The midsize three-row SUV segment is a bit of a strange one – it’s one of the best-selling ones yet most models on the market are several years old and feel outdated. We think it is because buyers are buying up everything they are offered so automakers are able to get by with minor refreshes, but that is about to change as most popular models are getting a total makeover. We had recently sampled the new Nissan Pathfinder, and this week we borrowed the all-new 2023 Honda Pilot Black Edition for a quick evaluation to see how this next generation of family haulers fares.
The new Pilot arrives sporting a drastically fresher shell. Gone is the squarish design language that has been out of style for a decade now and the new front fascia looks modern and sophisticated. This new styling cue is shared with other new models in the Honda family like the new HR-V and CR-V, and we love that each of their designs is still distinctive so they are not easily mistaken for one another. Our top-of-the-line Black Edition is distinguished by the gloss black front grille bar and the black 20-inch alloy wheels – subtle changes that added a splash of sportiness on the Platinum White Pearl paint job.
The 3.5-litre V6 is all new and touts 285 horsepower and 262 lb-ft. of torque. Much like many other cars and crossovers, we have seen this segment ditching the V6 for new turbocharged four-cylinder engines to pursue better fuel economy, but the smoothness and linearity of this 3.5-litre engine is hard to replace. While we don’t consider the Pilot to be fast, it manages to get off the line without much hesitation and the ten-speed automatic transmission is quite responsive to keep up its acceleration.
By sticking with the free breathing engine, the biggest downside is fuel economy and our observed 14.4L/100km city consumption figure reflects that. However, we do expect its usage to be closer to the posted 11.2L/100km combined figure over longer run, especially temperature returns to above freezing mark, which would only be marginally worse than the 10.3L/100km posted on the new 2023 Toyota Highlander – the latest seven-seater to replace its V6 with a turbocharged four-cylinder.
Handling is a pleasant surprise for the Honda Pilot. Not only does it feel light on its feet, its body control is also well balanced and we never felt like we were losing control even during sudden maneuvers. What’s more remarkable is that, unlike many modern-day crossovers, Honda engineers had managed to avoid stiffening the suspension too much. The Pilot felt comfortable with most harshness and vibrations well isolated and is noticeably improved when compared to the outgoing generation. Max towing capacity is rated at 5,000 pounds when equipped with the optional towing package.
The interior has been refreshed with a new layout that gives the Pilot a more sophisticated look than the outdated design in last year’s model. It gives the drivers an uncluttered space thanks to its minimalistic dashboard as well as a healthy amount of storage space. We like Honda’s use of knobs and buttons for key features such as volume and climate control, and the intuitive infotainment system is a joy to use once the customizable shortcut keys along the bottom of the screen is setup. As part of the Black Edition, we got to enjoy the new twelve-speaker Bose stereo system that fills the cabin with good sound quality.
Interior space has always been a strong suit to the Honda Pilot and the new model is no exception. There is a good amount of head and legroom in the first two rows and the third row is an acceptable place thanks to decent space and the oversized side windows. Cargo volume is measured at 635 litres behind the rear bench and opens up to 1,702 litres when it is folded, which is quite a bit more than the 1,582-litre space in the last generation.
Amongst the most notable update is the inclusion of the expanded Honda Sensing driver-assistance technology across the Pilot line up that includes features such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Information, Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, Traffic Sign Recognition, and Traffic Jam Assist systems. We particularly enjoyed the upgraded multi-view camera system that offers class-leading resolution that made parking in tight spaces easier than others.
Base price for the 2023 Honda Pilot has been set at $50,650 and runs up to $62,850 for our top-of-the-line Black Edition. This unfortunately puts the Honda Pilot thousands of dollars over its competition which offsets a lot of its appeal. For example, the Hyundai Palisade Ultimate Calligraphy we reviewed, which offers similar package despite slightly duller driving dynamics, was only $56,599, and the Toyota Highlander that is normally on the higher end of the price spectrum manages to undercut the Pilot by about $3,000 when similarly equipped.
All in all, the 2023 Honda Pilot Black Edition is a great all-rounder – it looks sharp, drives well, and is incredibly comfortable for seven. The Pilot is a good indication that manufacturers are not satisfied with just refreshing its crossovers and expect consumers to keep buying them, and it puts a lot of pressure on the rest to up their game – we just hope they don’t all come with an inflated price tag.
2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek