A spacious interior, great driving dynamics and a number of available safety features make the redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot a compelling entry within the midsize SUV segment.
The 2016 Honda Pilot is a midsize SUV that seats eight, or seven when equipped with second-row captain’s chairs. A 3.5-liter V6 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard, and buyers have the choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The Honda Pilot is fully redesigned for 2016 and comes in LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite trims.
If you liked the outgoing Pilot’s boxy profile the 2016 Honda Pilot might be a bit of letdown. The new model has a slippery exterior design that’s much less distinct, which causes it to blend in more with other three-row crossovers. Still, the last generation had not been redesigned since 2009, and this new Pilot is a much more modern looking vehicle that will probably appeal to a wide range of buyers.
The 2016 Pilot greets you with a three-bar grille that’s finished in chrome. Honda’s three-row SUV is now longer and lower than the outgoing model.
An accent line along the side connects the wheel arches, while a sizeable liftgate and wide fenders are visible from the rear.
Rear privacy glass and 18-inch wheels are standard, while higher trims bring in features like a power liftgate, a panoramic roof, fog lights, LED headlights, heated sideview mirrors and 20-inch wheels.
The 2016 Pilot seats eight, or seven if you opt for the Elite model that comes with second-row captain’s chairs. Tri-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats and heated second-row seats are available on higher trims.
The materials used in our test Pilot Elite were upscale for the class, with plenty of soft-touch surfaces and a piano black trim that stretches across the dash. Hard plastics are used in some areas that aren’t likely to be key touch points, but they are nicely textured and nearly identical in appearance to the padded surfaces that are used elsewhere.
Finding a comfortable driving position was easy in our test Honda Pilot, and outward visibility seemed good in all directions during our week of driving. The second-row captain’s chairs also slide and recline to maximize comfort, though they’re mounted a bit low for taller passengers. A button on the side of the captain’s chairs prompts them to tilt and slide forward, providing easy access to the third row. That third row isn’t a complete penalty box for adult passengers, either. Like the second row, a low seat height may make it difficult for taller passengers to stay comfortable on a long trip, but it’s perfectly acceptable for shorter trips around town.
You’ll find plenty of storage inside the 2016 Pilot, including a large center console, 14 cup holders and storage trays with a rubbery, non-slip surface to keep personal items in place. The new Pilot has 18.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, which expands easily to 55.9 cubic feet by pulling the straps on the back of the 60/40 split-folding third-row seat. Folding the second and third rows opens up a competitive 109 cubic feet of cargo space, and the Pilot also features a hidden underfloor compartment that can keep cargo out of site.
The 2016 Honda Pilot comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 280 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard in LX, EX and EX-L trims, while Touring and Elite models get a nine-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and a start-stop system to save fuel. Front-wheel drive is standard and an all-wheel drive system is available.
Honda’s Intelligent Traction Management system is standard, and offers Normal and Snow drive modes on front-wheel drive models. Opting for all-wheel drive adds a more robust version of the system that features Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand drive modes.
The EPA reports that the base Honda Pilot gets 19/27 mpg city/highway. Opting for a higher trim with the nine-speed automatic results in slightly better ratings of 20/27 mpg. All-wheel drive models get 18/26 mpg and 19/26 mpg with the six- and nine-speed automatic transmissions, respectively.
Despite its larger footprint, the 2016 Pilot feels pretty nimble for a three-row SUV. It’s one of the more fun-to-drive models in the segment, and stacks up favorably against competitors like the Mazda CX-9 and Nissan Pathfinder. The Pilot remains fairly planted through turns and offers a controlled ride that gives it a solid, composed feel in most driving situations.
The V6 engine provides plenty of power too, though our test model’s nine-speed automatic transmission had a tendency to hesitate between gear changes if more power was requested, particularly at highway speeds. This is a minor complaint that would typically surface when you’ve been cruising along, but suddenly need to pass or merge. Putting the Pilot in Sport mode will cause the transmission to hold onto each gear longer, which rectifies the issue.
The redesigned Honda Pilot comes standard with Bluetooth, a USB port and a seven-speaker audio system. Available features include keyless access with push-button start, a rear-seat entertainment system, two upgraded audio systems, the HondaLink infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen, navigation, hands-free text messaging, satellite radio, smartphone app integration for Pandora and additional USB ports in the first and second rows.
Our test Honda Pilot Elite came with just about every bell and whistle available, including HondaLink with navigation and a rear-seat entertainment system that included wireless headphones.
That entertainment system also allows for easy access to a household outlet, an HDMI input and other audio and video connections that are located on the back of the center console.
The 8-inch touch screen operates much like a tablet, letting you tap, swipe and pinch to access a wide range of functions. There are no physical buttons or knobs, though it’s relatively easy to make selections using the audio controls on the steering wheel. Honda took a more traditional approach with the climate controls, which are situated below the touch screen and straightforward to use.
The 2016 Honda Pilot comes standard with anti-lock brakes, a suite of air bags, electronic stability control and a rearview camera. EX, EX-L and Touring models come with Honda LaneWatch, which features a camera mounted under the passenger side mirror to show you what’s on the right side of the vehicle. A blind spot monitoring system replaces Honda LaneWatch on the Pilot Elite.
A number of additional driver assistance features are available as part of the Honda Sensing package, which is optional on EX and EX-L models and standard on Touring and Elite trims.
These include forward collision warning, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and a collision mitigation braking system.
The base Pilot LX starts as $29,995 and carries standard features that are competitive within the class. It’s also priced competitively, undercutting the base prices of competing models like the Chevrolet Traverse and Ford Explorer.
Our top-of-the-line Pilot Elite added thousands of dollars in available equipment to the bottom line, including a suite of driver assistance features, navigation, all-wheel drive and a rear-seat entertainment system. Choose a fully loaded model like our test Pilot and you can expect to pay $46,420, which isn’t out of line for the class, but it’s also within striking distance of what you would pay for a 2016 Acura MDX.
The sweet spot for many buyers may be the midlevel EX and EX-L trims, which bring in Honda LaneWatch, an infotainment system and the available Honda Sensing package. The Honda Pilot EX starts at $32,430. Honda Sensing is a $1,000 option on EX and EX-L models, while all-wheel drive adds $1,800 to the bottom line.
The 2016 Pilot offers versatile seating, plenty of cargo space and the availability of numerous safety features across most trim levels. Those attributes may be increasingly common in the three-row SUV segment, but few competitors are also capable of bundling these qualities with an enjoyable driving experience. As a result, the redesigned Honda Pilot stands out as the midsize SUV that delivers plenty of utility and a remarkably carlike driving experience.