2023 Honda Pilot Trailsport Review – Rugged City Slicker

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

Fast Facts

2023 Honda Pilot Trailsport Fast Facts

3.5-liter V6 (285 horsepower @ 6,100 RPM, 262 lb-ft @ 5,000 RPM)
Transmission/Drive-Wheel Layout
10-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Fuel Economy, MPG
18 city / 23 highway / 20 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
Fuel Economy, L/100km
13.0 city / 10.3 highway / 11.8 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$48,350 (U.S.) / $57,450 (Canada)
As-Tested Price
$49,840 (U.S.) / $59,883.50 (Canada)
Prices include $1,095 destination charge in the United States and $2,100 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

How do you make your citified large crossover seem a bit more rugged to appeal to consumers who either spend their weekends playing outdoors or those who plan to play outdoors but never actually do? You play a little dress-up.

That’s what Honda has done with the 2023 Honda Pilot Trailsport. The design is just a tad more rugged than its stablemates, and there is some off-road functionality here, even though very few of these will be taken off the pavement.

Trailsport models are standard with all-wheel drive and gain an additional inch of ground clearance. There are also skid plates and all-terrain tires on the 18-inch wheels, which themselves are meant to better stand up to off-road abuse.

Other package-specific items include an available camera system that’s meant to help drivers navigate trails, unique orange interior stitching, and rubber floor mats. A panoramic sunroof is standard, and Trailsports are available with the Diffused Sky Blue exterior paint job that my test unit had.

Outside of the skid plates, the all-wheel-drive system, the extra ground clearance, and easy-to-clean floormats, there are not a lot of functional off-road features there. Still, I am confident that the Trailsport can get you over some mildly challenging two-track on the way to the canoe launch or campsite. That said, I wouldn’t take one to the local off-road park.

The thing is, it’s not about what this Pilot trim can do, it’s about how buyers will use it. And while you won’t spot many Trailsports rock climbing in Moab, you will see plenty in the carpool lane.

Which is just fine. It’s an overdone critique of vehicles like this that they’re more about appearance than substance. It might annoy us enthusiasts – a freakin’ Pilot with actual off-road chops would be cool, and stand out in this segment – but who are we to judge if some suburban parent springs extra for the Trailsport merely for the badging?

Those who do will get a large crossover that’s plenty pleasant for urban and suburban driving. I didn’t set one inch of the tires off the pavement, and I still returned this Honda with the feeling that it was quite agreeable for daily driving.

You’d think a crossover this size would feel heavy and ponderous, but this one felt generally light on its feet, both in terms of acceleration and handling. The power numbers don’t seem all that impressive – the 3.5-liter V6 puts out 285 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. But that’s enough for most urban commuting. I almost always want more power, especially when there’s a lot of mass to move, but I could live with this output.

The ride is generally acceptable and the handling is typical of Honda – on the sporty side, even in a utility vehicle, with a steering feel that’s generally well-weighted and precise, though occasionally too artificial. The all-terrain tires didn’t seem to add much in the way of tire noise.

The overall dynamic package is more car-like than something this large should be, though the limits of physics mean Honda can only take things so far. What we have here is a Pilot that drives like a crossover tuned for on-road driving, yet with off-road looks. And some trail-ready gear.

It’s roomy, as befits a big crossover, and the cabin is mostly cleanly designed, though as usual a tacked-on infotainment screen annoys, and Honda’s push-button shifter for the 10-speed automatic transmission can be clunky at times. That said, eschewing a traditional shifter for buttons does create additional center-console space.

Standard features included hill-start assist, hill-descent control, heated steering wheel, wireless phone charger, blind-spot information with rear cross-traffic monitoring, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio, in-cabin speaker system, tri-zone climate control, heated front seats, second-row captain’s chairs, power tailgate, conversation mirror, front and rear parking sensors, panoramic sunroof, 18-inch wheels, and LED fog lamps.

Advanced driver-aid systems include adaptive cruise control, a collision mitigation braking system, lane-keeping assist, road-departure mitigation, and traffic-jam assist.

The total price was $48,745, with the only option being the Sonic Gray Pearl paint.

I am not sure anyone will select this specific trim with the idea of going off-road – especially since the Pilot is a quite fine vehicle without the off-road fluff. That said, there’s not much in the way of a downside, aside from the additional cost. So if the Pilot tickles your fancy and you actually do spend time in the backwoods, or you just think you will, you won’t go wrong here.

[Images © 2023 Tim Healey/TTAC.com]

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Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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3 of 18 comments
  • Cprescott Cprescott on Oct 19, 2023

    Ugly color. The interior looks cheap and a decade old. It is a Honduh so you know it will be tailgating you for miles regardless of how fast you are traveling.

    • Chiefmonkey Chiefmonkey on Oct 31, 2023

      You could pay nearly 50 grand for this or get a BMW X1! To me the choice is obvious.

      As far as ugliness goes I think the Passport is even more egregious.

  • Redapple2 Redapple2 on Oct 20, 2023

    1 ugly color ; agreed.

    2 could have called it a wilderness edition.

    3 more pictures of cabrini green in the spring. No leaves on ground = March photo.

    4 rental chevy traverse got me ~ 28 MPG. expressway.

    • Tim Healey Tim Healey on Oct 20, 2023

      Yes, sometimes it takes a minute before the review gets written. It's still relevant -- 2023s are still on lots. Oh, and Cabrini Green a) is several miles from that spot and b) has been torn down.

  • Richard Poore Sure, as the article itself notes (hence my ire) California has mandated that all new vehicles sold in state be EV by 2035. They require EV or hybrid by 2026. Since the author admits to this mandate it seems that the article title is clickbait... was really hoping that there was some sort of changes in the CA position since the state is sorely behind on where they need to be with charging stations for this sort of requirement.
  • VoGhost When will Audi eliminate the fake, oversized grills that impede aerodynamics?
  • Kelley It's about time! I was so discouraged to see those poor Chevy Bolts stuck at the charging station receiving level 2 speeds after 80%, it was ridiculous. It would be nice if EA would had more level 2 chargers, also, at the same locations for people to top off above 80% on the fast chargers.
  • Tane94 Carmela Harris is supportive of EV adoption, so government incentives will be continuing under her watch.