2016 Honda Pilot Touring AWD
Growing family but too cool for a minivan? Take a look at this.
So…It’s NOT a minivan, right?
Correct. Well…sort of. The Pilot (and many other large CUV’s) share a platform, electronics and running gear with their minivan counterparts. In this particular case, that means the bones and various other bits come from the Honda Odyssey, one of the best family haulers you can buy- so good we dubbed it “easily deserves mention at the top of its class…it’s the minivan for drivers.” So the new Pilot gets off to a good start. Before you go hitching up a large boat or planning an off-pavement excursion, realize that all the chassis components were meant to serve duty as getting kids to school and band practice, not taking the role as towing workhorse (although our Pilot was rated to tow loads of 2,268 kilos.) So while there may not be any sliding doors or box-on-wheels styling to be found, the Pilot is for those who flatly refuse to put a minivan in their driveway but concede that they require the practicality afforded by this market segment.
It’s much improved over the previous generation, isn’t it?
Yes, the 2016 Pilot has gone under the knife and emerged a vastly more competent vehicle than the one it replaces. The 2nd generation model came out of the gates strong in 2008, but became an also-ran as competitors upped their game in the segment. Popular amongst the family demographic at which it was aimed, the Pilot suffered from a few weaknesses, namely iffy fuel economy, too much road and wind noise and an interior that could charitably called “cheap and plasitcky.” The Pilot you see here offers up a vastly improved interior that’s not only a much nicer place to be but offers a thoughtful mix of nooks, crannies and storage solutions. It’s also a much quieter environment, meaning this vintage of Pilot comes much closer to aping its kissing cousin, the Acura MDX in terms of refinement. Fuel economy concerns have been addressed through a revised version of a slightly-less-powerful example of the V6 it shares with the glitzier Acura- down on power slightly, it should offer a improvement over the engine it replaces. The styling also moves into a much less butchier direction, trading softly eroded curves for the boxy, truculent shape of before.
Got it. What other highlights are part of the Pilot’s package?
That V6 engine we mentioned earlier? It’s an absolute gem. Honda’s been building some of the best engines in the biz since Soichiro was in charge and we’re happy to report that the trend continues. It’s the only direct injected engine we have encountered recently that manages to idle cleanly without any unpleasant ticking or diesel-like clatter. It makes good power no matter where the needle on that tach happens to be, but in typical Honda fashion, hi revs are what make this engine come alive- there’s a distinctive ramping up of aggression as the 5,000 rpm threshold is crossed and lasts right up to redline. The suspension delivers a plush, controlled ride that ensures all those storage nooks and crannies keep holding whatever’s been stowed in them. At first, we weren’t thrilled with the pushbutton gearshift- we’d constantly reach down to grab a gear lever that wasn’t there- but soon came around to the idea.
It frees up a ton of space, so much so that my wife could comfortably rest her purse there keeping it close at hand. The storage bin just below is positively cavernous. The interior overall is well thought out and clearly the design team knows their audience. Those captain’s chairs and hi-res video monitors? They will quickly become any parent’s favorite features of the Pilot.
Any nagging complaints?
There are a few. While we got used to the aforementioned pushbutton shifting, we couldn’t acclimate to the jerky nature of the 9-speed transmission that’s standard kit on Touring models (lesser trim levels make do with a 6-speed.) We’re not sure if supplier ZF missed the mark on calibration or whether or not it suffers simply from having too many ratios, but it especially made for a rough 1-2 shift, often while setting off from a traffic light. We experienced similar maladies when we drove the Acura TSX, which has the same gearbox. As multi-speed transmissions proliferate the Honda lineup, so too does the maddening touch screen controls in place of good old fashioned knobs. You have to take your eyes off the road and deliberately put your finger where you want, a miscue that’s kind of shocking for ergonomics champ Honda. Less surprising but still slightly disappointing was the fuel economy. Honda says they worked at getting the Pilot to be more efficient than its predecessor, and by adding stuff like stop/start technology, variable cylinder shutdowns at low loads and the previously mentioned 9-speed gearbox we can see they were doing so in earnest. However, our mileage of 13.7L/100km isn’t going to slacken any jaws in amazement and those using the Pilot mostly in an urban setting will have to try extremely hard to get the Pilot to consume fuel at the combined rate of 11L/100km according to Natural Resources Canada.
If you absolutely cannot stomach the idea of driving a minivan but need the space afforded by a family hauler, you’ll be looking at the Pilot and other class standouts like the Chevy Traverse, Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander. Working within the confines of the Honda family, you could have an Odyssey, which is a bit better at schlepping your crew and their stuff. Go that route and you’d be missing out on the Pilot’s all-wheel drive and the conventional, non-sliding doors that tell the world you’re too cool to drive a minivan. It’s your call.
Honda Pilot Touring AWD — Specifications
- Price as tested: $52,362
- Body Type: 4-door, 7-passenger CUV
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 3.5-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 280 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 262 @ 4,700 rpm
- Transmission: 9-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 1,975kg (4,354 lbs.)
- Observed Fuel Economy: 13.7L/100km (17 mpg)