The 2017 Honda Pilot is a capable, refined crossover SUV with all the goodness of a minivan, save for the sliding doors.
The Honda Pilot was one of the first big crossovers to completely shun the old SUV idiom. No blocky, bluff styling, no truck-like frame, no rugged low-ratio transfer case or knobby off-road tires. The first Pilot had slim roof pillars, a cushy Civic-like cabin, and lots of seats.
That Pilot was a big hit, and its follow-up act sold well, too, despite a bricklike body that tried to ape its domestic kin, the Ford Explorer in particular.
Now the third-generation Pilot is in its second year, and it's a flip back to Honda's winning form.
Sold in LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and Elite trims, the 2017 Honda Pilot has only made minor changes versus its complete redesign last year.
We give it a 7.5 out of 10, making it one of our highest-rated family vehicles. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Honda Pilot styling and performance
The Pilot's soft corners and rounded fenders are more appealing than the boxy shapes that preceded it. We've seen the look elsewhere--Traverse--but that doesn't diminish the elegance of the shape, or the better detailing. The Pilot still balances its glass to metal better than any rival, still stays far away from the rough-and-tumble look of, say, a Durango. Inside, the Pilot is very well finished, with a neatly organized cabin surrounded by lots of glass, from tall side windows to an available huge panoramic roof that floods the cabin in natural light.
With its 280-hp V-6, the Pilot pulls strongly whether it’s paired with a 6-speed or a 9-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is an option—and the Pilot can be outfitted with a traction management system that can help it pull out of mud pits or snow with ease. The Pilot also will tow up to 5,000 pounds. Fuel economy has been rated in the low 20-mpg range; we've observed lower figures.
The Pilot's plush ride and relaxed steering give it a luxurious, mature feeling. The all-wheel-drive system has torque vectoring that lets it turn in more sharply to corners, and that can seem at odds with the softly sprung ride. You might be just as happy with the firmer-riding front-drive version with the standard 18-inch wheels and tires—as would we—but it's only offered on the lower trim levels.
Pilot comfort, safety, and features
Three rows of seats and space for up to eight passengers make the Pilot Honda's most versatile vehicle. The front seats are just about ideally shaped, and with step-in height about an inch lower than before, the Pilot is an even better bet for smaller or older drivers. The middle row is adult-friendly, and for the first time, you can get a version with two captain’s chairs and a pass-through. The seat reclines for long trips and has its own tray table and cup holders.
In the back, the third-row seat is accessed by folding forward the second-row seat by pushing a button, a nice touch. Step-in room is slim, but the back seat has enough space for two adults with a surprising amount of head room and leg room. The seat is close to the floor so leg support isn’t great—but the fact that big people can sit back here makes the Pilot one of the most useful people haulers around.
Cargo space is abundant in the Pilot. There are cupholders everywhere, and a console big enough for an iPad. The third row folds down for a flat cargo floor. There’s a reversible cargo panel for dirty stuff like soccer cleats and beach chairs—and this cargo well behind the third row can hold an 82-quart cooler. Capri Sun for everyone!
Soft-touch surfaces and styling details that have transformed this Pilot. It’s much, much more luxurious than before, even in base trims—so much so, we think Elite versions compare very well against vehicles like the Buick Enclave, even the closely related Acura MDX.
Safety ratings are among the best in the Pilot's class—it's earned a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS, and five stars overall from the NHTSA. The Pilot offers blind-spot monitors, a LaneWatch camera with a wide view down the right side of the car, a multi-rearview camera, and forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking.
Standard features include Bluetooth with audio streaming, touchscreen audio, power features, cruise control, and air conditioning. As you move up in price, you can add satellite radio, leather trim, a DVD entertainment system, and heated and ventilated front seats.
Pricing for the Pilot starts at $31,585 for the front-wheel-drive Pilot LX; the EX has a base price of $33,930. At the top of the lineup, the all-wheel-drive Pilot Elite with navigation carries a base price of $47,970.