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Pricing Notes

The 2019 Honda Pilot has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at about $32,500 for a base LX model. We recommend spending a bit more -- $35,325 – and at least stepping up to the Pilot EX, which offers more safety features and better technology, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. If you want leather, plan on spending just under $39,000 for an EX-L model. And if you want 7-passenger seating, you’ll have to climb to at least the Touring model, which starts just over $43,500. At the top, the 2019 Pilot Elite starts just over $49,000. That’s a significant premium, but it does come with all-wheel drive, which is a $1,900 option on the other models. At these prices, the Pilot nearly mirrors the Toyota Highlander and Subaru Ascent, starts slightly below the Ford Explorer, and is a bit higher than the Chevrolet Traverse and Volkswagen Atlas. Before buying, be certain to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. The Honda Pilot’s resale value has traditionally held up very well over the years, ranking among the best in its class.

OK, so what's next?
I'm interested in this car. What's for sale near me?
I'm interested in this car, and I'd like to trade in my current car while I'm at it.
Then again, maybe I should be thinking about a used car.

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