After evaluating a number of different vehicles in varying segments, we came to the conclusion that a media trip down south would require a vehicle specifically up to the task. With three of us on board, along with luggage as well as a ton of camera gear, a midsize sedan just wouldn’t cut it. Plus, we knew a good chunk of our trip would involve dirt roads, so all-wheel-drive would be a bonus. We picked the 2016 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD for our road trip, and set off into the state of New York in supreme comfort.
Redesigned fully for the 2016 model year, the Pilot is now in its third generation. The previous model was outdated to say the least, and this latest one brings a series of changes to improve and eliminate all of the flaws. The unibody structure is definitely less truck-like than some rivals like the Chevrolet Tahoe (reviewed here), but this allows the Pilot to drive like a car and have impeccable road manners. The styling is evolutionary and typical for modern Honda, but not too derivative from other three-row crossovers.
On the inside, Pilots receive the latest iteration of Honda’s corporate interior. The steering wheel, general switchgear, and many features will be familiar to those who have been in the new Accord (reviewed here), and the latest infotainment system is a vast improvement over the seriously obsolete one in the outgoing car. This HondaLink system uses Garmin navigation, but does not boast the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto setups that other models offer. We expect to see this in software updates in the coming months.
While the base Pilot starts at just $35,590, this fully loaded Touring 4WD hits $50,490. Along with all of the typical luxury features such as leather interior, rear captain’s chairs, a panoramic sunroof, and navigation, the Touring adds LED headlights, rear entertainment with Blu-Ray, and 20” wheels. The front seats are ventilated and heated, while the second row offers heated seats. Higher trim models come with the nine-speed automatic as standard equipment, along with all-wheel-drive.
The Pilot is powered by a 3.5L “J35”-series naturally aspirated V6, part of Honda’s Earth Dreams family. The engine is also now direct injected, and pushes 280 horsepower at 6,000RPM, and 262 lb-ft of torque at 4,700RPM. This engine was absolutely perfect for our 1,700km highway run, and the Pilot behaved admirably. Throttle response is sharp, and passing power on the highway is effortless. This engine isn’t new, but the fact that it is still around and continues its evolution is a testament to its smoothness and flawless power delivery. The exhaust note is confident and the powertrain just feels a touch above the Toyota Highlander (reviewed here).
The ZF nine-speed automatic transmission, a huge point of criticism in Chrysler applications like the current 200 (reviewed here), is actually surprisingly tolerable in the Pilot. Maximizing efficiency, the nine-speed is responsive and delivers crisp shifts and remains in the optimal point in the power band whenever required. We left it in “Drive”, though there are “Sport” and manual shift modes available for those who really want their three-row crossovers to behave like sports cars. The push-button shifter, trickled down from Acura products, is a bit clunky to use and begs the question – why mess with something that has been perfected over many decades?
We conducted a full review of the Pilot last summer, and came to the conclusion that the nine-speed transmission is a bit awkward at city speeds, and could use from some fine-tuning. This test vehicle had 20,000km on it, and had plenty of time to be broken in. Throughout our long highway drive, the vehicle had no problems holding ninth gear and returning excellent fuel economy, and around the city it displayed minimal oddity.
The 2016 Pilot is rated for 12.4L/100km in the city and 9.3L/100km on the highway with 4WD and the nine-speed gearbox. With three on board and a full load of luggage, along with liberal use of the air conditioning and ventilated seats (standard on the Touring), we were floored by the Pilot’s consumption of 8.8L/100km over our test. The excellent gearing and idle start/stop system help a little bit with economy, but the biggest advantage is the Pilot’s Variable Cylinder Management, which deactivates three of the cylinders under optimal conditions for even better fuel economy.
Long-distance comfort in the Pilot was a huge benefit, leaving all three of us on the DoubleClutch.ca editorial team fatigue-free and cheery after long hours behind the wheel. The second row seats are fully adjustable, and the 110V power outlet in the rear helped charge the laptops and photo equipment while on the road. The Pilot may be a bit large for just three, but the extra space was useful and there was really no compromise on fuel economy.
Fifty thousand dollars may seem like a lot of money for a mainstream SUV, especially considering premium options such as the Infiniti QX60 (reviewed here) are so aggressively priced. The 2016 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD offers incredible value, unbeatable fuel economy, and a great deal of comfort for its price tag. This is a vehicle that will provide buyers with dependable and bulletproof (not literally, unfortunately) transportation for years to come, and serve as a brilliant workhorse for whatever tasks may be thrown at it.