Honda is giving its popular Pilot SUV a host of new features and updates for the 2012 model year.

The big news for the new Pilot is a boost in fuel economy thanks to some clever tweaking by Honda engineers. The 2012 model can get up to 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway (17/24 for four-wheel drive models), an increase of one mile per gallon in the highway and two in the city. this makes the Pilot the gas-sippingest eight passenger SUV around.

In order to pick up those extra miles per gallon, some of the engine's internal components were treated to a special coating that reduces friction and boosts fuel economy. Honda even switched out the Pilot's motor oil for a new formula that aids efficiency.

Part of the fuel economy improvements can even be seen from the outside. The new front end might not look much different from the current model, but a couple of nip/tuck changes make the new Pilot more aerodynamic, allowing the new model to cut through the air as it rolls past gas stations.

Beyond aerodynamics, Honda made a few of other cosmetic changes to the exterior. The 2012 Pilot has a new chrome three bar grill, revised headlights and a new set of optional 18-inch wheels.

On the inside, the Pilot will now come with one of three different media displays based on trim level. Entry level models get a simple, calculator-like read-out of basic information like radio channels and the time.

Mid-level models without navigation will get Honda's relatively new i-MID media system. The i-MID allows drivers to sort through car information, media info and even set a unique wallpaper for the video display.

Top trim models with navigation get a system that includes 15 gigabytes of memory for storing music, a backup camera and a voice recognition system that understands three languages.

Honda says the new Pilot is also more comfortable and quieter than the 2011 model. The 2012 Pilot is fitted with a full set of acoustic glass and sound deadening foam that will keep cabin noise to a minimum, while some minor changes to the suspension will keep vibrations down.

The 2012 Honda Pilot is available now in dealerships nationwide.

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J. Mark Sternberg is an automotive journalist, car enthusiast and writer with a degree from the University of Arizona. Mark is a devoted Formula 1 fan and also enjoys boating, flying and attending the occasional track day.

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