Honda’s Pilot shows the way among family friendly crossover SUVs

The Honda Pilot is redesigned for 2016 and has received many upgrades both inside and out. It receivd a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

2016 Honda Pilot

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The Pilot is the big brother to the CR-V and HR-V in Honda‘s family of crossover SUVs and also is one of the top choices in the segment when it comes to those seeking reliable family friendly transportation in an attractive package.

In fact, U.S. News & World Report ranks the 2016 Pilot No. 1 in Affordable Midsize SUVs, No. 1 in Affordable SUVs with 3 rows, and No. 1 in Affordable Crossover SUVs.

Pretty much a clean sweep for the Japanese automaker that first brought its passenger cars to the U.S. market back in 1970.

Entering its third generation with the 2016 redesign, the Pilot was developed at Honda facilities in Los Angeles and Ohio and is manufactured exclusively at its Alabama plant.

Don’t let the word “affordable” fool you. Sometimes “affordable” is a euphemism for “cheap,” but not when it comes to the Pilot. The top-of-the-line Elite trim even rivals some entry-level luxury SUVs but without their higher price tag.

Standard equipment on the Pilot Elite includes such niceties as a driver’s seat with two-position memory, heated and ventilated front seats, second-row captain’s chairs (which reduces seating capacity from eight to seven passengers), a leather-trimmed interior, navigation with voice recognition, and safety features like lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring system with cross-traffic monitor.

That’s in addition to the usual run of features like traction control, antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution, rear view camera with dynamic guidelines, push-button start, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, Bluetooth hands-free phone and streaming audio, and integrated glass antenna also standard in the other trims (LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring).

The Elite model comes with all-wheel drive, 20-inch wheels, and a Blue Ray rear-seat entertainment system as standard as well.

The quality of materials in the cabin are high grade providing lots of soft-touch surfaces instead of the hard plastic of earlier models, and the interior is quiet with little, if any, noticeable wind or road noise. This is a vehicle worthy of your consideration even if you are shopping the Pilot’s upscale cousin, the Acura MDX.

The Pilot’s cabin also is nice and roomy. Even riders in the third row seats will find a good amount of room for their legs, and getting back there is especially easy on vehicles with captain’s chairs in the second row. The back seats easily flip down to provide more cargo space, though the area behind the third row can handle quite a bit.

If there is a complaint it is that to manually change some audio settings on the touchscreen display, like the volume, you have to press the designated spot on the flat display. Why on why designers resist the very functional knobs for changing volumes or radio stations remains a mystery.

Powering the Pilot is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters in Elite and Touring trims and a six-speed automatic in the other trims.

That engine puts out 280 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 262 pound-feet of torque at 4700, which is a 30 horsepower boost over its predecessor. That’s enough oomph for the kind of situation you likely will find yourself in with this genre. It’s not a race car, but it’s not the lumbering slug you might expect from a vehicle of its size.

All Pilot models get Honda’s Eco Assist system that helps boost EPA mileage ratings to 19 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway in LX, EX, and EX-L 2WD models and 18/26 for LX, EX, and EX-L models with AWD.

Elite and Touring trims also get the Idle Stop system that shuts down the engine when the brake is fully depressed and starts up immediately when the brake is released and the accelerator depressed. (That can be an annoying feature, but you can turn it off with the push of a button on the console.) The 2WD Touring mileage figures are 20/27 while AWD Touring and Elite models check in at 19/26.

Pricing for the Pilot runs from $30,875 (including the $880 destination and delivery charge) for 2WD LX models to $47,300 for the top-of-the-line AWD Elite.

For a look at the Honda Pilot and more details, check out the accompanying slide show.

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