Honda Pilot EX-L Review

by Admin
We’re committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using links in our articles. Learn more here
honda pilot ex l review

Yup, the Griswolds are back. Or as near as I can figure, anyway… because this Honda Pilot is surely the Clark clan carrier incarnate. Granted, someone's gone and prized off the Wagon Queen Family Truckster badging, coating its formerly pea-green flanks with something called 'Redrock Pearl'. But make no mistake: despite whatever lip service the Pilot pays to off-road cred, Honda has chamfered what few edges remain on the SUV franchise and produced a whale of a big foul-weather wagon.

As you'll recall, midway through National Lampoon's Vacation, a holidaying Clark swoons over the lyrical curves of Christy Brinkley's Ferrari 308 GTS. Or perhaps it was simply jonesin' for the supermodel's own winsome sheetmetal. Either way, once again Honda strikes out in the opposite direction, faithfully hugging the center line of design. No BMW Dame Edna Everage headlamps, no bloodletting Cadillac creases, no 'Outta my way' Dodge crosshair grilles. Just calculatingly inoffensive, paint-by-numbers SUV. Matter of fact, with its modestly treaded 16" tires and muted cladding, were it not for the high ground-clearance and tall glazing, it'd likely pass for a station wagon. Which, all-wheel-drive aside, is precisely what it is.

Fortunately for Clark and kin, Honda has improved the family mount. Aesthetically, no laughable double-height quad sealed beams mar the front of this Truckster. In their place are large, clear-lensed headlamps capable of lighting up a grapefruit league ballpark. The fake wood appliqués are binned in favor of sober squared-off paneling that avoids the tacked-on cladding that's become the standard SUV's 'See how rugged I am!' costume.

Inside? More of the same. Honda's biggest SUV offers acres of lebensraum for the whole clan– even Aunt Edna and pooch Dinkins. Packaging is well resolved, with the eight-seat Pilot's overall length comparable to many five-seat competitors. The clever sliding/reclining second row affords access fold-flat third, but it's a tight fit back there. For adults, bench-jockeying can devolve into something of an exercise in 'robbing Peter to pay Paul', but with a posse of prepubescent passengers, the third row remains valuable. And no doubt Clark himself would weep for joy at the sight of our EX-L's optional DVD player (and wireless headphones)… ideal for anesthetizing turbulent offspring on those lengthy treks to Wally World.

Interior complaints? A few: The glovebox lid does a spot-on impression of a doctor's mallet swinging down in search of unsuspecting knees; the steering column tilts but doesn't telescope, and better speakers wouldn't go amiss. Oh, and like all column-shift Hondas, the detents between gears on the selector are way too soft, making it easy to choose the wrong one. That's about it.

You'll notice that to this point, I've been mum on performance (along with driving enjoyment). There's a reason for that. While these days Captain Griswold's fortunes have improved markedly, thanks to the Pilot's fluid 255hp 3.5L V6 and well-judged 5-speed automatic, there remains little passion here. Yes, at 0-60mph in about eight clicks, the Pilot is an accomplished accelerator for such a big vehicle. But there's no aural drama from engine or exhaust.

As you'd expect, Christy's Prancing Horse has it all over Clark's Honda when the roads get curvaceous. Unfortunately for the Pilot, however, so do the Toyota 4Runner and a couple of other (admittedly less-capacious) offerings. If one can live without a third row, halfies like Nissan's Murano corner with far greater aplomb, and do so with more style in the process. Blame Honda's safety-first suspension settings or its occasionally overzealous stability control nanny (now standard on EX-L models). To be ambitious in the corners is to be rewarded with more plowing than Minneapolis in January. The ABS-assisted four wheel discs do their thing without drama, at least. None of this is conduct unbecoming of a garden-variety SUV, mind, but it isn't exactly enthusiast's manna, either.

It took a freak late-April snow storm (that dumped some 12" of celestial dander on the family homestead) to save the Pilot from being deemed family-friendly all-wheel-drive Novocain. As it turns out, when the weather is at its worst, the Pilot is at its best. When others white-knuckle away the miles, Pilot pilots can neatly skirt downed tree branches and confidently negotiate reasonable turns of speed on unplowed interstates. Clark would approve.

In the end, however, the Pilot may make a few owners feel like better parents, but it'll make precious few Pistonheads feel like better enthusiasts. Of course, driving purity probably wasn't high on Honda's priority list when conceiving the thing… and judging by the sheer number of 'em clogging suburban parking lots, theirs was probably the right call. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that Clark Griswold still quietly pines for that 'Antarctic Blue Super Sports Wagon' he originally went shopping for.


More by Admin

Join the conversation
 1 comment
  • MoraleHazard MoraleHazard on Jul 31, 2007

    I purchased a Pilot a few months ago. While I hesitate to call it a "truck", and it is no enthusiast machine it really is a versatile machine and it cruises comfortably and relatively quietly. For twisty curvy roads, I have a motorcycle.

  • Carsofchaos Bike lanes are in use what maybe 10 to 12 hours a day? The other periods of the day they aren't in use whatsoever. A bike can carry one person and a vehicle can carry multiple people. It's very simple math to figure out that a bike lane in no way shape or form will handle more people than cars will.The bigger issue is double parked delivery vehicles. They are often double parked and taking up lanes because there are cars parked on the curb. You combine that with a bike lane and pedestrians Crossing wherever they feel like it and it's a recipe for disaster. I think if we could just go back to two lanes of traffic things would flow much better. I started coming to the city in 2003 before a lot of these bike lanes were implemented and the traffic is definitely much worse now than it was back then. Sadly at this point I don't really think there is a solution but I can guarantee that congestion pricing will not fix this problem.
  • Charles When I lived in Los Angeles I saw a 9-5 a few times and instanly admired the sweeping low slug aerodynamic jet tech influenced lines and all that beautiful glass. The car was very different from what I expected from a Saab even though the 900 Turbo was nice. A casual lady friend had a Saab Sonnet, never drove or rode in it but nonetheless chilled my enthusiasm and I eventually forgot about Saabs. In the following years I have had seven Mercedes's, three or four Jaguars even two Daimlers both the 250 V-8 and the massive and powerful Majestic Major. Daily drivers of a brand new 300ZX 2+2 and Lincolns, plus a few diesel trucks. Having moved to my big farm in central New York, trucks and SUV's are the standard, even though I have a Mercedes S500 in one of my barns. Due to circumstances with my Ford Explorer and needing a second driver I found the 2006 9-5 locally. Very little surface rust, none undercarriage, original owner, garage kept, wife driver and all the original literature and a ton of paid receipts and history. The car just turned 200,000 miles and I love it. Feels new like I'm back in my Nissan 300ZX with a lot more European class and ready power with the awesome turbo. So fun to drive, the smooth power and torque is incredible! Great price paid to justify going through the car and giving her everything she needs, i.e., new tires, battery, all shocks, struts, control arms, timing chain and rust removable to come, plus more. The problem now is I want to restore it and likely put it in my concrete barn and only drive in good weather. As to the writer, Alex Dykes, I take great exception calling the 9-5 Saab "ugly," finding myself looking back at her beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, I get new looks from others not quite recognizing, like the days out west with my more expensive European cars. There are Saabs eclipsing 300K rourinely and one at a million miles and I believe one car with 500K on the original engine. So clearly, this is a keeper, in love already with my SportCombi. I want to be in that elite club.
  • Marky S. I own the same C.C. XSE Hybrid AWD as in this article, but in Barcelona Red with the black roof. I love my car for its size, packaging, and the fact that it offers both AWD and Hybrid technology together. Visibility is impressive, as is its small turning circle. I consider the C.C. more of a "station wagon" by proportion, rather than an “SUV.” It is fun to drive, with zippy response and perky pick-up. It is a pleasant car to drive and ride in. It is not trying to be a “Butch Off-Roader”, or a cosseting “Luxury Cruiser.” Those are not its goals or purpose. The Corolla Cross XSE Hybrid AWD is a wonderful All-Purpose Car (O.K. – “SUV” if you must hear me say it!) with a combination of all the features it has at a reasonable price.
  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.