Driven: 2016 Honda Pilot

2016 Honda Pilot with The Strip of Las Vegas in the background | Larry Edsall photos
2016 Honda Pilot with The Strip of Las Vegas in the background | Larry Edsall photos

Honda says it’s new and third-generation 2016 Honda Pilot can provide seating accommodations for as many as eight people. Or as I demonstrated during my week-long test drive, enough room for a driver; a full-size double bed (pillow top) mattress; a card table; an office chair; a wet/dry shop vac; a couple of oversized air mattresses; assorted pillows, blankets and sheets; a garage broom; a coffee maker; clothes; and a computer bag and some snacks.

That’s what I was able (with help from a neighbor) to pack into the new Pilot for a drive from Phoenix to Henderson, Nevada, to help my daughter’s family move into its new home before the moving van arrived with their furniture.

Roomier than it might appear
Roomier than it might appear

And once we extracted all of that stuff from the Pilot, it was a quick process to pop up the second and third rows, load up a stroller, folding chairs and sports equipment, put a DVD into the built-in rear-seat entertainment system, and head out to a soccer game and Little League baseball activities, dinner and the grocery store.

And all the while, thanks in part to Honda’s EarthDreams Technology powertrain, we averaged around 28 miles per gallon while enjoying not only a grandchildren-quieting Blu-Ray/DVD entertainment system but heated and cooled front seats, navigation with traffic information, plus traffic-sensing onboard warning systems, tri-zone climate controls, a panoramic sunroof and assorted other features offered by the 2016 Pilot in Elite trim.

But a week in the new Pilot wasn’t quite enough time to get used to its idiosyncrasies.

For example, there’s the series of switches along the left side of the center console that you use to select or change gears — push buttons for park, neutral and drive, but a pull-button for reverse.

And then there’s the EarthDreams Technology that shuts off cylinders when you’re simply cruising down the highway and that shuts off the engine entirely when you come to a stop. Good for saving fuel, but the engine restart (which takes place automatically when you release pressure on the brake pedal) is neither smooth nor quiet, and there’s a sort of hiccup as the 9-speed transmission synchs with the engine to get you into motion.

Another unusual Honda gear-shifting system
Another unusual Honda gear-selection system

Even after a week, it was disconcerting at stop lights, but what really bothered me was when the system shut off the engine in stop-and-go rush hour traffic on a Phoenix freeway, where the stop was very brief but the restart and get-go were not, to the point that I wondered if I’d be back in motion before the vehicle behind me was up into my rear bumper.

A more minor point is the lack of a knob to do a quick change of radio stations without having to use the touchscreen on the dashboard.

I imagine a Pilot owner would get used to such things within a couple of weeks, but I’d certainly encourage anyone considering the new Pilot to do an extensive test drive, because there’s a lot to like about the vehicle.

For example, Honda says that while adding a lot of features, it also has trimmed nearly 300 pounds from the car’s curb weight when compared with the previous version. Plus, the Elite version of the Pilot offers new-to-Pilot features including 20-inch wheels, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, heated steering wheel and the panoramic roof.

Honda calls the Pilot a “family-friendly utility” and it certainly is that, not only with its interior features and room but with its safety technology including collision-warning with “mitigation braking,” adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot assist and a rearview camera with cross-traffic warning.

Between front- and all-wheel drive setups, there are LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite trim packages with base prices ranging from $30,145 to the $46,420 of the Elite version I’ve been driving.

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Honda Pilot AWD Elite

Vehicle type: 7-passenger crossover utility vehicle, all-wheel drive
Base price: $46,420 Price as tested: $47,300
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 280-horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 262 pound-feet of torque @ 4,700 rpm Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 111.0 inches Overall length/width: 194.5 inches / 78.6 inches
Curb weight: 4,317 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 19 city / 26 highway / 22 combined
Assembled in: Lincoln, Alabama

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