- A versatile, roomy interior with spacious rear seats
- Ride is smooth and compliant in most conditions
- Better fuel economy than rivals
- Multiple clever storage compartments
- Nine-speed automatic transmission lacks refinement
- Collision warning and adaptive cruise control are overly sensitive
- Third-row access is narrow
- Touchscreen interface isn't very intuitive
With lots of space, a versatile interior and even a bit of off-road capability, the 2017 Honda Pilot is appealing for all sorts of reasons. Capable of towing up to 5,000 pounds and comfortably carrying eight passengers, the Pilot is utilitarian by almost all standards. Getting the kids in and out is relatively easy, and options such as a Blu-ray rear entertainment system turn road trips into a breeze. And for daily commutes, the quiet cabin and smooth ride make the Pilot extremely livable.
Despite all its virtues, the Pilot isn't perfect. Our top complaints include oversensitive safety systems such as the adaptive cruise control, the finicky (but optional) nine-speed automatic transmission, and a not-so-user-friendly infotainment interface. They're small issues, however, and they're not enough to dampen our enthusiasm for this big Honda SUV. If you're in the market for a three-row crossover, we definitely recommend checking out the 2017 Honda Pilot.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility has been added to Pilots with the 8-inch touchscreen (EX and above). Otherwise, the Pilot carries over unchanged.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The Pilot is a three-row crossover SUV that poses as a good alternative for a minivan. It is offered in LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and the Elite trim levels. All seat eight people, with the exception of the Elite, which has second-row captain's chairs that reduce capacity to seven.
For basic family transportation, the standard LX Pilot makes a lot of sense. It may be the base trim, but it definitely isn't bare-bones. Standard features include a 3.5-liter V6 engine (280 horsepower, 262 pound-feet of torque), a six-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a 60/40-split folding third-row seat. Electronic features include a 5-inch central display screen, a seven-speaker sound system, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB port.
If you're looking for a few more tech and safety features, then you should probably step up to the EX. It adds automatic headlights, foglights, LED running lights, heated mirrors, remote engine start, the Honda LaneWatch blind-spot camera, dynamic guidelines for the rearview camera, three-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat (with two-way power lumbar adjustment), the 8-inch touchscreen interface, HondaLink smartphone-enabled features, and an upgraded seven-speaker sound system with two additional higher-powered USB ports, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and Pandora internet radio control. Also included is the Intelligent Traction Management system that adds a Snow mode for the front-wheel-drive version and Snow/Sand/Mud modes with AWD.
Although much of its equipment is the same as in the EX, the EX-L gets several creature comforts that make it worth a closer look. It adds a sunroof, a power tailgate, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery, one-touch sliding second-row seats, a four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, heated front seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. It also keeps the six-speed transmission, which is a big part of why we recommend this trim level.
For some added safety, the EX and EX-L trim levels both offer the Honda Sensing package. It adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation with automatic braking, a road departure intervention system, a forward collision warning system, and lane departure warning and intervention systems. The EX-L can also be equipped with a navigation system or a rear entertainment system that includes a Blu-ray player with a single overhead screen, HDMI and RCA ports, two additional USB ports for the second row, second-row sunshades and a 115-volt power outlet. Note that these EX-L options cannot be had in combination with each other.
Almost right at the top of the Pilot lineup is the Touring model, which has all of the EX-L's standard and optional equipment plus roof rails, 20-inch wheels, a nine-speed automatic transmission, automatic engine stop-start, additional noise-reducing acoustic glass for the windows, front and rear parking sensors, driver-seat memory settings, ambient interior lighting and a 10-speaker sound system. The Touring is appealing, sure, and much of the equipment is useful, but the nine-speed transmission isn't as easy to live with as the six-speed.
Swinging for the fences, the top-of-the-line Elite model adds LED headlights, automatic high-beam headlight control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert (replaces LaneWatch), automatic windshield wipers, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row captain's chairs (reduces maximum seating to seven people), a heated steering wheel and HD radio.
The Pilot exhibits typical Honda efficiency and build quality. Use of space is very good with lots of storage. Practical features such as the easy-entry third row and a flat load floor with the second and third rows lowered make a difference when hauling cargo and people.
Though some controls in the Pilot are reasonably intelligent and intuitive, the active safety features err on the side of caution and can be intrusive. Also, the lack of a volume knob is a frustrating omission that you have to deal with on a daily basis.
Though it can't tow as much as truck-based SUVs such as the Chevy Suburban, the Pilot is still an extremely utilitarian vehicle. Its large, well-thought-out interior proves extremely useful when you stuff it full of passengers or their gear.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The Pilot has plenty of power, but you have to dig deep into the pedal to make it move quickly. At full throttle it shifts decisively, and you can also manually control shifts with the nine-speed transmission. It hit 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, which is a solid number of a vehicle of its size.
Some low-speed indecision and rough shifts from the nine-speed transmission are very noticeable to the point of intrusion. The problem is largely at low speed and low load, however. Nail the gas and the Pilot moves out — sometimes spinning its tires from a standing start.
With ample power and respectable handling, the Pilot is among the athletes in the three-row SUV segment. It's a winner on mountain roads, easily gets up to speed, and can manage light towing and slippery surfaces with the optional all-wheel drive.
Body motions are well controlled but not at the sacrifice of ride comfort. Big bumps affecting all four wheels can surprise the Pilot, but smaller obstacles don't seem to disturb things as much. It's a segment leader in ride comfort.
No three-row SUV is light on its feet, but the Pilot feels lighter than most. It swaps lanes confidently, and its stability control remains at bay during moderate aggressive driving. Overall, its handling is above average for the segment.