2016 Honda Pilot
The 9-speed automatic might not be for everyone
Date Posted: October 15, 2015
By Zack Spencer
The Honda Pilot has been a favourite of families wanting three rows of seats to move around with comfort and ease. For 2016 Honda comes to market with a stylish new crossover with features similar to the Acura MDX cousin.
Honda has made some major updates to its large, three-row crossover vehicle, the Pilot. Based on the same platform as the luxury Acura MDX, this new model is 135kg lighter than the last model yet it is 9cm longer. By making a larger and lighter vehicle benefits many aspects of the Pilot, from improved fuel economy, added interior space and a new, more dynamic design.
Many three-row crossovers (SUVs) have room for the passengers but when the third row of seats is being utilized, the cargo space at the back is usually restricted. The Pilot, even when all the seats are in use, has a very useful cargo area with a removable floor panel, allowing a deep tray to store even more. When the last row of seats are stored, the large cabin holds a massive amount.
In addition, the rear doors are now much larger, providing a better opening for easier access to the second and third row. The $45,000 EX-L trim has a feature borrowed from the Acura MDX that slides the second row captains chairs forward with the touch of a single button.
The front seats look out at a much nicer dash, covered in soft-touch materials and focused on a high-resolution screen in the centre. Unlike other Honda or Acura products that use two screens, this single screen is simpler to use and looks fantastic thanks to bright and easy to read graphics. The problem is that Honda has moved to a touch screen to alter the volume, gone is a volume knob. It might seem petty but having no knob is very frustrating.
It is obvious that Honda has packaged this 2016 Pilot to get buyers to stretch for the $45,000 EX-L model. This includes the features many Canadian families really want, like a power rear tailgate, front and rear park assist, satellite radio, leather interior and heated rear seats.
The same is true on the exterior, the base $35,490 does not come with the LED marker lights, these are kept for the $41,490 EX trim. LED projector headlamps are offered but only on the top $50,490 Touring trim, which also gets 20-inch wheels compared to 18-inch wheels on all the other trim levels.
Powering the Pilot is a 3.5L V6 engine with 280hp but this engine has the ability to switch off some of the cylinders when driving at steady speeds to help improve fuel economy. On top of this, Honda equips the top Touring model with a 9-speed automatic transmission, all other trim levels get a 6-speed unit. Fuel economy is rated at 9.3L/100km on the highway with both transmissions but in the city the 9-speed gets 12.4L and the 6-speed 13L/100kms.
The way the 9-speed feels is very different. The first gear is very short and the programming of the computer is designed for smooth shifts. Unfortunately when driving in lower gears and at slow speeds the 9-speed feels laggy and sometimes jerky. At higher speeds everything becomes smooth and the goodness of the new platform and Honda’s attention to handling shines through. Let’s hope that Honda can reprogram this new 9-speed but for now the less expensive 6-speed might be the way to go. On top of this, the 9-speed shifter in the centre of the console is a push-button unit that takes up the same space as a conventional shifter, which doesn’t make sense, one would think the advantage of a push button unit is it frees up room inside the car.
There are some advancements that are noteworthy and they centre around safety. Honda has developed a full suite of safety features from lane departure warning to foreword collision prevention, with auto stop technology, and the Pilot can even steer the car back into the lane when the driver is inattentive. I never found the system too overwhelming; in fact it is just the right amount of safety tech without feeling like you are being nannied. There is good news around pricing for these advanced safety features, the base LX model can be equipped with what Honda calls “Honda Sensing” for $39,490.
Honda has done a great job of updating the larger exterior with a design that is in keeping with the rest of the Honda family. It can be equipped with very advanced technology, some of it welcome, some of it frustrating. The lack of radio knob is a bummer and the 9-speed automatic isn’t an improvement. As mentioned, Honda really wants buyers to stretch for he EX-L for about $45,00 and for that money, the Pilot is very well equipped, with no need to spring for the top Touring model.
Power: 3.5L V6 with 280hp
Economy: 12.4L/9.3L/100km (city/highway)
Sticker price: $35,490-$50,490
the 9-speed feels laggy and sometimes jerky