Cincinnati, OH -- The Honda Pilot, that’s stood in the shadow of its CR-V brethren for quite some time now, received an overhaul for 2016.
And despite some strange packaging choices, what an overhaul it is.
If looks could kill
The front fascia gets a similar treatment to what’s been working so well on other new Honda models like the HR-V and CR-V. There’s even an LED headlight and DRL option, and rear LEDs are standard on all trims.
You can even get 20” wheels -- a first for Honda -- while 18s are standard.
Aluminium and ultra-high strength steel is used for the body, and the openings around the doors and rear hatch have been reinforced. In order to perform better in the event of a frontal offset collision in the 2016 Honda Pilot, all factors have been considered, including allowing the front wheels to break away in order to better absorb impacts.
Bigger, more accessible interior and safety, safety, safety
If you spec an EX and up, you get the Honda Sensing safety suite, which adds forward collision mitigation that slows the car automatically if it senses the driver is too distracted to do so; active lane keep assist; active cruise control; and on the top-spec Touring trim, rear cross-traffic alert and blind spot information system. Other models get Honda LaneWatch, whereby the infotainment screen becomes a blind spot camera as soon as you flick the right turn signal.
The roof of the 2016 Honda Pilot is divided into both a half-length glass pane and a smaller sunroof over the front passengers. It brightens the interior and accommodates the roof-mounted Blu-ray entertainment display.
Heated front seats, wing mirrors, wiper de-icer, and remote engine start all come as standard, as well as tri-zone climate control, a rear-view cam and 8” infotainment screen.
The wheelbase has grown by 45mm and overall length by 20mm, which makes for more room inside. Third row accessibility is also made easier by the addition of power fold/slide second-row seating, which comes as standard on 2016 Honda Pilot EX-L models and up (there are four trims altogether: LX, EX, EX-L and Touring). When equipped, the seats slide and fold with the press of a button mounted either on the seatback or on the side of the bottom cushion. This isn’t your typical third row; it’s one that’s meant to be used regularly, and can fit two adults or three children.
The rear cargo bay has been increased by 35mm and deepened, so you can fit a large cooler even with the third-row seats deployed. The floor of the rear cargo area, meanwhile, can be flipped, each side of the removable panel covered in a different material; plastic for wetter items on one side, grippier fabric for fragile items on the other.
I do wonder, however, why Honda decided to only provide the excellent Garmin-based navigation system on the top Touring model. Is this not something that could be brought down a trim or two? The Nissan Pathfinder, for example, allows you to spec navi on the second-highest trim level.
It’s highway time
There’s a single engine choice in the 2016 Honda Pilot: a 280-horsepower V6 that also makes 263 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive models get a 6-speed auto as standard. All-wheel drive models, meanwhile, get a ZF 9-speed automatic shared with the Acura TLX.
The 9-speed really is a gem; shifts come off with hardly an interruption to power delivery, and it holds gears just long enough so it’s not constantly shuffling to find the right ratio. It comes standard with wheel-mounted paddles, too.
The transmission helps make the engine feel like a star; we never found ourselves wanting for more power, that’s for sure. On AWD models, a very Land Rover-esque terrain mode is offered for the first time: the Snow, Mud, Sand, and Normal modes all vary power delivery (up to 70% of power can be directed to the rear axle, 100% of which can be sent to either rear wheel), the AWD settings and how long the transmission holds a gear.
In addition to the powertrain, the 2016 Pilot also gets all-new front and rear suspension, which gets the Amplitude Reactive Dampers first seen on the Acura MDX. They provide a quiet ride, while keeping the Pilot flat through bends.
That’s the good. The bad pretty much boils down to one thing: the steering. It’s very light and low on feel, which leads to some uncomfortable situations on the road.
A big step up
There’s a lot to like about the 2016 Honda Pilot. It drives well, it’s fantastically practical, it looks a whole heck of a lot better than the outgoing model, and it’s loaded with features. Aside from the inert steering, it’s really hard to find fault with Honda’s latest minivan alternative.
Honda is taking the Pilot very seriously, and it just might be the time for it to step out of the shadows of its smaller brethren.
Prices will be announced closer to its release date in July.