It’s a wonderful thing when you know what to expect. As humans, we’re a bit scared of the unknown; we like to be prepared, we like to know what’s going to come. So, when a manufacturer continually delivers what we expect them to, we all take a collective deep breath of relief and comfort, as we know just what to expect. But isn’t that boring and mundane you might be thinking? Well, there is that, but more than anything it’s reassuring and we all love it -- you know I’m right.
So, when Honda releases a revamped, redesigned and updated version of one of the vehicles we’ve all come to love, it’s almost as if we all collectively hold our breaths before we drive it for the first time: Will it drive like a Honda?
And it always does.
All new looks inside and out
Let’s start with what has changed on the 2016 Honda Pilot: it’s exterior and interior look. Gone are the days of the mobile box! Thank goodness for that, because the absolute worst part about the previous generation was its outdated looks.
Following in the footsteps of the rest of the revamped Honda lineup, the 2016 Pilot features a brand new front grille with a recognizable grille design and a sculpted, character-filled hood (far removed from the previous gen). Rounded edges replace squared off corners, and around the back, the same smooth rounded look is found. LED headlights top off the SUV’s new modern look, as do available 20” wheels. Overall, Honda did a great job with the Pilot’s redesign.
And that thumbs-up update continues on the inside, too. I’ve never been a huge fan of Honda interiors, however, this latest upgrade in the 2016 Honda Pilot definitely impressed. Compared with the previous generation that was as boxy and mundane as its exterior, this latest version is sleek with minimal buttons and an easy-to-use-and-see touchscreen interface, along with well-placed HVAC controls.
My main gripes about the interior? Give. Me. Buttons. Please.
I don’t ask for much in life (I swear), but what I do ask for is buttons; buttons for volume control, tuning, track changes, etc. I don’t want to have to fiddle with touchscreen non-existent, no-feel areas on a screen while I’m driving. Granted, there are buttons on the steering wheel, but sometimes I just want to actually turn a dial on the radio, you know? Call me old school, I guess.
Also, the shifter area… I’ve touched on button gear selection before (read: Lincoln MKC), but this kind of takes it to a whole new level. Not only do you select drive/reverse/park/etc. with a button, they’ve put it where the shifter should be and it’s just… odd. Not at all #mirandaapproved.
Other than the lack of buttons in some areas and too many buttons in others, the interior of the 2016 Honda Pilot is a great place to be. With room for up to eight (seven in my Touring model that featured captain seats in the second row), every seat is comfortable and even the third row is usable, though only for short periods of time if adults are back there.
But the Honda drive is still the same
Here’s where it stays the same; and that’s not a bad thing. The 2016 Honda Pilot features the same tried and tested 3.5L V6 mill we’ve come to know and love from every other generation of Honda Pilot (since its launch in 2003). That’s a long time for the same engine to hang around, but it’s not entirely the same.
No, Honda reworked the V6 a bit to squeeze a bit more power out of it. So, this generation of Honda Pilot offers up 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. For a vehicle of the Pilot’s size, you might think that’s not at all enough oomph to enjoy the ride, but it really is.
That whole comfort thing? Yeah, it’s in how the Honda Pilot drives. You get behind the wheel and instantly you know you’re in a Honda. Throttle response is quick, handling is precise (as precise as it can be on an SUV), and overall handling gives the illusion you’re driving a vehicle much smaller than you actually are. All Honda traits, and all good things.
What’s not good, however, is one more update Honda added to the Pilot Touring model: a 9-speed transmission.
You read that correctly: nine gears.
Now, I’m all for moving forward with technology and engineering and introducing new features to the auto industry, but perhaps we all just put a cap on the number of gears before we start driving 16-speed Civics? Perhaps?
Of course, the benefits of a 9-speed transmission are supposed to make for a better, more spirited drive with quicker shifts and better fuel economy as it makes the car more efficient. However, what it ends up doing is making the vehicle confused. For example, stomp the throttle on the highway (where you’re cruising in 9th) to pass and suddenly it has to downshift possibly 4-5 gears just to get down to the right one in order to pass. That’s a lot of gears to get through and choose from.
Honda only offers the 9-speed on the top-of-the-line Touring model (which I had, and which costs about $15k more than the starting LX model with an MSRP of $35,490). The rest of the 2016 Pilot lineup features the 6-speed. I’d opt for the model just below the top just to avoid the 9-speed.
Honda through and through
So, the Japanese automaker managed to keep the essence of Honda alive in the brand new 2016 Pilot, and that’s a glorious thing. While other manufacturers flounder to find their voice and meaning in the industry, Honda knows what it stands for and they continue to deliver just that in every single product they release.