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2017 Honda Pilot: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader February 2017

Honda has a knack for creating extremely well-rounded vehicles. They typically possess brilliantly space-efficient cabins, efficient and powerful engines and a driving experience that strikes a just-right balance between comfort and handling precision. The 2017 Honda Pilot is packed full of that family DNA, and as a result, it's a top choice among 3-row family crossovers.

After its complete redesign last year, the Pilot hauls its 8-passenger self into 2017 with only the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to its docket. That's just fine, as it continues to be one of the most spacious and versatile vehicles in the segment, along with being one of the best to drive and most efficient. Its safety credentials and feature content are also top-notch. Really, even if the Pilot isn't No. 1 in a particular area, it's probably a close No. 2.

That well-rounded nature means this Honda should be on the test-drive list of anyone in the market for a family-hauling SUV. Something else may end up tickling your fancy more, but it's hard to imagine another vehicle making as much practical sense.

What's New for 2017?

All Pilots but the base LX get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto added to their touchscreen interfaces. That's all that's changed after last year's complete redesign.

What We Like

Roomier and more versatile than most competitors; clever storage solutions; well-balanced ride and handling; good fuel economy

What We Don't

Honda's frustrating touchscreen interface; hyperactive and unsophisticated safety tech; the upper trims' 9-speed automatic

How Much?

$31,000-$47,300

Fuel Economy

The 2017 Honda Pilot offers only one engine: a 3.5-liter V6 good for 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. 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.

With the 6-speed automatic and front-wheel drive, the Pilot returns 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The 9-speed yields a slight bump to 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy, but in practice, you're unlikely to see any difference. That's disappointing, especially since the 9-speed possesses annoying habits -- rough, poorly timed shifts and generally unrefined behavior at low speeds. Either way, opting for all-wheel drive lowers those figures just slightly.

Standard Features & Options

The Pilot is available in five trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite.

The base-level LX ($30,600) comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, three rows of flat-folding seats, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a single USB port and a 7-speaker sound system.

Moving up to the EX ($33,000) adds an abundance of extra equipment: automatic headlights, fog lights, remote ignition, Honda's LaneWatch blind spot camera, 3-zone automatic climate control, an 8-way power driver's seat, Honda's 8-in touchscreen interface, HondaLink smartphone apps, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, additional USB ports and an upgraded sound system.

Next up is the EX-L ($36,500), which adds a power lift gate, a sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and 1-touch sliding rear seats.

The EX and the EX-L can be equipped with the Honda Sensing package, which adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist. The EX-L can also be equipped with either a navigation system or a rear entertainment system, but not both. The latter also includes second-row sunshades and a household-style power outlet.

Going for the pricey Touring ($41,700) adds the 9-speed automatic transmission, along with the EX-L's optional features, 20-in wheels, parking sensors, extra sound-deadening, driver memory settings and a 10-speaker sound system.

Opt for the top-of-the-line Elite ($47,000), and you'll get LED headlights, automatic high beams, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic wipers, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row captain's chairs that reduce overall capacity to seven people, a heated steering wheel and HD Radio.

Safety

All 2017 Pilot models come standard with front-side airbags, side-curtain airbags, a backup camera and anti-lock brakes. Honda's LaneWatch system is standard on all trims but the LX and Elite -- the latter gets a blind spot monitoring system instead. The Honda Sensing package features lane-departure warning, forward collision alert, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist. The package comes standard on Touring and Elite models and is optional on the Pilot EX and EX-L.

In government crash-testing, the 2017 Honda Pilot received a 5-star overall rating plus 4-star frontal and 5-star side ratings. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Pilot its Top Safety Pick+ award, indicating top ratings in all crash and crash-avoidance categories.

Behind the Wheel

On the road, the 2017 Pilot drives a lot like a minivan, and we mean that as a compliment. Not spry or sporty, the Pilot is instead comfortable and surefooted, 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 -- even adults can fit in the third row, which is rare. You'll also find more cargo room (especially behind the third row) than you would in most competitors, along with an especially clever center console up front that stores big and small items alike.

There's one interior problem area, though: technology. Yes, there's a lot of it, but the touchscreen interface found on most trim levels frustrates with its menu structure, small virtual icons, lack of supporting physical buttons and no volume knob. The Honda Sensing package's tech can also frustrate with its hypersensitive forward collision warning and unsophisticated adaptive cruise control. Honda actually addressed all these issues on the all-new 2017 CR-V, but they remain in the bigger Pilot.

When you put your foot down, you'll be happy with the Pilot's 280-hp V6 and its relatively light curb weight. That's the case regardless of trim level, but we would think twice about the top trim levels and their 9-speed automatic. This transmission has drawn ire regardless of the vehicle or brand it's found in, with its propensity for ill-timed or unresponsive shifts as well as poor low-speed response. Also, don't pay too much attention to the slight fuel-economy difference. Really, the 6-speed is the way to go, and you probably won't miss the upper trim levels' extra equipment, either.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Toyota Highlander -- The Pilot's chief rival is Toyota's popular Highlander, which was mildly updated for 2017 to keep up with the pack. While these two crossovers closely square off in a lot of ways, only the Highlander offers a fuel-efficient hybrid version.

2017 GMC Acadia -- The Acadia was completely redesigned for 2017. It's much smaller than before, which aids maneuverability, performance and fuel economy. It's also less spacious than its predecessor and the Pilot, but even adults can still fit in the third row.

2017 Mazda CX-9 -- Here's another redesigned model. As before, the CX-9 is the athlete of the segment, but it now boasts an improved interior, more feature content and the most efficient engine in the segment. Read how the Acadia and the CX-9 compare to each other.

Used Acura MDX -- If you like what you see here, you might want to consider a used Acura MDX. Think of it as a luxury version of the Pilot, with high-end features, equipment, gadgets and materials. Check out our comparison of the 2017 Pilot versus a used MDX.

Autotrader's Advice

When choosing among the Pilot trim levels, we'd probably leave out the bare-bones LX and skip the priciest Touring and Elite versions in favor of a lightly used Acura MDX. That would leave you with the EX and the EX-L, although if we were choosing, we'd probably go with the EX-L and Honda's optional Sensing package. It can be annoying, but it will still save your bacon.

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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.
2017 Honda Pilot: New Car Review - Autotrader