Honda will update its popular Pilot midsize SUV for 2012. Scheduled to arrive in dealers soon, the 2012 Pilot will feature a revised interior and exterior, a new transmission and minor trim changes designed to help the aging SUV stay competitive in an increasingly crowded segment.

Outside, the Pilot's new nose is instantly noticeable. Gone is the SUV's distinctive "floating" grille, which debuted along with the second-generation model in 2008. A more traditional three-bar chrome grille, keeping the SUV's exterior styling fresh until its next redesign, will replace the floating design. Further exterior modifications to the 2012 Pilot are limited to new headlights and updated front fog light housings.

Honda also promises updates to the 2012 Pilot's interior. While no photos of the revisions have been released, the automaker says a restyled dashboard will be included, likely to address complaints that the Pilot's center stack is too complicated. Honda also says the 2012 Pilot will feature upgraded navigation and entertainment systems, though the automaker hasn't specified what specific changes will be made.

Buyers most interested in fuel economy will appreciate the 2012 Pilot's other major change: a new transmission. Last year's five-speed automatic will finally be replaced by a six-speed for 2012, meaning the SUV may be able to squeeze one or two extra miles per gallon out of its 250-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. Long overdue in the Pilot, the six-speed automatic debuted in the mechanically similar Acura MDX for 2010. Other changes to the 2012 Pilot include new color choices and wheel options.

While the Pilot's basic design is approaching four years old, its 2012 updates mean a redesign is unlikely to follow anytime soon. But with more than 100,000 units sold last year and nearly 52,000 sales through the first six months of 2011, the Pilot isn't having any trouble finding buyers, and its 2012 revisions will only help it carry on until a successor is revealed.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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