By on June 6, 2008

2009_pilot_ex-l_103.jpgHonda was the first automaker to offer Americans a car-based SUV with a third row of seats. It didn’t matter that an Odyssey minivan was more fun to drive. Families wanted a third row without the stigma of a minivan or the bulk of a conventional SUV. The Pilot outsold all other midsize car-based SUVs. Then new competitors piled into the segment: Hyundai Veracruz, GMC Acadia, Mazda CX-9 and more. Honda lost its place at the head of the class. For the 2009 model year, Honda has responded with a fully redesigned Pilot. Have they done enough to reclaim their supremacy?

The original Pilot was a blandly inoffensive box on wheels. The new Pilot sports a bulkier nose, a higher beltline, more Hummeresque side windows (let us not speak ill of the dead) and a chrome butt strip. The formerly cute ute looks much more like a conventional SUV– except for the clunky grille. (Honda designer Dave Marek says the new design will grow on you; so can fungus.)

2009_pilot_ex-l_108.jpgThe same, more massive aesthetic has been applied to the Pilot’s interior. The center stack, the center console, and the door panels all have the chunky forms typical of a conventional full-size SUV.

If this were a Chrysler, we’d be saying that the interior plastics look cheap. Since it’s a Honda, we’ll say they look “affordable.” As in cheap. Surfaces display the sheen you’d expect from budget grade rock-hard polymers, while the instrument panel includes far too many prominently located cut lines. Want something nicer? Honda invites you to pick up an MDX. Alternatively, you could buy a competitor’s product.

2009_pilot_ex-l_105.jpgLike a conventional SUV, the Pilot’s windshield is downright upright. The instrument panel isn’t minivanishly deep and visibility is excellent. Although the Pilot’s front seats are larger and cushier than those found in smaller Hondas, there’s less lateral support than Hillary Clinton affords Barak Obama. Also on the downside, the Pilot’s shifter has moved to the left side of the center stack. It’s an improvement over the old column shifter, but the cog swapper’s positioning isn’t ideal for anyone who likes to drive.

The new Pilot has all the width of a full-size SUV. In terms of length and wheelbase, both dimensions have increased by about three inches; remaining about ten inches shorter than competitors. Legroom in the second row is up an inch, third row limb accommodation is up nearly two inches. The second row adjusts a few inches fore-and-aft, but adults will want it all the way back.

2009_pilot_touring_213.jpgHumans up to six feet tall can now fit into the Pilot’s third row, with little room to spare. The wayback seats are positioned above the first two rows, providing occupants with a pleasantly unobstructed view forward. But the chairs are still too close to the floor to provide adults with enough thigh support to prevent Restless Leg Syndrome.

The Pilot’s relatively short exterior length also compromises cargo volume. The Honda can carry eight people or their luggage, but not both at the same time. As with the third row, you’ll find more room elsewhere.

Honda’s secured an extra six horses for the Pilot’s 3.5-liter V6, for a total of 250. The i-VTEC system makes the most of what’s there, stumping-up 253 ft. lbs. of torque. Unfortunately, there’s no noticeable difference in performance. Why would there be? The Pilot’s curb weight has increased to 4500 lbs. (with all wheel-drive). To compensate for the heft’s effect on gas consumption, the powerplant now runs on three or four cylinders while cruising. The resulting 16/22 EPA numbers are competitive, but hardly qualify as a unique selling point.

2009_pilot_engine.jpgThe Pilot’s automatic five-speed gearbox remains. (Most competitors have a sixth ratio, which enables a shorter first gear for stronger acceleration off the line.) The Pilot’s steering feels a bit firmer than before. Thanks to improved suspension tuning, the Pilot no longer leans like a boat through the turns. But the not-so-cute-ute is about as much of a sporting machine as the [only slightly less expensive] Panasonic EP3005 massage chair.

Disappointingly, the Pilot’s new underpinnings don’t deliver markedly improved ride quality or a vast reduction in noise levels. If you’re looking for a bargain-basment alternative to premium-branded products, this ain’t it.

2009_pilot_ex-l_106.jpgThe new Pilot doesn’t change the game the way the original did. There’s not a single area in which it excels, in a field crowded with excellent products. Of course, the same could be said of the old Pilot, of which Honda sold quite a few. Much like the previous model, the new Pilot is a vehicle for those who will only consider a Toyota or Honda, and want something roomier than the Highlander. Honda bunted. The Pilot’s a base hit.

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78 Comments on “2009 Honda Pilot Review...”


  • avatar
    NickR

    The resulting 16/22 EPA numbers are competitive, but hardly qualify as a unique selling point.

    Competitive with it’s rivals, but by no means wallet friendly. I never really understood the appeal of CUVs. The prime buying motivator is, I am lead to believe, improved mileage. However, it seems that it merely goes from bankrupcy-inducing to poverty-inducing.

  • avatar

    Hopefully this will end the bigger heavier trend that Honda seemed to be engaged in.

  • avatar
    prndlol

    About the new Pilot’s snout. I’ve said it before, i’ll say it again…

    That’s the biggest USB port i ever did see.

  • avatar
    Accurate_to_the_Vector

    It’s the same thing with most new Hondas; new, improved, but unexceptional.

  • avatar
    NN

    Surprised to see three stars after the not so great review. I am also surprised that 16/22 is all that this thing gets–it is a Honda, after all. For Christ’s sake; GM fields a much larger vehicle (Lambda’s) that gets better gas mileage. Good fuel economy is usually a given for Honda. My clunky 1998 Blazer gets practically the same mileage as this Pilot. This Pilot is light years ahead of my ride as far as technology (DOHC V-6 vs. ye-olde 4.3 pushrod; cylinder de-activation, variable valve timing, etc. vs….nothing). 10 years of technology advancements for what? Not fuel economy. Maybe so one can accelerate to 60mph 1.5 seconds faster in a family vehicle?

  • avatar

    prndlol – very nice. Wish I had thought of it myself.

    It is a bit surprising that the EPA numbers aren’t better. Despite another quarter-ton of curb weight and no cylinder deactivation, GM’s Lambdas earn the same numbers in AWD form. Honda’s 3.5 doesn’t seem to excel at fuel efficiency. Maybe it’s the gearing?

    I’m hoping to provide quick reliability results for the 2009 Pilot. If you know anyone who buys one, please send them here:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    With the exception of the RAV-4, I don’t see anything that Toyota or Honda make as exceptional in the SUV crowd.

    Like it or lump it. This is the one area where the domestics (and Nissan) clearly dominate. Although I will say that VW/Audi has made some interesting models.

    Unfortunately for all of them, this will be a niche product until there’s dramatic improvement in battery and hybrid efficiency.

  • avatar
    Eggpainter

    Thanks for the great review! I have to say, the most dissapointing change (for me) is the interior. We have an ’03 Odyssey, and for the last 5 (or more?) years, you could sit in an Odyssey and a Pilot and not tell the difference between the two – same dash, steering wheel, upholstery, carpet, headliner, etc. etc.

    Now it sounds like they took the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” route. Only they joined the wrong crowd.

    Which is too bad – we’re lookin’ to trade in the van for something that hits the sweet spot between room, mileage and style, and we generally like Honda. Unfortunately, this offering (along with our less-than-stellar maintenance record on the Odyssey) has forced our hand, and we’re now looking at Nissan to fill the void.

  • avatar
    1169hp

    “Niche product”
    Around here, I can’t walk ten feet in parking lot without bumping into a Honda Pilot (previous generation). They’re a dime-a-dozen.

    I’m sure the same will hold true for this new one.

  • avatar
    Eric_Stepans

    Re: The Pilot’s lack of a 6-speed automatic…

    Honda uses its own unique design for automatic transmissions, basically a manual transmission layout with hydraulic clutches in place of shift forks and collars.

    It is harder to add a sixth gear to this design than it is to a conventional (planetary gear set-based) automatic.

    It’s also harder for Honda to fob off development costs on suppliers like ZF, Getrag and Aisin/Warner when they design their own transmissions.

  • avatar
    radimus

    So it’s as almost as big as, almost as heavy as, and barely gets better MPG than a Tahoe or Expedition. The Tahoe and Expedition have more power, almost twice the towing capacity, roughly the same luggage capacity, and more max cargo capacity. Pony up a little extra and you can get a Suburban or Expedition EL which lets you haul 8-9 people AND their luggage. Given the deals that GM and Ford are willing to do to move these things, their higher MSRP’s compared to the Pilot are likely irrelevent.

    So why would someone choose a Pilot over the Ford or GM offerings?

  • avatar

    The Lambdas and Taurus X are much more comparable than the Tahoe and Expedition.

    The Pilot does have a significant fuel economy advantage over the Tahoe/Expedition. That Tahoe 4WD is rated 14/19, the Expedition 4WD somewhere south of 12/18 (the 4WD version is so heavy it’s exempt; these are the RWD ratings).

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    1169hp, in another three years you will see very few of them… unless you’re in the Middle East.

    Gas prices are set to absolutely decimate SUV sales and you likely won’t see any game changing improvements in the efficiency of these vehicles until 2011.

  • avatar
    radimus

    I’ll give on the Ford, but regarding the comparison between the MPG of the Tahoe to the 2009 Pilot I guess we have conflicting ideas on what qualifies as “significant” differences. By the EPA numbers the Tahoe and Suburban are only 16% worse for the highway and 14% better in the city. That doesn’t seem very significant to me.

    Subsitute GMC Acadia for Pilot and my question doesn’t change much. Maybe the Tahoe and Suburban are supposedly less directly comparable, but these CUV’s are getting so fat and thirsty that they may as well be since the differences are getting much less drastic.

  • avatar

    Prndlol, looks a bit Firewire-ish to me.

  • avatar
    N85523

    NN,

    I don’t know what it is about The General’s Vortec engines, but ever since that line started, they’ve been remarkable efficient engines, almost always class-leading. That’s one thing GM got right, but it’s kind of like a great landing at the wrong airport for today’s market.

  • avatar
    klossfam

    Excellent review, Michael – As a long time “old Pilot” (2004 EX-L) owner, we went the new 2008 Highlander route this time…especially after seeing the horrific mug (which actually looks WORSE in person than in pictures)…BUT the real killer for me was the lack of effort on the power train side by Honda…I have a 4000 lb boat to tow and I foolishly assumed the new Pilot would go to 5000 lb towing capacity – just like its cousin the MDX and its chief rival the Highlander. So, we get no more power & no better mileage despite the VCM…The Highlander is rated at 270 hp /248 ft lbs and no VCM trickery is required to return 17/23 mpg with AWD in a loaded Limited – we are getting around 19-20 mpg mixed – same as the old “less powerful” Pilot…and the Highlander tows noticeably better than the Pilot…Honda really needs to step it up…and the new Hondas/Acuras prove they haven’t – I’ve owned a 2001 Ody, 2002 TL-S, 2004 TSX and 2004 Pilot in the last 6 years…Exactly ZERO Hondas remain in my garage because “good” is no longer good enough…

  • avatar
    Stingray

    To me this thing looks like the designer was inspired by the XJ Jeep Cherokee, but instead, copied a lot of the Liberty, and put some “macho” Tundra grille. You can remove the honduh grille and put a Jeep one and voilà: Liberty.

    I’ve seen here the previous generation and it looks better.

    Is a mistery to me why some manufacturers try to copy the original XJ Cherokee design… and how fugly are the results. And that includes the Commander.

    And this is a manufacturer that along the 2.8, makes SUV’s and guzzlers. And bigger ones each time.

    All the japanese (and I bet the europeans too) seem to be building the cars the media criticizes the detroit 3, big SUVs and cars. They seem to be on the same trend of cheapining interiors.

    That deserves a big LOL for the 3: det, imports, media.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    Prndlol, looks a bit Firewire-ish to me.

    You guys are delusional. Clearly it’s meant to be a giant HDMI port. You know, the female part.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Every time TTAC is compelled to write about a Stupid, Useless Vehicle, I am compelled to report that my 1984 Volvo Diesel wagon *STILL* seats seven, and is EPA rated at 35 city/41 hwy.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Yeah, but it’s pretty difficult to track down a Volvo wagon that has a diesel engine, and you won’t get a warranty with it.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Does it come with USB cable?
    you are right PRNDLOL. it really looks like USB port. I am looking at my mother board right now.

  • avatar
    mel23

    The relatively poor MPG of the larger offerings of Honda and Toyota relative to GM’s trucks and SUVs shows, it seems to me, how easy it would have been for Wagoner to neutralize the fuel efficiency halo that the other two have worn, and profited immensely from, for so many years. They got their creds from the Civic/Corolla and Accord/Camry. ALL GM had to do was fix the damn Cobalt, but no. It got worse mileage the day the new one was released than the Civic that had been available for a while. Again, Wagoner chose to offer what I call a placeholder product. “Oh yes, we compete in that segment with our Cobalt.” The Cobalt isn’t a terrible car, but why would anyone buy something that gets worse mileage, has fewer airbags and has MUCH worse value retention? Most people didn’t buy it, and view GM products as gas hogs when many are not.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I don’t get it – it won’t do anything a minivan won’t do but it uses more gas and is less fun to drive and it can’t tow like body on frame SUV. I know some people feel that driving a minivan is an indignity but I’m not sure this thing is any better.

    Will it sell? Most likely.

  • avatar

    we bought the original pilot, while it has been problem free and fine, I wish we had bought the Odyssey. Strangely I find my self counting down the days until we get to replace the pilot with the minivan.

  • avatar
    jimmy2x

    I recently purchased a 2008 4Runner,4WD, V6 ,Limited with JBL/NAV for $35,500 plus sales tax. Cheaper than the Pilot equivilant and rated 16/20 mpg. Am getting 18/21 and its not even broken in yet. Rides great, solid build, and has real off-road capability. Will be using for trips out West and to Alaska so gas mileage was not the determing issue. Perfect for the wife and I, and far better value for the money than any of the CUV’s we looked at.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    It’s so… slab-sided. Honda should have BMWified this thing style-wise just like the Accord. The Highlander and the Enclave are much more stylish, and the interior of both beats the Pilot hands down. Though in fairness I haven’t seen the Pilot’s interior in person.

    Also, the Highlander comes in hybrid form. What does the Pilot come in? A V6 with a couple extra horses in an SUV hundreds of pounds heavier? Sorry, Honda. You’ve got to put more effort into your SUVs.

  • avatar

    I’ve changed my mind. I think the grille is actually a mouth inside a mouth. Like the aliens in Aliens, but without the unfriendly teeth.

    I didn’t want to nitpick in the review itself, but the bit of the interior that struck me as most questionable is the clunky instrument binnacle surround. It’s bulbous, a lighter color than the instrument panel upper, and doesn’t quite cover the instrument upper behind it at the top. So you’ve got a slight edge of dark instrument upper poking up above the top of the light-colored surround. Not a very elegant execution, to say the least.

  • avatar
    seoultrain

    I’m with strippo. HDMI for sure. But kudos to prndlol for coming up with the connector port idea.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Odyssey.

    Say it with me again, O-d-y-s-s-e-y.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    16/22 is pretty bad in light of perpetually escalating fuel prices, but it is heaps better than the 2008 model. How did they manage to bench 15/20 in the smaller, lighter, less-powerful 2008 model?

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    You called it Stingray, this thing looks like the long lost cousin of the Current Liberty KK.

  • avatar
    msowers1

    First the Acadia AWD is 16/22 same as the Pilot.

    The interior volumes are the same.

    The Acadia is better looking but the Pilot’s doors are shorter (check out how long the second door is on the Lamda’s) and the rear glass now opens.

    The Highlander is as ugly as ugly gets

    The dash layout and materials are far better than a Chrysler and Highlander. The Honda controls have a nice feel to them as usual.

    And what about residual values after three years? Honda wins

    They will sell

  • avatar
    Zarba

    We have a 2007 EX-L AWD Pilot, and I can attest to the abysmal fuel economy.

    It’s my wife’s truck, and she averages about 17 mixed/around town, and it’ll get 19 hwy.

    But the 19 HWY is with the cruise at 80 and the A/C on. We’ve never seen 20 on the highway.

    Great vehicle, and better looking than the new one.

    Why a Pilot and not an Ody? Well, I have to live with her, and she didn’t want a minivan. End of discussion. I tried to get her into an Ody, but although she liked it, she didn’t want to drive “a bus”.

  • avatar
    kkop

    We had a 2004 model, and it was the most solid vehicle we ever owned. Who cares if it’s not a driver’s car? It’s reliable, with decent mileage for an all-wheel drive, and has great interior room (and a reclining seatback in row 2 – loved it)

    In exchange for occasional oil and filters the Pilot rewards you with virtually unlimited trouble-free miles. It’s the Volvo 240 of the 21st Century.

    BTW:
    It’s funny how the readers here start bitching about gas mileage when it’s a CUV/SUV/truck, but never leave the woodwork when sports cars with abysmal mileage are tested. Then, conspicuous gas consumption suddenly ‘makes sense’ I guess…

  • avatar
    cjdumm

    Yuck. The 1st-gen Element was ugly, but it did it’s ‘ugly’ in a quirky, funky way and it worked for a lot of people.

    This new Pilot is just plain yucky. Yucky snout, yucky sides, yucky mileage. How can it get worse mileage than the Odyssey does? My wife’s friends all drive Oddies, and they get nearly 30 mpg on the highway, and almost 20 around town.

    How did Honda get the Pilot so wrong?

  • avatar
    wsn

    kkop said:
    It’s funny how the readers here start bitching about gas mileage when it’s a CUV/SUV/truck, but never leave the woodwork when sports cars with abysmal mileage are tested. Then, conspicuous gas consumption suddenly ‘makes sense’ I guess…

    Yes! What’s the mileage for that C63 again?

  • avatar
    Johnson

    msowers1, The Highlander V6 AWD gets 17/23 EPA, tows more than the new Pilot, and is faster. The Highlander Hybrid gets even better fuel economy.

    Styling is subjective, but the reaction from the media as well as from consumers at auto shows has been quite poor for the new Pilot and worse than it was for the Highlander. Despite *your* opinion, the general opinion out there is that the new Pilot certainly is uglier than the Highlander.

    As for your interior comments, it sounds to me you haven’t sat in the new Highlander, or even bothered to look at interior pictures. From pictures alone, the Highlander’s interior has better fit and finish and is more elegant than the Pilot’s interior. Even if the Pilot may have nice-feeling switches, that still doesn’t fix the mediocre fit-and-finish noticeable in pictures, and I’m sure in person as well.

  • avatar
    factotum

    From the side, the Pilot has always looked like it was heavily cribbed from the Xterra.

    What’s happened at Honda styling lately? The new Civic is odd, the Accord’s got long overhangs at both ends and a strange snout, the Ridgeline…speaks for itself; and whatever it is is starting to infect Acura. Sad.

  • avatar
    factotum

    Oh, and I, too, am confused as how this warrants three stars. You can haul eight but not their luggage, the fit and finish as Mr. Karesh says is not up to the usual standard with mismatched panels, the fuel efficiency is middling unladen, but just imagine those numbers whilst hauling the family and a boat.

    Just what is the Pilot’s raison d’etre?

  • avatar
    LamborghiniZ

    Your comparison of the Pilot’s plastics to a Chrysler’s is out of line. They are obviously not even remotely similar; Chrysler interior plastics being far inferior, this is a fact. Lets not try and play the “everyone is biased against American manufacturers card!!!” on this one…fact remains that the Pilot’s interior is light years ahead of anything Chrysler has put into anything recently, especially SUV’s. Go sit in a Durango.

  • avatar
    improvement_needed

    factotum:
    The Pilot’s reason for existence is to make Honda money.
    It will do that just fine. At least for another couple of years… Unfortunately…

    From a vehicle stand point, the Pilot appears to be worse all around than the Odessey, but that doesn’t matter to people who buy with their hearts and not their brains…

  • avatar

    Three stars = competent in just about every way, outstanding in none.

    The interior might not be quite as bad as that in a Chrysler, but it’s closer than I ever expected a Honda to be. I especially didn’t car for the plastic that covered the IP upper and sides of the center stack.

    Have the people who think the interior isn’t bad actually sat in one? Which color? The one I drove had the two-tone gray interior. One of the darker monotones would probably look less cheap.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    The un-Honda Honda. If I could select the Honda that I would least likely buy, the Pilot would be it. No doubt it will sell well to the Consumer Reports crowd, but any enthusiast worth their salt would choose from numerous other vehicles in this class. No, the plastics are not quite Chrysler/Playskool, but they are a far cry from what should be used. Please don’t tell me that Honda is looking at what is happening over at Toyota and thinks that nobody is noticing…

  • avatar

    Reviewing the interior specs, those for passenger volume in the Pilot are closer than I expected to those in the Acadia and others. Subjectively, though, the Acadia has more room inside.

    This somehow comes through more in cargo volume, where the Acadia has 117 cubic feet behind the first row, vs. 87 for the Pilot. Where do all those extra cubes go when the seats are upright? Some are behind the third row, but not all of them. The Honda’s second row is at a more comfortable height off the floor.

    I will grant that the Pilot packs an impressive amount of passenger space into a 109.2-inch wheelbase. This is perhaps Honda’s greatest achievement with the vehicle. But without higher fuel economy numbers, there’s not much payoff for the compact exterior except for those who park on the street. And I doubt many Pilots are parked on the street.

  • avatar
    jcp2

    The short wheelbase and smller turning radius makes it easier to park anywhere, not just on the street. That’s been a plus for my wife. Anything longer and it’s hard for her to get it straight in one shot in the parking lot. Also, as my driveway has a slight curve to it, only a few of the sprinkler heads need adjusting on a regular basis.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I just can’t buy the whole “why bash a crossover for poor mileage while a sports sedan or 2-seater can get worse” argument. To me, it comes down to one thing. How many of each vehicle/class are sold? The C63 does get wretched mileage and I have no reason to defend it, but when several hundred of thousand crossovers are sold compared to maybe ten thousand sports cars as a class, the guzzling impact leans towards the SUV/CUV class. In addition, it is unlikely a Z06, Maserati or Lambo is a daily driver while the Pilot is driven all over the place.
    All of that being said, my faith in Honda is fading quickly. Their new designs have been a train wreck and I never thought they would penny-pinch their interiors so much, so quickly. I would only consider the now on the last legs S2000 and the Civic Si coupe – both of them have those high-redline engines I love. I just don’t get these designs now…does everything have to be hit with the “ugly and overdone styling” stick?
    Maybe that’s why I like the S2000 so much. It was designed in a simpler time!

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Honda has been making every generation of every vehicle larger and heavier than the one before. I suppose that this helps with crash-test results, but it is going in the wrong way for fuel economy.

  • avatar
    James2

    Honda has decided to challenge Toyota for the “Builder of the Ugliest Cars in the World” title. It’s highly coveted, to be sure; Chris Bangle has been a top competitor for years.

    Another thing about Honda design is that they veer from style to style with absolutely no desire for any sense of familial commonality or evolution. Just look at the various generations of Accord: it’s like the designers throw darts at the wall to see which design will win. The Prelude was like that too.

    I’ve said it before: Honda should have bought Pinifarina while it was up for sale.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    I’m with strippo. HDMI for sure. But kudos to prndlol for coming up with the connector port idea.

    True, dat. Before prndlol’s suggestion all I ever saw was a pair of guppy “lips” taking in water. You know, kinda like Meg Ryan’s unfortunate “trout pout”.

  • avatar
    JJ

    That grill is pretty neat-looking

  • avatar
    factotum

    improvement_needed: The Pilot’s reason for existence is to make Honda money. It will do that just fine.

    That remains to be proven. Regular gas at my local cross-street rival stations crested $4.50 per gallon yesterday. Latest data shows a 20 percent decrease in monthly sales for the Pilot. While the changeover may account for some of that, the Highlander decreased 13 percent. So sales of the midsize SUV are trending down. Honda may make some money but it will take many, many years to recoup their investment.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    factotum – $4.50/gal for regular? Are you typing that from the Bay Area or Hawaii?
    Over here in SW Ohio, it seems the gas stations are “nervous” about putting the “4″ in the first column in the regular unleaded slot. We’ve been $3.99 then $3.92 or so and then as of yesterday, $3.99 again. Some stations had the guts for about 15 minutes last week but put the “3″ back!
    Now, I’ve posted before that of all of the places I’ve lived, this part of the country is Honda/Toyota central. I don’t have numbers but I wouldn’t be surprised if we are in the ballpark of SoCal when it comes to imports beating domestics just due to Honda/Toyota. I have seen a grand total of ONE new Pilot. There are almost no new Highlanders out there. The CR-Vs sell well along with the RAV4s but given the sheer number of previous gen Pilots out there, it seems the turnover from old to new isn’t happening.
    In the meantime, I continue to trip over new Civics with temp tags on. Gee. I wonder where the growth in the market is?

  • avatar
    LamborghiniZ

    I agree that the plastics are worse than anything Honda should be putting out…but directly relating it to Chrysler materials is a serious insult… I will agree that the interior shows something of a “Toyota” effect going on, but it’s definitely not as bad as Chrysler/Dodge’s crap…that stuff is revolting.

    Eric_Stepans: I have seen no new Pilots, but I see many, many new Highlanders every single day. I live in central Indianapolis, and they’re everywhere.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    # Eric_Stepans :

    Honda uses its own unique design for automatic transmissions, basically a manual transmission layout with hydraulic clutches in place of shift forks and collars.

    It is harder to add a sixth gear to this design than it is to a conventional (planetary gear set-based) automatic.

    You were the class pet in science, weren’t you?

    I look forward to the redesign on the Element – a huge cargo hauler with room for 4. Honda needs to improve the mpg, interior plastics, and for God’s sake put the sunroof in the front of the vehicle.

  • avatar
    Bruce Banner

    Thanks for the review Michael. There is a great counter-point in the NYT auto section which would serve to be the angel to your devil on a customer’s shoulder.

    I notice that most of the comments are regarding comparisons between MPG statistics for given models. I’m surprised that more of us here don’t know that it’s impossible to compare MPG values between manufacturers. Perhaps an article on how far actual MPG values can be from the advertised values would be of interest to the TTAC fans. A comparison between manufacturer’s tendencies to exaggerate these values would be great (I’m looking at you Nissan).

    As for looks, pictures may be worth a thousand words, but I’ve never taken aesthetic points from gearheads. Don’t expect me to post my paint chips, asking advice for paint/flooring combos from you guys. I leave that stuff to individual preference or to my decorator and his partner/business partner.

  • avatar
    davey49

    The previous gen Pilot was the most reliable vehicle in class. It will go a long way in helping this one sell.

  • avatar
    radimus

    You’re right, davey. The previous gen Pilot is as ugly as sin as well, but I can hardly through a rock without hitting one around here.

    Honda could make a design a car that looks like a dog turd and people would still buy them.

    No, the plastics are not quite Chrysler/Playskool, but they are a far cry from what should be used.

    Now that’s an insult Playskool. Their plastic toys hold up far longer under abuse than Chrysler’s interiors ever do.

  • avatar
    msowers1

    Johnson – I have rented two Highlanders in the last month. These things are pilling up like Taurus’ in th the 1990′s on rental lots. So i a have extensive experience driving this vehicle and I have owned two Pilots.

    First, Highlander has zero steering feedback, the suspension is too soft and the interior materials are cheap. Camry wagon comes to mind.

    The exterior styling is as awful as is the Pilot. This is one ugly vehicle with zero soul.

    I doubt I will ever see a Pilot in National’s lot but if I do, I will take it over the Highlander any day.

    I hope the residuals on your Highlander don’t drop too much with Toyota dumping these things in the rental fleets. Good luck with that sled!

  • avatar
    RIDE

    Well…I test drove one yesterday and agree with a few things and disagree with others.

    For one, I think the exterior styling is a MAJOR upgrade over the bland look of the previous version. The grill will take some time to get used to…my wife hated it…but I sort of liked it and think that it will grow on most people.

    What I disliked most was the dashboard fit and finish. Man…the green/glass look to the center console was hideous. The instrument cluster also looks cheap. And the shifter is laughable. If this were an American car…it would receive a major tongue lashing. In fact, I felt like I was sitting in a Pontiac not a Honda. Granted it had been a while since I considered buying a Honda…but I honestly could not believe that I was sitting in one considering the lack of quality of the dashboard layout.

    The rest of the interior was nice…the leather seats were ok, and the usable 3rd row was welcome. I liked the amount of cargo space too and think the car will be quite funcional.

    I was however, dissapointed with the performance…or lack thereof. The car’s get up and go, had got up and went.

    But in the end…if you can believe this…I am still considering this car for my next purchase. My new wife and I have 3 kids between us (14,11, and 7) so the size and space fits our needs without having to go to the bigger choices like Tahoe and Expedition (NOT an option for us).

    We also don’t like the Highlander…talk about boring styling. Too much like a mini van and not for us. And the only other SUV we’re considering might be the Enclave.

    So time will tell if we go with the Pilot. I will say that resale value is a consideration and Honda has always been good there. But can I get used to the hideous dash and underpowered performance? Not sure…

    RIDE

  • avatar
    geggamoya

    Definately HDMI.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Honda designer Dave Marek says the new design will grow on you; so can fungus.

    I think Marek may be right. The grille looks better to me already. The boxy design, however, is suddenly so 1999.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    General Motors announced this weekend that they will stop making trucks and continue their development or production of fuel efficient vehicle and hybrid mid size SUV’s.

    The Consumer has spoken. I believe the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries and the devaluation of the almighty dollar can actually help our environment.

    The Facts are the greener the better but bad for business.

  • avatar
    hondagirl

    This Honda Pilot review makes a good point about the new exterior. When everyone is ditching SUVs, is it a good idea to make your vehicle look even more like one?

    It’s too bad, because it’s still a good crossover SUV.

  • avatar

    A comparison between manufacturer’s tendencies to exaggerate these values would be great (I’m looking at you Nissan).
    bruce – Manufacturers have NOTHING to do with EPA fuel economy estimates. The EPA has a very strict methodology for testing vehicles and providing fuel economy estimates. Comparing real world numbers to EPA estimates can be tricky, since there are so many variables at play. By comparison, though, comparing various models by different manufacturers to each other is EXACTLY what the EPA estimates are designed to do, since they remove all those real-world variables. If EPA estimates for one vehicle are higher than a competitor, then under perfect conditions, driving the exact same route with the exact same amount of acceleration, braking, speed, etc., the higher rated vehicle is more fuel efficient.

    RIDE: Given your wholly mediocre assessment of the new Pilot, why would you even consider it over CUVs that are MUCH better looking inside and out, better handling, more powerful, have more cargo & passenger room AND better fuel economy, not to mention rave reviews – the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook in addition to the Enclave you mentioned.

    Same with the guy that mentions Nissan. Are you seriously going to pick a Quest over a Lambda? Test drive one before you make that decision.

  • avatar
    RIDE

    Good points Viral.

    Yeah…my wife is a big Honda fan which is why it’s still being considered. I also really love the exterior styling and it has tons of space. But that dash…oh that dash… ;-)

    We tried to look at a few CUVs…but the lack of interior space is the killer. We also gave the Enclave a deeper look and really, really like it. Excellent 7 passenger configuation, supremely quiet, and arguably the best looking mid-sized SUV on the market (IMHO). It’s flaws are that some of the plastic…on the doors and dash…look a bit cheap. The Nav system also does not have Bluetooth much to my surprise. But all in all, it’s a strong candidate.

    And get this…a dark horse has emerged…the Cadillac DTS. Man…just go drive one. Silky smooth…really comfy…and it just puts you in a good mood when you get behind the wheel. Plenty of power from the Northstar engine, and better EPA ratings than any of the SUVs we looked at. Plus…BIG discounts are coming from GM. And since I am looking at a 3 year lease…the 5 year 50K bumper to bumper warranty is a nice piece of mind.

    ANYWAY…the search continues…

    RIDE

  • avatar
    Shannon

    @ Eric_Stepans :

    Honda uses its own unique design for automatic transmissions, basically a manual transmission layout with hydraulic clutches in place of shift forks and collars.

    It is harder to add a sixth gear to this design than it is to a conventional (planetary gear set-based) automatic.

    GM and Ford joined forces to engineer a Honda-like clutch-to-clutch automatic with SIX speeds. You’ll find it in the GM Lambdas (Enclave, Outlook, Acadia, et al), the Ford Edge, and lots of other current and upcoming Fords with the 3.5L V6.

    BTW, I thought Aisin made Honda’s 5 speed auto

  • avatar
    Johnson

    The idea that Honda doesn’t have a 6 speed auto yet because their auto tranny design is somehow “unique” is nothing more than misinformation.

    The real fact is that Honda lacks the development/engineering resources to compete with the top automakers like Toyota or GM, and Honda in the past few years has not focused that much on revamping transmissions. In other words, Honda has been too slow to focus on revamping their transmissions.

  • avatar

    RIDE: As the owner of OnStar, GM has tried to fight the bluetooth tide for years. They fear that it will cut into the number of OnStar subscriptions. Finally, though, they appear to be giving up. A good number of their 2009 models (including all the Lambdas) will now offer bluetooth as an option. The available models will be hitting the market next month, while the new Traverse will be coming out in September. In addition, they will all receive the new 3.6L Direct Injection V6 engine, bumped up to 290HP and a small increase in fuel economy. Although the EPA hasn’t released the numbers yet, my guess is 17/25 MPG for the FWD models.

    Check out or for more info.

  • avatar
    RIDE

    Viral…

    Thanks for the excellent info!

    Good to see GM give up on that. Bluetooth is just too mainstream now to not offer it. And with the driving laws changing (7/1 here in Cali), it’s should be standard equipment on most cars…especially those with nav.

    Thanks again,

    RIDE

  • avatar
    Noodles1

    First of all, let me preface my comments by saying that I own a 2005 EXL that is mostly driven by my wife and at this moment I can’t think of a vehicle in this category other than the 2006-2008 model that I would trade for.
    I was up late last Sunday night (actually lets say 4 in the morning) coming back from a Walmart refrigeration service call and saw the new Pilot at a dealer out front and decided to take a closer look with just my flashlight.
    I know I’m in the minority here but I actually liked the front end. The interior didn’t look too bad but admittedly I couldn’t get the best look so I would bow before those who commented on the poor fit and finish and quality of materials (frankly disgusted about those issues if it’s as bad as alot of you are saying).
    What I did get to see pretty well was the exterior and what bothers me is the vehicle looks out of proportion. What I mean by that is the wheels look too small as well as the glass area for the amount of sheet metal the vehicle has (same goes with the blah back end).
    I think it would look much better proportioned with a double step up in wheel diameter and if the glass went down a couple inches more. It kind of reminded me of the Chrysler Pacifica as far as the glass goes.
    I was really having a hard time getting past how unproportionate the vehicle appeared to me. The Honda Element is supposed to look quirky. As pretty much everyone here has stated, the Pilot was never meant to fit a quirky nitch.
    Toyota has their FJ cruiser but
    I believe that was designed for capability and not as the family hauler.
    I personally like the 2006-2008 pilot changes over my 2005 but like most of you I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around this redo.
    As I mentioned, I repair commercial Refrigeration and am constantly on the road from site to site. I have seen maybe 10 of the new highlanders around (alot less than I expected actually although that vehicle has been slammed in many a review itself for design and quality of material issues) but have yet to see a single new pilot on the road.
    I think Honda is going to end up offering some “embarressing” incentives on this one over time.
    By the way, I’m in Rochester, N.Y. and there’s previous gen. Pilots and Highlanders everywhere. I get the feeling Toyota and Honda just did GM a “favor”.

  • avatar

    Totally consistent. If you bash this for lack of performance, you are supposed (according to Honda) be shopping at the Acura store.

    I cross shopped the MDX and the Pilot. The MDX was the Pilot’s athletic sibling. If you think that drifting means you are about to die, then don’t spend the money on the MDX. The Pilot is designed for the more sedate driver, and at that point, is extremely well tuned. The Pilot drives like a base honda-that’s a compliment. The mass market is not the guy who reads ttac. The mass market does not “oversteer”, they wreck because “that car just got away from me”. They don’t “understeer”, they hit a rail because “the front end slid out”.

    Complain if you want, but this is the market the vast middle of the car industry shoots for. Not the geek who reads car mags/blogs and can intelligently discuss brake pad compounds.

    If you really wanted the X5 but could not come up with 75k for a properly optioned v8, you buy the MDX. (and objected to the rape BMW charges for the underpowered six).

    My town is full of these things…..Pilots and MDX, mostly because we need the seven seats.

  • avatar
    esp4p3

    If you look up the overall fuel economy at fueleconomy.gov both the Pilot and the Acadia get 19 overall. So I don’t get how GM can boast “better” mpg when for most people it will be exactly the same as Honda. Maybe for those few people who are constantly on the highway will get 1 mpg better. But that’s really unrealistic.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    It is very consistent of most Hondas/Acuras of late…full of strange and awkward lines with an odd front end thrown in. The old Pilot was OK and this one, on the surface, seems to be a step back. Oh well. I know this is marketing driven, but why do companies keep trying to grow vehicles? Longer, wider, and/or taller is NOT always better. Some out there can’t seem to park/drive their big vehicles as it is….why add more girth and length? Not to mention that parking spaces, parking lots, and lanes sure aren’t growing. I drive a BMW X5 and still hate the fact that BMW felt they needed to add a 3rd row and 7 inches for the new model.

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    Wanted to read this again.. Nothing has changed for me. This is much like all new Hondas. Over weight and poor performing.

  • avatar
    hondas

    hello ppl… i am a machenic… and i would love to say that all of the ppl post rong comments because i fix everday 40-50 vehicles and them are most of them are gm chrysler but hardly u will find to fix honda, toyota cadellac etc… y… because these r japenes cars… and they are the best they r the history of the cars…. so stop misguiding ppl honda pilot is one f the best suv.. thats true its little bit expensive but u will have to pay for what u want.. nothing is free….gm and chryler and all american cars r cheaper y… because the quality is not in them.. ppl if u wanna think for long term… go for any japanese car but not foramerican or korean… good luck…. and at the end i would like to say that only ppl ho cannot afford to buy just they will talk nonsense about the product they have never ever seen in their liives for real even….. good luck

  • avatar
    marstons

    I’ve owned my 09 Pilot Touring for about two months now. While I agree with some of the points made in this article, I’ve found it to be a very good vehicle thus far. We researched and test drove for many months before deciding on the Pilot. One thing you have to remember when comparing here…its a mid-sized SUV, not comparable with an Armada or a Tahoe in heft, but much bigger than a CR-V, Escape or Forester (which is really a wagon if you ask me). Anyhow, my wife really found the people hauling the most important and the Pilot can haul 8 (3 small folks across the back) and the Highlander, CX-9 and MDX cannot…period. The rear seat is unlivable in the Highlander and MDX, so-so in the CX-9, but still not as big as the Pilot. The Pilot is not a minivan, so don’t compare it to the Odyssey (our last vehicle) for interior room. No comparison, the Ody wins, as would any minivan. The fuel consumption and less-than-impressive acceleration in the Pilot are my biggest complaints.

    Fuel consumption is rated the same as the other mid-sized SUVs, but I think the CX-9 and Highlander had better acceleration. Braking is something that supposedly the Pilot also falls behind in. I haven’t noticed yet, but the fact that the Pilot rides on 17 inch wheels, while the Highlander Limited is on 19s and the CX-9 Touring sits on 20s means something to me! I guess that means smaller brake rotors for me also, but I have a smoother ride and will not die of shock when I have to replace those tires (so I’ll just try not to tailgate).

    I just came back from a trip to the mountains with my Pilot. We used it to pull my bro-in-law’s 23 foot pontoon boat out of the water and towed it 10 miles back to his cabin. Total weight of boat and trailer was around 3500lbs. While not the best towing vehicle because of its short wheelbase (it feels tentative in front of that trailer), it had no problems pulling that boat. We found its short wheel base a great manuevering advantage when it came time to backing that boat and trailer into its tight parking spot amongst the trees at the cabin. Much easier than using his F-150. But, again, if you do a lot of towing of big boats or campers, I’m not sure this is the vehicle, but its okay for the occasional weekender or vacation.

    All in all, its a good vehicle for the price and its a Honda, so I know it will do well for us over the next 10 years.

    Fit and finish are about the same as our Odyssey, which is to say, its above average but not superb (as the author eluded to, they save that for the Acura line).

  • avatar
    VA-REBEL

    I went to the Honda dealership to look at this vehicle. I was disappointed with this vehicle. No one should say anything about Chrysler products having a cheap looking dash. Pilot’s interior is awash in cheap-looking hard-plastic trim,” writes Consumer Guide. I agree its plastic dash is not in style with a vehicle that cost this much. The leather seats are too hard and not that comfortable. The vehicle is heavy and you can tell it on acceleration. Talking to people that own this vehicle they said it is not good on gas but I guess if you can pay for this vehicle you can afford the gas. I liked the Hemi Commander and Chevy Traverse much better with the Traverse way on top of the Commander or Pilot. With Honda having average or better-than-average predicted reliability that may be a factor in the purchase of this vehicle if you are willing to give up some comfort and other factors.


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