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2018 Honda Pilot vs. 2018 Honda CR-V: What's the Difference?

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author photo by Eric Brandt September 2018
  • The 2018 Honda Pilot is a midsize 3-row SUV and the 2018 Honda CR-V is a compact crossover.

  • The Pilot has more room for passengers and cargo, but the CR-V is more efficient and more affordable.

  • Both Honda crossovers offer reliable, sensible and safe family transportation.

If you're looking for a practical family SUV, Honda has a lot of good options for you. Two of the brand's most popular crossovers are the CR-V and the Pilot. On the surface, they might look similar, but they have quite a few differences you'll want to know about if you're thinking about buying one.

The Pilot is good for big families and the CR-V is good for new families, but the differences go a little deeper than that. Let's take a look at what's similar, what's different and which one is right for you.

Exterior

The Pilot and the CR-V aren't identical, but they do look very similar from a few angles. They both wear a version of Honda's corporate face, which is modern, yet has a subtlety to it. The Pilot is a little boxier in the back and the CR-V is a little more interesting, with sharp angles and tall headlights -- which are a nod to past CR-Vs. The Pilot, on the other hand, is more conservative, but it isn't boring.

The Pilot is quite a bit bigger than the CR-V. The Pilot is 18 inches longer, six inches wider and five inches taller than the CR-V. That makes it a lot roomier on the inside, but also a little less maneuverable and a little tougher to park in tight spots.

Interior

Although there are a lot of similarities on the outside of these two SUVs, they actually look pretty different from behind the wheel. Like the exterior, the interior of the Pilot is that of a more traditional SUV, and the CR-V's interior looks a little more modern.

Interior headroom and legroom in the first- and second-row seats are almost identical between the two. Once you get behind the second-row seats, it's a different story. The Pilot comes with a row of three seats in the third row, but its middle seat is almost unusable. Headroom and legroom are on par for this segment, but a bit cramped as it often is in 3-row SUVs of this size. Despite the limited space back there, it's still nice to have the versatility of a third row of seats.

The Pilot and the CR-V both have a ton of cargo space for their respective segments. They can both handle just about any grocery run or weekend getaway you can throw at them. Being a bigger vehicle, the Pilot obviously has more maximum cargo room than the CR-V, especially with the seats folded down. They also both have plenty of cubbies and cup holders for everyone.

Mechanicals

The Honda CR-V is available with two engines, and the Pilot is only available with one. The naturally aspirated inline-four in the CR-V is a 2.4-liter engine that produces 184 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. This thrifty engine gets 26 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. For better performance and better fuel economy, you can upgrade to a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four that gets a slight boost in horsepower up to 190 hp and makes 179 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is even better than the base engine at 28 mpg city/34 mpg hwy.

The Pilot might only offer one engine, but it's a really good engine. It's a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, which is plenty for hauling passengers and cargo and even towing up to 5,000 lbs. Fuel economy isn't as good as either engine in the CR-V, but it's pretty strong for its class at 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy.

Both the CR-V and the Pilot are available with all-wheel drive, which offers better traction than the front-wheel drive variants. This is a useful feature for drivers in snowy climates when the roads get bad in the winter. The downside of AWD is that it makes fuel economy take a slight hit in both crossovers.

Features and Technology

The Pilot and the CR-V are both pretty generously loaded with technology features, especially in the higher trims. However, you don't have to go too far up or spend too much to get some impressive tech. The Honda Sensing safety tech suite includes collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. These features come standard on the Touring and Elite trims of the 2018 Honda Pilot, and almost every 2018 Honda CR-V. The only CR-V that doesn't have standard Honda Sensing is the base LX model.

As for connectivity features, the Pilot and the CR-V both offer a 7-inch display audio screen with integrated Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on the mid-range EX trim and up. If you go higher up through the trims, you can get features like navigation, a hands-free power tailgate, premium audio, wireless charging and much more.

For the most part, features and technology offered on these two SUVs are very similar since they come from the same brand. However, the Pilot has a high-end Elite trim that the CR-V can't match in luxurious features, but the Pilot Elite, which has standard AWD, is also quite a bit more expensive than the nicest CR-V.

Pricing

Not surprisingly, the Honda CR-V is more affordable than the bigger Pilot. The CR-V starts at just $24,250 and the Pilot has a starting MSRP of $30,900. The price gap gets wider as you move your way up in the trims. For example, the CR-V Touring is $32,750, and the Pilot Touring is $41,970.

We think the best value for these SUVs is right around the middle. If you go with the EX or EX-L trim for either, you'll be getting a pretty well-equipped SUV without breaking the bank. However, if you want a luxury SUV without paying the premium for a luxury brand, the Touring and Elite trims are so nice that they might make you forget that you're in a Honda.

Conclusion

If you need the extra space with a third row of seats, then you'll definitely want a Pilot over a CR-V. However, if you don't think you'd ever use that third row, then the CR-V is a great choice for a compact crossover. The CR-V's strong fuel economy makes it a good everyday commuter, errand runner and family car, while the Pilot's more spacious cabin and extra muscle under the hood make it more versatile for a big, adventurous family.

No matter which one you go with, you'll be getting a reliable, practical, safe SUV and an excellent value.

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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 vs. 2018 Honda CR-V: What's the Difference? - Autotrader