The ultimate family hauler rides on four core principles; space, fuel economy, comfort, and safety. Of course, not every full-sized crossover is the same. Look at General Motors, their body-on-frame SUVs rule the roads up north because of their immense practicality. Honda approaches the idea a little differently with the Pilot. A unibody SUV with room for seven, it is fit for an active family, though it rides and drives with many similarities to a traditional minivan. Easy to maneuver and very kid friendly, it still feels like you’re driving a proper sport utility vehicle. In the second year of its third generation, this 2017 Honda Pilot Touring AWD offers plenty of amenities to keep just about everyone happy.
The Touring is the king of the hill, top of the heap model of the Pilot family, with the LX, EX, EX-L Navi, and EX-L RES below it. Performance figures are the same across each trim level, though the Touring receives extra bits that add a little bit of luxury. The seating configuration in the Touring does away with the middle row bench, and substitutes it for heated second-row captain’s chairs. The rear-seat entertainment system is upgraded to the Honda Blu-Ray system with a nine-inch display and wireless headsets.
On the exterior, subtle changes help differentiate the Touring from the pack, but not so much that it becomes blatantly obvious. The most prominent difference is the addition of 20” aluminum-alloy wheels. Expect a nice view as well, as the Touring is the only variant that comes with a Panoramic sunroof as standard equipment. While your passengers are enjoying the night sky, the path ahead is lit up by auto-levelling, auto-high beam, projector LED headlights. With precious cargo being moved around, safety comes into mind. While this entire review can be used to go over the long list of Honda Sensing safety features piled into the Pilot, those made exclusive to the Touring include a blind spot information system and a rear cross traffic monitor system.
The previous-generation Pilot appeared most robust than the current model, with more of a rugged design language. This current Pilot adopts smoother edges and a streamlined front fascia, including signature LED daytime-running-lights which are shared with the Honda Ridgeline (reviewed here). This Pilot looks a lot less cube-like, and that’s a good thing. The last-gen looked as though it was trying too hard to be tough, even though its true personality was a calm family-friendly machine. When finished in Steel Sapphire Metallic, the Pilot comes into its own with a fresh modern face, a very attractive competitor in this segment.
Now even though the overall size of the Pilot is smaller than a Tahoe (reviewed here), it feels more spacious in the cabin. It is very easy to find a comfortable driving position, and the adjustable armrest is a welcomed feature seldom found in other vehicles; reminiscent of a Range Rover (reviewed here) seat. The centre console in the Pilot might also be one of my personal favourite features. Unlike the norm, the console sits low, almost at leg-level, with a flat top that rolls back revealing an immense amount of storage space. It also makes for the perfect surface to place larger objects, a.k.a. four coffees in a tray from Tim Hortons.
My one major complaint, it this spans across a few Honda models, is the absence of a tactile volume knob. Honda has been using this touch-sensitive volume slider found on the left of the media display. While the technology is a step forward, it proves to be an unnecessary distraction, pulling your eye away from the road to make sure you’re hitting the right part of the perfectly smooth touch-surface. Thankfully, newer models from Honda such as the Accord (reviewed here) are bringing back the traditional volume knob. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility comes standard across all trims of the Pilot.
The Pilot truly is a pleasure to drive; it’s very smooth in every aspect. The steering does feel a little numb at times, and acceleration is adequate. Power delivery is smooth thanks to the nine-speed automatic transmission. The 3.5L naturally aspirated V6 produces 280 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 262 lb-ft. of torque at 4,700 RPM. Admittedly, it could use a small power increase, just to make passing more confident at highway speeds.
A turbo such as the one in the Mazda CX-9 (reviewed here) would also help reduce overall fuel economy. Honda rates the Pilot at 12.4L/100KM city and 9.3L/100KM highway. After a long trip north of the city to Sudbury, Ontario, the Pilot hit the nail on the head with an average figure of 9.7L/100km. Our combined average hovered around there for the duration of my trip. The 74L tank gives the Pilot an autonomy of roughly 600km on a full tank of regular 87-octane.
The presence of 20” wheels would make most think that the ride quality would suffer, though the independent front and rear suspension do a great job at keeping the body stable on even the worst roads. Whether it’s driving to work, or hauling the family up north for a lengthy road trip, the Pilot proves to be extremely comfortable in any scenario.
The Pilot goes up against the likes of the Toyota Highlander (reviewed here), Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-9, Chevrolet Traverse, and others. All of these come with a V6, aside from the CX-9’s turbo four. Aside from the CX-9, the Pilot comes with the least amount of power, falling short in this regard. The Pilot does however, destroy the competition in just about every other facet. Overall quality is very solid, with premium materials and strong ergonomics. Everything just feels right, aside from the silly volume control.
A base level Pilot LX starts at $41,978, a reasonable price for a practical family crossover. Climbing up the scale to the Touring adds $11,400 to the final cost, resulting in a $53,387 as-tested price. I’ll keep this conclusion short and sweet. The 2017 Honda Pilot Touring is well worth the money it commands. With only one or two inconveniences to speak of, it exceeds expectations all around. I very much like this car, and I can assure you will as well.