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2018 Toyota 4Runner vs. 2018 Honda Pilot: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Eric Brandt September 2018
  • The 2018 Toyota 4Runner and 2018 Honda Pilot are both midsize SUVs with three rows of seats, but they have many differences.

  • The 4Runner is great for off-road adventures, but the Pilot is good for every day commuting and family hauling.

  • The Honda Pilot has car-like unibody construction, while the 4Runner has a more traditional body-on-frame layout.

There's a lot of variety in SUVs today. Even among SUVs that are in the same segment, there can be a lot of differences. A good example of that is a comparison between the Honda Pilot and the Toyota 4Runner.

If you're shopping for an SUV, you might be wondering why the Pilot is so popular and why the 4Runner has such a devoted fanbase. Let's take a look at what they have in common, what's different and which one is better.

Exterior

The Pilot and the 4Runner both have boxy profiles typical of an SUV. The Pilot wears Honda's corporate face found on many models in its lineup. The 4Runner's front end doesn't look quite like anything else, including other Toyotas. Its unique look makes it recognizable and a little more interesting on the outside.

The Honda Pilot is bigger than the 4Runner in every dimension except for height. The Pilot is six inches longer, three inches wider and one inch shorter than the 4Runner. That gives the Pilot a few advantages that we'll get into shortly, but it also means the Pilot takes up a little more room in the garage and is a little harder to park than the 4Runner.

Overall, the 4Runner wears the look of the off-roader that it is while the Pilot has the subtle, agreeable look of a safe, reliable family SUV. Both SUVs do a nice job reflecting what's under the skin.

Interior

The interior design of both of these SUVs matches their respective exteriors. The 4Runner feels like the truck-based SUV that it is from behind the wheel with a rugged and functional interior. The styling on the inside of the Pilot is modern and well constructed with nice materials and comfortable seats.

Both of these SUVs are spacious and comfortable. The Pilot and the 4Runner both have seating for up to seven people. The extra length and width of the Pilot afford it more room for second- and third-row occupants. Third-row seats are a little cramped in all SUVs in this class, but it's a bit more comfortable in the way back of the Honda than it is in the Toyota.

The Pilot has more cargo volume than the 4Runner when all of the seats are folded up, but with all the seats folded down, the 4Runner has more space. That means if you're planning on hauling a lot of passengers and cargo often, the Pilot would be more spacious. If you need to carry a lot of stuff, but not a lot of people, the 4Runner might suit your needs better.

Mechanicals

The Honda Pilot and the Toyota 4Runner both only have one engine available. The sole engine in the Pilot is a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. It's pretty good on gas for an SUV this size, returning 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway.

The only engine you can get in the 4Runner is Toyota's 4.0-liter V6 that produces 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque. That makes it pretty evenly matched with the Honda in terms of performance. However, the Pilot has the 4Runner beat in efficiency, because the 4Runner returns mediocre fuel economy at 17 mpg city/22 mpg hwy.

One of the biggest differences between the Pilot and the 4Runner is off-road capability. The Pilot is available with all-wheel-drive, which is a nice option for adding versatility with better traction on wet or snowy roads. The Toyota 4Runner, however, offers either part-time or full-time 4-wheel drive.

Either of those systems combined with its rugged body-on-frame construction makes it a beast just about anywhere you can go with four wheels. As you work your way up the trims, you can option the 4Runner with more off-road goodies like upgraded off-road suspension, skid plates, all-terrain suspension and more.

If you want good fuel economy from a fairly big crossover, then you'll like the V6 in the Honda Pilot. If you're planning on spending as much time off the pavement as on it, then the 4Runner is a clear choice.

Features and Technology

When you dig into the features and technology available in these SUVs, it becomes clear where their priorities lie. The Touring and Elite Trims come standard with the sophisticated Honda Sensing safety tech suite, which includes collision-mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. It's available as an option on the lower and mid-range trims.

While Toyota has a similar safety tech suite called Toyota Safety Sense, it isn't available at all on any trim of the 2018 4Runner. A few years ago, this wouldn't have been a big deal, but features like these are quickly becoming more and more common on SUVs in this class. The fact that you can spend well over $40,000 on a new 4Runner and still not get those technology features as an option makes it less competitive with SUVs like the Pilot when looking at safety.

That doesn't mean the 4Runner can't be optioned to be a nice SUV. It's available with leather seats, Bluetooth, navigation and premium audio. However, all of those features and more are also available in the Pilot. Another thing the Pilot has that the 4Runner doesn't is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are really nice connectivity features for tech-minded drivers.

When it comes to technology and creature comforts, the Pilot pretty easily beats the 4Runner. It just goes to show that one is more of a family vehicle and the other is more of an off-roader.

Pricing

The Pilot might not be able to beat the 4Runner on an off-road course, but it can beat it on price. The Honda starts at $30,900, and the Toyota has a starting MSRP of $34,810. It's a little hard to compare pricing on these two SUVs as you work your way up the trims. As you go up the family tree for the Pilot, you get more interior and technology features. The same is true for the 4Runner, but to a lesser degree. With the 4Runner, there are multiple TRD trims that add off-roading improvements, like a locking rear differential and multi-terrain select.

The highest trim of the 4Runner is the Limited model, which starts at $43,125. The nicest Pilot you can get is the Pilot Elite, which starts all the way up at $47,470, but includes standard AWD, a panoramic roof and heated, second-row bucket seats.

Like in most aspects of comparing these SUVs, which one is a better value depends on what you prioritize more: efficiency and technology or off-road capability.

Conclusion

For most drivers, the Honda Pilot is a better buy than the Toyota 4Runner. The drivers the 4Runner would be better suited for are serious off-road enthusiasts who also need a 3-row SUV. If you're in that specific segment of drivers, then the 2018 Toyota 4Runner is perfect for you. However, if you're like most SUV shoppers who want a safe, affordable SUV with a lot of options, the latest technology and modern styling, then the 2018 Honda Pilot is an easy recommendation.

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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 Toyota 4Runner vs. 2018 Honda Pilot: Which Is Better? - Autotrader