Car Review

2009 Honda Pilot: Used Car Review

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Used 2009 Honda Pilot EX-L
Used 2009 Honda Pilot
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author photo by Ron Sessions February 2015

The Acura MDX-based Honda Pilot led the trend to car-based crossover SUVs when it was first introduced for 2003; the all-new second-generation 2009 Honda Pilot brought significant refinements. In addition to increasing second- and third-row passenger room and cargo space behind the third row, the longer, taller and wider 2009 Pilot also gained a tailgate with a separate-opening glass hatch, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, hill-start assist, four Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) positions for child safety seats, Bluetooth and an optional power liftgate.

The Pilot can carry up to eight passengers and 87 cu ft. of cargo space with the second- and third-row seats folded. The standard 3.5-liter V6 gets six more horsepower and three more pound-feet of torque for 2009, and the standard Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system idles two or three cylinders when not needed under light cruising to save fuel. Honda's Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) works through the audio speakers to minimize low-frequency rumble that can occur when the VCM deactivates cylinders.

The Honda Pilot is a good used-car choice for growing families with active lifestyles and is one of the top-selling 3-row crossover SUVs.

What We Like

Secure handling; four LATCH positions for child seats; solid feel; outward visibility; comfortable first- and second-row seats; decent third-row roominess; cargo space

What We Don't

Blocky styling; cluttered center dashboard; flinty ride quality; disappointing fuel economy

Fuel Economy & Engine Specs

The Pilot is powered by a 3.5-liter 24-valve single-overhead-camshaft V6. Equipped with variable valve timing and a dual-stage intake manifold, the 3.5 V6 makes 250 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque on regular unleaded fuel. Two-wheel-drive (2WD) versions are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway, while four-wheel-drive (4WD) models drop to an EPA rating of 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy. All models are equipped with a 5-speed automatic transmission. A Variable Cylinder Management system shuts down two or three cylinders when less power is needed, such as during light-throttle cruising, to save fuel. Pilot 4WD versions can tow up to 4,500 lbs; 2WD Pilots are rated to tow only 3,500 lbs.

Standard Features & Options

The 2009 Honda Pilot is available in LX, EX, EX-L and Touring trims.

LX standard equipment includes 17-inch steel wheels, front and rear air conditioning, auto headlamps, cruise control, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, remote keyless entry, a 7-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with an MP3 decoder and subwoofer, a compass, stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, a trailer-hitch receiver, 3-row seating for eight passengers, cloth upholstery, split fold-flat second- and third-row bench seats, dual front- and side-impact airbags, overhead airbags and power locks, windows and mirrors.

EX trim upgrades to 17-in alloy wheels, the HomeLink system, automatic climate control, a power driver's seat with power lumbar support, steering-wheel audio buttons, SiriusXM radio, heated door mirrors, a security system, fog lamps and an outside-temperature gauge.

Choosing the EX-L adds a power moonroof, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, first- and second-row leather seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated front seats, a power front passenger's seat, a backup camera and a reverse-sensing system. Optional EX-L packages add a 10-speaker surround-sound upgrade audio system and a rear entertainment system.

Opting for Touring trim upgrades to a power rear liftgate, satellite-linked navigation, turn-signal indicator mirrors, driver's seat memory, a USB jack, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a 10-speaker surround-sound upgrade audio system.


The Pilot 3-row crossover SUV has been a top seller in its class, meaning that the availability and selection of used examples should be good. Honda's excellent VTM-4 4-wheel drive gives the SUV all-weather capability for northern climes with snowy weather, but the standard front-drive system with traction control is sufficient for most driving situations and doesn't hurt its resale value.

To get a good idea of the 2009 Pilot's price range, investigate the Kelley Blue Book used-car values at You can also search the AutoTrader Classifieds to see what models are for sale in your area.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued the following recalls for the 2009 Pilot:

Missing driver's airbag rivets can alter airbag deployment in an accident, increasing injury risk.

Defective front seat lap-belt stitching may cause the belt to detach from the anchor webbing, increasing injury risk in a crash.

Recall repairs are required by law, even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed, and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.

Safety Ratings & Warranties

NHTSA gave the 2009 Pilot a 5-star rating in frontal and side impacts and four stars for rollover performance.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2009 Pilot Good ratings for moderate-overlap front and side impacts, as well as head restraints and seats, but a Marginal rating for roof strength and a Poor rating for small-overlap front impacts.

American Honda Motor Company sold the 2009 Pilot with a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty and a 5-year/unlimited-distance corrosion-perforation warranty.

Other Cars to Consider

2009 Ford Explorer -- This is the old-designed, truck-based Explorer with an available 292-hp 4.6-liter V8 and towing capacity up to 7,300 lbs. Its ride isn't as carlike as the Honda Pilot's. The 210-hp 4.0-liter V6 in the base Explorer isn't really enough engine for this truck. Top Explorer options include SYNC infotainment and a power folding third-row seat.

2009 Toyota Highlander -- Toyota's midsize crossover was one of the first car-based designs, and the 2009 model was fresh off a redesign of the previous year. The 3.5-liter V6 delivers peppy performance, and its 18-mpg city/24-mpg hwy EPA ratings top those of the Pilot. The third-row seat folds flat into the floor, but its cramped design is for children only and access to the third row is difficult. A Center Stow second-row seat provides a small center-position seat for a child that can be stowed away when not needed.

AutoTrader's Advice

The Pilot has consistently rated highly among 3-row crossover SUVs. In terms of livability, the EX or EX-L are smart choices since they include most of the equipment buyers are looking for. The EX comes with alloy wheels, a power driver's seat, SiriusXM radio and auto A/C, and the EX-L adds heated leather seats, a power front passenger's seat and a backup camera model, plus the option of a rear entertainment system that can keep the peanut gallery occupied for miles.

The 2009 Pilot is too old to qualify for Honda certified pre-owned status, so look for lower-mileage examples that have seen obvious care and maintenance when possible. And always get a vehicle history report. Make sure the Pilot you are considering for purchase has had any applicable safety recalls performed by the dealer.

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Used 2009 Honda Pilot EX-L
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2009 Honda Pilot: Used Car Review - Autotrader