Around since 2008, when it received a heavily redesigned body and a new V-6 engine, the second-generation of the Honda Pilot will be retired at the end of the 2015 model year. Replacing it will be a completely restyled version that Honda described as a vehicle built to “raise the stakes in the mainstream three-row SUV segment with new technology, advanced safety, class-leading fuel economy and enhanced family utility and versatility.” With the 2015 Chicago Auto already upon us, the 2016 Pilot is here to showcase its brand-new design language with CR-V-inspired cues, an athletic waistline, a sloping roofline, and flared wheel arches.
Of course, the new Pilot is not just about a redesigned shell. Honda also focused on moving the interior closer to the premium segment, and dropped in a revised version of the 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Naturally, the Japanese automaker promises more power and enhanced fuel economy. Also new is a six-speed automatic transmission, as well as a Honda-first, nine-speed autobox, obviously similar to the one featured in the Acura TLX and MDX. Keep reading to find out more about that.
Updated 08/21/2015: The 2016 Honda Pilot has been awarded with a Top Safety Pick+ rating from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Honda wasn’t kidding when it said the new Pilot will bring a “dramatic shift in design.” After sporting boxy and dull exterior styling for more than a decade, the Pilot finally received a more attractive appearance that better integrates it with other Honda SUVs and crossovers. Obviously inspired by the 2015 CR-V’s design, the 2016 Pilot is sleeker, sportier and more muscular than its predecessor, while also boasting a more premium aspect.
The redesigned front end is very similar to the CR-V’s, although both the headlamps and the grille have unique features of their own. The lights lack the lower LED accents seen on its smaller brother, and the grille consists of three horizontal chrome slats, with the upper blade extending into the headlamps. Similarities with the CR-V continue, but only as far as the overall shape is concerned, as everything from the turn signals and side inlets to the center-mounted air dam make the Pilot stand out among other Hondas.
The new design approach continues around back, where the new SUV looks nothing like its predecessors. What’s more, there’s not even a hint of CR-V, which suggest the rear fascia was penned on a clean sheet of paper. Much like the front end, the rear looks clean and fresh. The sloping roof and the slanted tailgate add a touch of sportiness, while the revised taillights bring the Pilot into the 21st century. The apron’s design is also clean and simple compared to the CR-V’s.
Besides a new design, the 2016 Pilot also received a host of premium features, such as LED headlamps with auto high beam and optional LED DRLs and taillights. Customers can also opt for 20-inch wheels sporting a stylish five-spoke layout and, for the first time ever on the Pilot, a panoramic roof.
Once inside, customers will be greeted by an overhauled cabin that also borrows certain elements from the CR-V. The dashboard feels more modern and less cheap. Even though there’s still a lot of rock-solid plastic in front of the driver and passenger, the dashboard’s new design makes things seem a bit more premium. A digital instrument cluster replaces the former unit, while the center stack has been reconfigured into a cleaner and more user-friendly layout. The A/C vents, door panels and the center console are new, andthe slightly reshaped steering wheel received new controls.
Although Honda’s PR talk mentions the premium quality of the new Pilot, there aren’t many standard features offered, aside from soft-touch materials and LED map lighting. Amenities such as heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats are only available at extra cost. Another new option, but reserved for upper-trim models, is the possibility of replacing the second-row seat with two captain’s chairs for enhanced comfort and easy access between the second and third rows. The second-row, three-person, 60/40 split seat for 8-passenger seating capacity remains standard.
Tech-wise, the new Pilot received Honda’s latest, including an 8-inch touchscreen powered by an Android-based operating system. A new embedded Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation with improved graphics and capabilities, and a 9-inch rear entertainment system with DVD and Blu-Ray can be added from the options list.
The 2016 Pilot boasts a larger cargo area and easier third-row entry and exit, courtesy of a one-touch, walk-in second-row seat that slides and tilts at the touch of a button. The center console has been enhanced as well, now being able to accommodate a full-size iPad or large purse in its cavernous storage compartment.
As I suspected, the third-generation Pilot continues with Honda’s tried-and-true, 3.5-liter V-6. However, the unit benefits from numerous upgrades, including the cylinder deactivation technology and stop/start ignition that are in the Accord and Acura MDX. There’s big news in the transmission department as well, where Honda replaced the Pilot’s five-speed automatic with a six-speed autobox. What’s more, the SUV can be had with an optional nine-speed auto for the first time in a Honda. Naturally, customers can still choose between front- and all-wheel-drive configuration.
Technical specs are still a mystery, but Honda claims the upgraded six-banger will deliver “more refined, powerful and fuel-efficient performance than ever before.” I expect output to have increased beyond the second-gen’s 250 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque, which should bring a noticeable increase in performance given the fact that the new Pilot is also 300 pounds lighter than the model it replaces.
Honda also anticipated top safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Redesigned for the 2014 model year, the new Toyota Highlander also provides seating for up to eight, although its third-row seat isn’t as roomy as the current Pilot’s. On the other hand, the Highlander boasts numerous updates in the technology department and a refined interior. The Highlander has received much praise for its quiet and comfortable ride and strong V-6 engine.
With 270 ponies and 248 pound-feet at its disposal, the V-6 has more horsepower than the Pilot’s, although Honda’s unit provides slightly more torque. The entry-level models, on the other hand, are motivated by a 2.7-liter, four-cylinder mill rated at 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Both engines mate to a six-speed automatic. As for fuel economy, the four-banger returns 20 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, while the V-6 boasts 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. Pricing starts from $29,415 and goes into $40,000 territory with the V-6 engine and pricy options.
Updated for 2013 but around since 2008, the Traverse checks all of the right boxes for a mid-size SUV, and remains an excellent choice for customers who need seating for up to eight and plenty of cargo room. The Traverse’s ride is quiet and comfortable on the highway, while the suspension delivers good maneuverability for such a large crossover. With up to 70.3 cubic feet of space behind the second row, the Traverse is also one of the roomiest vehicles in its segment.
Power comes from GM’s venerable 3.6-liter, V-6 LLT engine, also available in the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. In the Traverse, the mill produces 281 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque, making the Bowtie-badged SUV more powerful than both the Pilot and the Highlander. EPA fuel economy estimates are 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway for front-wheel-drive models, and 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway with all-wheel drive. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission. The 2015 Traverse retails from $30,995.
If you’re among those that were hoping Honda would use the Pilot’s 2015 redesign to finally ditch the boxy styling, then it’s time to celebrate the coming of a sleeker, sportier SUV. What’s more, it seems the SUV packs more of everything, being larger (yet lighter), roomier, and more powerful, while also featuring a more upscale interior, enhanced fuel economy, and several premium options previously not available. Arguably the biggest news is the addition of the nine-speed automatic, which makes the Pilot the first Honda model with nine cogs. The unit will likely spread to other Honda models by the end of 2015. I wish the SUV would’ve come with more premium features as standard, but, other than that, the 2016 Pilot is as promising as it gets.
- Redesigned, sportier exterior
- Improved interior features
- New technology and safety features
- Increased performance and fuel efficiency
- Optional nine-speed automatic
- Needs more premium standard features
- Strong competition
Updated 05/20/2015: Honda revealed prices for the 2016 Honda Pilot which will be put on sale later in June. Prices will range from $29,995 for the base LX version and up to $46,420 for the Pilot Elite version equipped with the w/ Navi and Rear Entertainment Systems.
Gallery Honda Pilot
The all-new 2016 Honda Pilot SUV made its global premiere today at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. Reengineered and redesigned in America, the 2016 Honda Pilot delivers more family-friendly utility, more advanced technology and more premium attributes and amenities than ever before, boasting class-leading safety features, fuel efficiency and confident driving dynamics in a thoroughly modern, stylish and sophisticated new package.
The all-new 2016 Pilot, launching at Honda dealerships nationwide this summer, is the third generation of Honda’s three-row midsize SUV to be designed, developed and manufactured in America. Reinforcing 2015 as the “Year of Honda,” Pilot further strengthens Honda’s SUV/CUV triple threat by joining the exceptionally well received 2015 CR-V (2015 Motor Trend SUV of the Year) and greatly anticipated new 2016 HR-V.
“With looks that command attention and the powerful presence of true functionality, the 2016 Pilot sets a new benchmark in the midsize SUV class with an unmatched combination of sophistication and utility,” said Jeff Conrad, Honda Division senior vice president and general manager. “This means the all-new Pilot will comfort, entertain and assist active families in all aspects of their lives, whether it’s an evening out for two, a road trip adventure for all or just the chores of everyday life.”
Premium Style and Features
The all-new design of the 2016 Pilot sports a modern, sleek, yet commanding and muscular form incorporating new premium features, including optional brighter and more efficient LED projector headlights with auto high beam technology, available signature LED daytime running lights and taillights, plus available 20-inch wheels and a first-ever panoramic roof option. The premium quality of the new Pilot carries over to the interior, where designers have applied high-quality, soft-touch materials throughout the cabin and added thoughtful details such as LED map lighting.
Additional high-end amenities include available heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats. For the first time, upper-trim Pilot models will have available two second-row captain’s chairs, providing for easy walk through between the second and third rows, in addition to the standard second-row three-person 60/40 split seat for 8-passenger seating capacity.
The new Pilot delivers the connectivity and power access that the modern family demands, including up to five USB ports, four that provide better recharging with 2.5-amp output, to charge iPads or smartphones while in use. Additional ports and plugs include an auxiliary jack for nearly any audio player, an HDMI port for a gaming console, two headphone jacks, two 12-volt power outlets and a 115-volt outlet to power just about anything.
The new Pilot also incorporates Honda’s latest thinking for advanced, family-friendly technology, including an upsized 8-inch capacitive touchscreen Display Audio telematics interface powered by a new Android-based operating system and more powerful processor, along with an available all-new embedded Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™. The new navigation system features improved graphics and new capabilities, including 3D renderings of terrain, buildings and road signs, improved lane guidance, live search function, 911 emergency services and more.
The Pilot’s Display Audio system enables simplified smartphone connectivity making for easier access to all the features and connectivity options of the HondaLink™ connected-car system. A 9-inch rear entertainment system with DVD and new Blu-Ray disc™ capability is available.
The new Pilot builds on its reputation for best-in-class interior space, versatility and utility with 3.5 inches of added overall vehicle length, enabling a larger cargo area that can hold an 82-quart cooler without compromising third-row seating capability, a segment-exclusive feature. Third-row entry and exit is made even easier and more intuitive courtesy of an available one-touch walk-in second-row seat that slides and tilts to its forward-most position at the touch of a button. As compared with the current Pilot, the width of the lower portion of the third-row entryway has been increased by 2.5 inches with 1-inch lower step-over height.
The Pilot’s new center console features a cavernous storage compartment capable of accommodating items as large as a full-size iPad or large purse. And with its seamless cover in the closed position, the console provides a convenient, non-slip surface for items that the driver or front passenger may need close at hand.
Earth Dreams Technology™ Powertrain
The 2016 Pilot delivers more refined, powerful and fuel-efficient performance than ever before courtesy of its new 3.5-liter, direct-injected i-VTEC® V-6 engine with Variable Cylinder Management™ (VCM™) cylinder deactivation technology. For improved fuel efficiency, the Pilot will include available Idle Stop technology that shuts off the engine when the vehicle is stopped, instantly and smoothly restarting the engine when the driver lifts their foot off the brake pedal. The new engine is mated to one of two advanced new transmissions – a Pilot-first 6-speed automatic transmission, or on upper trims, a Honda-first 9-speed automatic transmission – both delivering notably refined, responsive and fuel-efficient performance. The new Pilot will be available in front-wheel and all-wheel-drive configurations and will feature a completely new Honda all-wheel-drive system that delivers even more confident, efficient and dynamic all-weather performance.
The new Pilot is almost 300 pounds lighter than the outgoing model; its more rigid, tightly sealed yet lighter body in combination with new, efficient powertrains, a new all-wheel-drive system and class-leading aerodynamics result in class-leading dynamic performance and fuel efficiency along with a new level of cabin quietness befitting its status as a premium family SUV.
Advanced Safety Performance
In keeping with Honda’s commitment to safety, the new Pilot will feature the most comprehensive set of advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies ever offered on a Honda vehicle. Together these technologies make up Honda Sensing™, a suite of technologies designed to expand the driver’s situational awareness while sensing and responding to potential road hazards, including other vehicles, road obstacles and even pedestrians, mitigating the possibility or severity of a collision. It includes Honda’s popular LaneWatch™ display, Blind Spot Indicators, a standard Multi-Angle Rear View Camera, and available Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control and a Honda-first Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) system.
The new Pilot is expected to deliver the highest safety ratings in its class and targets a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a TOP SAFETY PICK+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), including a GOOD rating in all crash modes. The new Pilot incorporates Honda’s next-generation Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure, designed to more efficiently absorb and disperse the energy from a frontal collision, along with a new ultra-high-strength door ring designed to help better protect occupants. The 2016 Pilot also incorporates an all-new 3-bone platform while also utilizing high and ultra-high strength body materials, which together reduce noise, vibration and harness (NVH), improve handling, increase rigidity and reduce weight.
Standard safety and driver-assistive features include four-channel anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist and Hill Start Assist; Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSA®) with Traction Control; an Expanded View Driver’s Mirror; dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags, driver and front passenger SmartVent™ side airbags and side-curtain airbags for all outboard seating positions; and a new Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) with real-time display of individual tire pressures.
All-American Honda Pilot
All three generations of the Honda Pilot have been designed and developed in America by Honda R&D Americas, Inc. at its Los Angeles design studio and Raymond, Ohio, vehicle development center. The Pilot and its engine are manufactured at Honda’s Lincoln, Alabama auto plant. In 2014, nearly 98 percent of all Honda-brand vehicles were produced in North America.
The Pilot joins the Honda CR-V – 2015 Motor Trend SUV of the Year and America’s best-selling SUV for eight of the past 11 years – the popular Odyssey minivan and the dynamic new HR-V crossover, launching this spring, in Honda’s growing lineup of innovative light truck offerings. An all-new Honda Ridgeline pickup will join the Honda lineup within the next two years. All Honda light truck models are produced in North America using domestic and globally sourced parts.