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2016 Honda Pilot: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader July 2015

Initially released for 2003, the Honda Pilot has always been a popular model for drivers looking for a reliable, comfortable, well-priced family crossover with 3-row seating. But over the last few years, the Pilot has grown old, surrounded by more modern rivals from Toyota, Ford, Kia and others. Enter the 2016 Honda Pilot, which has been fully redesigned to take on competitors and appeal to car shoppers the same way earlier models have.

On the outside, there are some major changes to the styling -- so many that you probably won't recognize the Pilot when you first see it. It's the same story inside, and the latest Pilot has some substantial upgrades compared to its predecessor. Of course, there's a lot of new technology, too, and revised engines that tout better gas mileage than last year's model.

If you're looking for a new midsize crossover, the 2016 Pilot is a good place to start. There's a reason you still see the old ones in driveways all across the country.

What's New for 2016?

The Pilot is completely redesigned for 2016. In addition to new styling inside and out, the latest Pilot touts powertrain upgrades, new safety features and dramatically improved technology compared to its predecessor.

What We Like

Standard 3-row seating; affordable pricing; excellent powertrain; lots of technology and safety features

What We Don't

Honda's infotainment system isn't quite the best; prices won't be very negotiable for a while

How Much?

$31,000-$47,300

Fuel Economy

The 2016 Honda Pilot offers only one powertrain: a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that's mated to an automatic transmission. LX, EX and EX-L models get a 6-speed automatic, while upper-level Touring and Elite trims add a more efficient 9-speed transmission.

Fuel economy ratings stand at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway with the 6-speed and front-wheel drive, or 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy with the 9-speed and front-wheel drive. Opting for all-wheel drive lowers those figures just slightly.

Standard Features & Options

The Pilot is available in five trim levels. From least to most expensive, they are called the LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite.

The base-level LX ($31,000) comes standard with Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, a backup camera, 18-inch alloy wheels, 3-row seating and a USB port for music.

Moving up to the EX ($33,400), you'll get automatic headlights, 3-zone automatic climate control, a HondaLink infotainment system with an 8-in touchscreen, the excellent LaneWatch blind spot camera, a power driver seat, extra USB ports, satellite radio, and keyless access with a push-button starter.

Next up is the EX-L ($36,900), which adds a power rear lift gate, a power sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and 1-touch sliding rear seats.

Going for the pricey Touring ($42,000) adds the 9-speed automatic transmission, along with a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD player, rear sunshades, 20-in alloy wheels and a memory system for the driver's seat. The Touring also adds the Honda Sensing package, which is optional on the EX and EX-L and includes adaptive cruise control, a forward-collision warning system with automatic braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist.

Opt for the top-of-the-line Elite ($47,300) and you'll get heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, automatic high beams and standard all-wheel drive.

While Honda doesn't really do options like most automakers, it's worth noting that the Honda Sensing package is optional on EX and EX-L models. Also optional on all Pilot trims is all-wheel drive, except on the Pilot Elite, where it's standard.

Safety

All 2016 Pilot models come standard with front side airbags, side-curtain airbags, a backup camera and anti-lock brakes. Honda's excellent LaneWatch system is standard on all trims from the EX on up, while the aforementioned Honda Sensing package, which features a wide range of safety features such as lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist, comes standard on Touring and Elite models and optional on the Pilot EX and EX-L.

Because the Pilot is so new, it has not yet been tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Behind the Wheel

On the road, the 2016 Pilot drives a lot like a minivan, and we mean that as a compliment. Not spry or sporty, the Pilot is instead comfortable and sure-footed, offering a well-controlled driving experience without the cumbersome feeling you sometimes get in larger SUVs. Interior room is excellent, with seating for up to eight passengers and plenty of room to access all rows of seats -- even the usually cramped third row. We're also a fan of the cleaner control stack, as many of the Pilot's functions have moved to the SUV's touchscreen and simplified the formerly complicated appearance.

When you put your foot down, you'll be happy that Honda decided to add an extra 30 hp to the Pilot's 3.5-liter V6, bringing things from 250 hp up to a more muscular 280 hp. Both new transmissions are also far smoother than last year's 5-speed automatic, though we suspect that most drivers won't notice much difference -- in fuel economy or performance -- between the 6-speed and the 9-speed.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Ford Explorer -- Recently face-lifted for 2015, the Explorer offers a lot of technology and a little more interior room than the Pilot. It also touts an available 4-cylinder and a high-performance Sport version with a turbocharged V6.

2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee -- The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been among America's most popular SUVs for decades -- and with good reason. It boasts everything from an affordable base model to high-end luxury and high-performance versions -- and it offers excellent off-road capability, to boot. The only thing it doesn't have is a third-row seat.

2015 Toyota Highlander -- The Pilot's chief rival is Toyota's popular Highlander, which was also recently redesigned. While these two crossovers closely square off in a lot of ways, only the Highlander offers a fuel-efficient hybrid version.

Used Acura MDX -- If you like what you see here, you might want to consider the Acura MDX. Think of it as a luxury version of the Pilot, with high-end features, equipment, gadgets and materials. Pricing is higher, though, so you may want to consider a used model.

Autotrader's Advice

Choosing from the Pilot's list of trim levels is challenging because they're all appealing. We'd probably leave out the bare-bones LX, and we'd skip the pricey Elite in favor of an Acura MDX, but otherwise, we think any Pilot will do. If we were choosing, we'd probably go with the EX-L and Honda's optional Sensing package, as we can do without the Touring's navigation system and its 9-speed automatic transmission.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Honda Pilot: New Car Review - Autotrader