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2018 Honda Pilot: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader February 2018

There are bigger 3-row crossovers. There are sportier ones. There are ones with better tech and those that'll look better in your driveway. Yet, the 2018 Honda Pilot lies smack dab in the middle of them, and should therefore be a smart choice for a wide variety of car buyers. Like most other Hondas, the Pilot is well-rounded. If it's not number one in any given area, it's not too far behind the leader.

Of particular note is its highly space-efficient cabin, which boasts massive space inside despite smaller exterior dimensions and a lower curb weight than many competitors. Adults can even fit in the third row, which is typically a bit of a penalty box for even kids. The Pilot also has an efficient and powerful engine, a driving experience that strikes a good balance between comfort and handling precision and safety credentials that include strong crash scores and widely available accident-avoidance tech.

Now, the fact that the Pilot doesn't overwhelm in any one area means your personal priorities might make a competitor more appealing. As such, taking a look at other 3-row crossovers is highly recommended. Just know that the well-rounded 2018 Pilot should be on your test drive list.

Read how the Pilot did during our long-term test.

What's New for 2018?

The Pilot is unchanged for 2018.

What We Like

Roomier and more versatile than most competitors; clever storage solutions; comfortable ride; good fuel economy

What We Don't

Frustrating touchscreen interface; the upper trims' wonky 9-speed automatic; hyperactive and unsophisticated safety tech

How Much?

$30,900-$47,500

Fuel Economy

The 2018 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 city, 27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The 9-speed yields a slight bump to 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined, but in practice, you're unlikely to see any difference. That's disappointing, especially since the 9-speed possesses annoying habits -- rough and poorly timed shifts, and generally unrefined behavior at low speeds. It was one of the few things we disliked about our long-term Pilot test car.

With either transmission, 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 ($30,900) 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 ($33,300) adds an abundance of extra equipment: Automatic headlights, foglights, remote ignition, Honda's LaneWatch blind spot camera, 3-zone automatic climate control, an 8-way power driver 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 ($36,800), 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 EX-L can be equipped with the Honda Sensing package, which adds adaptive cruise control, a forward-collision warning system 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 ($42,000) 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 ($47,500) and you'll get LED headlights, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning systems, 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. Unlike all the other trims, it comes only with all-wheel drive.

Safety

All 2018 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 -- it comes standard on Touring and Elite models and is optional on the Pilot EX and EX-L.

In government crash testing, the 2018 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 prevention categories.

Behind the Wheel

On the road, the 2018 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 -- 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.

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 hyper-sensitive forward-collision warning system and unsophisticated adaptive cruise control. Honda actually addressed all these issues in the more recently redesigned Honda CR-V and Honda Odyssey, but they remain in the Pilot.

When you put your foot down, you'll be happy with the Pilot's 280-hp V6 and the relatively light curb weight it's tasked with lugging around. 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

2018 Chevrolet Traverse -- Want the most space possible, but refuse to go the minivan route? Well, the completely redesigned Traverse is the biggest kid on the playground. It's absolutely enormous inside for people and cargo, besting even the jumbo Pilot. It also impresses on the technology front.

2018 Mazda CX-9 -- On the opposite end of the spectrum, the CX-9 is the way to go if you want to forget you're driving a huge family vehicle. It's the athlete of the segment, and although it can't match the Pilot's space, its classy interior, efficient engine and relatively fun-to-drive nature should impress.

2018 Toyota Highlander -- The Pilot's chief rival is Toyota's popular Highlander, which was mildly updated last year 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.

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 a new 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 EX-L, although, if we were choosing, we'd probably go with the EX-L and Honda's optional Sensing package. It can annoy, but it can 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.
2018 Honda Pilot: New Car Review - Autotrader