Both the Honda Pilot and the Volkswagen Atlas offer tons of space, plenty of power, and amenities for all your passengers. Which is better?
- The Honda Pilot shares its underpinnings with the Honda Passport and the Honda Ridgeline.
- The Volkswagen Atlas an American-built German SUV with space for seven passengers.
2021 Honda Pilot
Base Price: $33,360 / Read our 2021 Honda Pilot Review
What we like: Spacious interior with a usable third row; standard V6 engine; strong resale value.
What we would change: Add an off-road-themed variant; add a sport-themed version.
Overview: The Honda Pilot is a well-rounded, family-friendly 3-row SUVs, one with several strengths and few weaknesses. The sole powertrain is a 3.5-liter V6 making 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque paired with a 9-speed automatic. The top two trims come standard with AWD, which is a $2,000 option elsewhere. With all-wheel drive, this powertrain returns 22 mpg combined; the estimate is 23 mpg with front-wheel-drive. This V6 is adequately powerful and tows up to 5,000 pounds (with AWD). The Pilot is comfortable and polished on the road but not particularly sporty, although the AWD system includes torque vectoring across the rear axle to enhance agility. A third-row seat with seatbelts for three is standard, while in the middle row, there’s a 3-passenger bench or captain’s chairs, depending on trim level. Maximum cargo space is 82.1–83.9 cubic feet, and there’s 16.5 cubic feet behind the third row.
What’s new for 2021: All Pilots now use a 9-speed automatic transmission, replacing the 6-speed unit previously found in sub-Touring trim levels, resulting in a slight fuel-economy increase for those models. Elsewhere, the EX-L w/Navi and Rear Seat Entertainment is dropped, while a new SE trim (with less equipment) is added. The base LX adds dual-zone climate control.
Features and technology: The 2021 Honda Pilot is sold in LX, EX, EX-L, SE, Touring, Elite, and Black Edition trim levels. Forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control are standard on all trims. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are included on all but the base LX. Besides those two safety features, the EX also brings a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Leather seating is the big add-on with the EX-L, including a power liftgate, second-row sunshades, and an acoustic windshield. The SE adds wireless smartphone charging, 20-inch wheels, and the CabinTalk in-car PA system. The Touring is the first trim where captain’s chairs can be had, along with navigation, a rear-seat entertainment system, a Wi-Fi hotspot, upgraded audio, and heating for the second-row seats. The top two trims include all-wheel drive, ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.
What does the future hold: The Pilot is mechanically related to the two-row Passport SUV and the Ridgeline pickup, the latter of which got new, more rugged front-end styling for 2021 that could migrate to the Pilot and Passport as well. See 2021 Honda Pilot models for sale near you.
2021 Volkswagen Atlas
Base Price: $31,545 / Read our 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Review
What we like: Plenty of interior space; updated looks; option of FWD or AWD; built in Tennessee.
What we would change: Make it more fuel-efficient.
Overview: The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas is a large, midsize SUV with three rows of seats and seating for as many as seven passengers. It has tons of interior space and comes in AWD and FWD versions. You can also choose either a 235-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine or a naturally aspirated V6. Be warned; you will spend on gas with either variant.
What’s new for 2021: For 2021, the VW has refreshed the Atlas with new front and rear styling that adds almost three inches to its overall length. Under the skin, a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine is now available for the first time in AWD models. The Atlas’ top trim levels — the SEL Premium, for example — can now be ordered with the 4-cylinder, which isn’t quite as powerful as the V6 but offers better fuel economy. Moreover, VW’s driver-assistance features have been refined, and the latest in-car telematics system provides improved response. Onboard Wi-Fi is available on all 2021 VW Atlas models, while a larger 8-inch touchscreen is standard on all but the base model.
Features and technology: The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas comes in three trims, the S, SE, and SEL. The base model S gets the 4-cylinder engine as standard and comes with cruise control and a safety suite with automatic emergency braking. Step up to the SE, and you get optional access to the V6 engine and the SE with Technology model, which adds adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. The SEL comes in a couple of variants, including the SEL R-Line. That version gets 12-inch wheels and R-line body trim. At the SEL trim, you get access to VW’s stellar digital cockpit feature that shows up in some of Volkswagen’s sister brands (Audi). At the Atlas SE level, you can add the captain’s chairs for the back seat, as well. All versions get optional AWD. The Atlas has a tow rating (when equipped with the tow package) of 5,000 pounds. Otherwise, it tows only 2,000 pounds.
What does the future hold: As SUVs boom, the Atlas will likely continue to stick around and get refreshes. See 2021 Volkswagen Atlas models for sale near you
Pilot vs. Atlas: Strengths comparison
Honda Pilot Benefits: Seats up to eight; adult-sized third row; lower-priced top trims; enviable reliability record.
Volkswagen Atlas Benefits: Variety of engines and tons of interior space.
2021 Volkswagen Atlas vs. 2021 Honda Pilot: Which is better?
The Honda Pilot has long been a top choice in this class for good reason. It offers tons of reliability and a solid resale. The Atlas, on the other hand, offers a good variety of engines and features. In this comparison, we’d opt for the Pilot for its pricing and ample interior space for both passengers and cargo. Find 2021 Honda Pilot models for sale or Find a 2021 Volkswagen Atlas for sale
|Popular Powertrains||2021 Honda Pilot||2021 Volkswagen Atlas|
|Engine||3.5-liter V6||2.0-liter turbo I4|
|Horsepower||280 hp @ 6,000 rpm||235 hp @ 4,500 rpm|
|Torque||262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm||258 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm|
|Transmission||9-spd automatic||8-spd automatic|
|Fuel Economy||23 mpg (20 city/27 hwy)||22 mpg (21 city/24 hwy)|
|Also Available||AWD||3.6-liter V6; AWD|
|Warranty||3 years/36,000 miles||3 years/36,000 miles|
|Powertrain Warranty||5 years/60,000 miles||5 years/60,000 miles|
|NHTSA Overall Safety||5 stars||5 stars|
|Max Seating Capacity||8||7|
|Wheelbase||111.0 inches||117.3 inches|
|Overall Length||196.5 inches||198.3 inches|
|Width||78.6 inches||78.3 inches|
|Height||70.6 inches||70.0 inches|
|Turning Diameter||39.4 feet||38.1 feet|
|Headroom, Front||40.1 inches||41.3 inches|
|Headroom, 2nd row||40.2 inches||40.4 inches|
|Headroom, 3rd row||38.9 inches||38.3 inches|
|Legroom, Front||40.9 inches||41.5 inches|
|Legroom, 2nd row||38.4 inches||37. 6 inches|
|Legroom, 3rd row||31.9 inches||33.7 inches|
|Shoulder Room, Front||62.0 inches||61.5 inches|
|Shoulder Room, 2nd row||62.0 inches||60.8 inches|
|Shoulder Room, 3rd row||57.6 inches||54.9 inches|
|EPA Passenger Volume||152.9 cubic feet||174.3 cubic feet|
|EPA Cargo Volume||83.9 cubic feet||96.8 cubic feet|