2015 Pilot: Honda preps for all-new SUV

Staff reports
Farm Forum

Now approaching the end of its second generation, Honda originally introduced its midsize, eight-passenger Pilot in 2002. Though the all-new, third-generation arrives at the end of 2015, Honda has refreshed its large SUV to include more comfort, entertainment features, and safety technology.

Manufacturer’s suggested retail pricing starts at an MSRP of $29,870 for a base LX 4×2 and ranges to $41,620 for a top-level Touring 4×4 with navigation and rear entertainment system.

For 2015, Pilot’s available trim levels expand from four to five. All can be upgraded from front-wheel drive to four-wheel drive for an additional $1,600. Slotting in between the EX and EX-L, the new level is the Special Edition.

As has been typical of Honda prior to introducing a new-generation model, these Special Edition packages load up on extra features, which in addition to all the equipment on the top-level Pilot EX, adds Pewter Gray aluminum alloy wheels, model-specific badging, power moonroof, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a DVD rear-seat entertainment system. My test Pilot was a 4×4 Special Edition, with an as-delivered price of $35,550.

It’s said that you can tell a person’s age by looking at their hands. For cars, the giveaway is the interior. Looking inside the Pilot, the expanses of hard plastic on the dashboard and the lack of optional technology date this utility vehicle back to its last full redesign in 2009.

If you’re looking for electronic aids like blind spot monitoring or adaptive cruise control, then look elsewhere. And, Honda’s packaging approach limits stand-alone options, meaning that you need to move up a trim level to pick up more popular features. So, for example, while the new Special Edition includes a rear-seat entertainment system and power moonroof, you can’t get it with a navigation system. That’s a head-scratcher in a $35,000 SUV.

That said, the 2015 Pilot’s basic interior design is highly functional. Controls are a mixture of buttons and rheostat knobs. Everything is straight-forward and easy to reach.

The second row is big enough to seat adults comfortably. Second-row seats split 60/40, recline, and are adjustable fore and aft. The latter feature makes it easier to wiggle your way back to the third row, though a child’s limberness comes in handy to get in and out, and the knees-up position when seated ensures it’s best suited to the younger set.

Cargo space starts at 18 cubic feet with all three seat rows deployed. It offers 47.7 cu.-ft. with the third-row seatbacks folded forward, and a full 87 cu.-ft. with first and second row flattened. There’s an additional bit of hidden storage beneath the load floor, and the lift-over height to access that space is low. Rear access is via two-piece liftgate. The window can be opened independently.

All Pilot trim levels share the same powertrain: a 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The aluminum-alloy engine makes 250 horsepower at 5,700 rpm, and 253 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm. So-equipped, the 4,538-pound Pilot can reach 60 mph from a standstill in the low-8-second range, which is about average for the segment, and adequate for all normal driving activities.

The engine goes about its business relatively quietly, and returns 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway (4×2); 17/24 mpg (4×4), which Honda claims to be class-leading.

Towing capacity is 4,500 pounds for 4×4 models, or 2,000-pound. for 4×2 models. An integrated Class III trailer hitch is standard on all Pilot models.

The transmission’s Grade Logic Control helps the driveline select and maintain the optimum gear when ascending or descending a steep gear. The available Variable Torque Management four-wheel-drive system is fully automatic. A low-speed locking mode can be employed to maximize rear-wheel torque, aiding traction when conditions are especially slippery. Ground clearance is just under 8 inches, and the angles of approach/departure are 24.4 and 22.1 degrees, respectively.

Pilot is of a size that suggests very few will be called upon to do any serious trail blazing, but light off-roading is well within its capabilities. More to the point for most of its buyers, the 4×4 system should give Pilot sound, all-weather driving capability.

On road, Pilot’s upright dimensions and relatively high center of gravity are not the stuff of which sports cars are made, but Honda’s large utility vehicle feels stable going down the road, and takes corners at normal speeds with confidence.

Though growing somewhat long-in-the-tooth, thanks to its basic functionality the current-generation Honda Pilot remains relevant in the midsize SUV segment. While it lacks some of the tech features available elsewhere in the market, Pilot offers a versatile and roomy three-row floor plan with class-competitive fuel economy and proven mechanicals.