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2006 Honda Pilot EX-L NAVI Road Test

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In a Hemisphere dominated by the availability of SUVs and a declining demand, consumers looking into this category have an impressively vast palette of choices before them. As time goes by and the price of the barrel of oil climbs above $70 USD, those manufacturers that are still invested in SUVs are more than ever feeling the crunch of the waning sales.

Whereas some car builders live off the trucks, Honda, doing very well as it was, waited until 2003 to reveal to the World their largest ever passenger vehicle, the Pilot. This year, Honda deemed it necessary to give the three year-old tuck a facelift to keep it fresh in the face of very stiff competition. Marketed as a powerful and adventurous vehicle, the Pilot has proven to be more of the potent family hauler for those that cringe at the thought of a minivan.

A basic LX trimmed Pilot starts at $39,400. At the top of the price range is the EX-L with Navigation and it retails for $47,300. This is the one I have tested.

Styling


The exterior design of the Pilot is very much like every other Honda product save for the soon to be departed S2000. It is purposefully plain and clean looking. Handsome as it may be in its simplicity, it is difficult to mask the fact that it shares much of its underpinnings with the [link artid="31491"]Odyssey[/link] minivan. Its mildly flared fenders and its gentleman-like stance somewhat betray the other capable and robust vehicle.

For 2006, the Pilot has been given a new front grill and headlights that create a family bond between it and the Ridgeline pickup. The new sharper lines make the truck out to be boxier than it previously was. Other changes include new taillights and alloy wheels.

The Pilot's cabin is huge. The fact that it sports a third row of seats as a standard feature further points to the vehicle's origins as a minivan. It is needless to say then that the occupants of the first two rows will find plenty of room for the elbows, head and legs. The final three passengers, for a grand total of eight, are not so lucky. Two of them will be OK to put it plainly however the one positioned in the middle may have some complaints.

The dashboard is well enough conceived. The center portion in fact looks like an oversized version of the one found in the Acura RL. The design is
principally ergonomic however some audio controls and the heated seat buttons are so low that they require the driver to completely remove his or her eyes from the road. The front seats are huge and will accommodate nearly any body type. The second row bench is firm but thankfully reclines for extra comfort.

What I particularly appreciate about the Pilot is its countless cubby holes and storage bins. The center console reminds me of a Transformer; parts of it slide back and forth, some pieces come apart and a door links it to the armrest. Fit and finish overall is very good.