Since its debut in 2003, the Honda Pilot has been a reference – the reference - in its segment, the model to own if you’re looking for a mid-size utility vehicle for the family. It’s reliable, spacious, well-built with a great resale value. Many pretenders have come and gone over the past 17 years and none has really been able to measure themselves against the master, yet. Hyundai and Kia decided to take on the challenge with the Palisade and Telluride.
2020 Honda Pilot
In contrast with the brand-new Palisade, the Pilot last benefited from a redesign back in 2016 – and there’s little change to the model for 2020. Honda still offers the LX, EX, EX-L Navi and Touring versions (7 or 8 seats) and a Black Edition. All of them run on the same engine, a 3.5L V6 engine that produces 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. The automatic transmission is 6-speed, except on the Touring and Black Edition versions with nine gears and all-wheel drive.
Pay more to get the good stuff
The most frequent criticism that comes up about the Pilot concerns the extra that you have to pay for a higher trim that corresponds to what you want as a buyer. But before we get into the weeds of what each version includes, here’s what the SUV features right out of the box:
Firstly, all versions of the Pilot are fitted with electrically adjustable and heated side mirrors, a front wiper de-icer, LED tail lights, automatic LED headlights, variable intermittent front wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels, active noise reduction, 7.0-inch instrument cluster, passive keyless entry and remote engine start.
Onward we go with automatic tri-zone climate control with rear controls, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, driver and front passenger seat armrests, driver seat with 6 manual adjustments and 4-way front passenger seat adjustments, heated front seats, 7-speaker audio system with 7 speakers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, HondaLink, Bluetooth, CabinControl and an internet space.
If Honda doesn't take the technology as far as some competitors, you still have some interesting safety features, for instance front collision detection with automatic braking, tire pressure monitoring system, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and automatic high beams.
The EX version incorporates blind spot camera monitor, LED fog lights, sunroof, roof racks, auto-dimming rearview mirror, garage door opener, 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The EX-L Navi includes memory functions for the side mirrors and driver's seat, power tailgate, acoustic windshield, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, second-row side sun visors, heated second-row seats, leather seating and satellite radio.
At the top of the heap, the Touring and Black Edition are the versions with all the tech (and the 9-speed auto transmission). So you have blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, auto-leveling headlights, chrome exterior trim, LED headlights, rain-sensor wipers, 20 inch wheels, 115 volts power outlet, acoustic door window, interior ambient lighting, CabinTalk system, wireless charging and ventilated front seats.
Also included here are an 11-speaker audio system with subwoofer, HondaLink subscription services, rear entertainment system with HDMI input and internet access point.
The 7-occupant Touring models trade a three-row second-row bench seat for two heated bucket seats with armrests, and slip and recline functions. This package also adds a panoramic sunroof.
Finally, the Black Edition adds black wheels and takes over the door handles and exterior body-color trim of the chrome parts of the Touring.
Fun to drive
As we said earlier, the Pilot has long been the benchmark on the market in its segment, and driving it remains a very pleasant affair. The SUV can pull 2,258 kg and deliver exemplary fuel economy for a utility vehicle of this size. It also has the edge on more difficult terrain thanks to the selectable terrain modes to handle things like snow, mud and sand, and a torque vectoring all-wheel drive system that helps improve the handling. The ol’ Pilot is still doing very well, thank you very much.
2020 Hyundai Palisade
The Palisade essentially replaced the Santa Fe XL as the biggest utility vehicle in the Hyundai lineup and it’s also the successor to the late Santa Cruz but, but this is a much more modern affair. Hyundai offers the Palisade in four trims models, the Essential, Preferred, Luxury and Ultimate. A 3.8L V6 with 291 horsepower engine and 262 lb-ft of torque join by an 8-speed automatic transmission is the only engine found in the product offering. The base Essential version comes in front-wheel-drive configuration, but it can be optioned with all-wheel drive; that feature is standard in the other three versions.
Korean automakers have employed the successful strategy in recent years of offering the best roster of equipment for the price. The base Palisade thus comes with 18-inch wheels, automatic on/off headlights with high-beam assist, and heated power side mirrors.
In its 8-occupant configuration, it comes with heated front seats, driver's seat with 6 manual settings, an 8.0-inch screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, climate control with second-row controls, heated/leather-wrapped/tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel and adaptive cruise control.
Standard safety equipment includes a tire-pressure monitoring system, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic braking, lane keeping and tracking aids, driver attention warning and rear parking sensors.
The Preferred version gets 20-inch wheels, welcome lights on the door handle, auto-leveling rear suspension, blind-spot monitoring, 8-way power front seats, rear sunshades, heated rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, sunroof, passive keyless entry, auto dimming rear view mirror and rear cross traffic alert.
The Luxury model brings LED headlights, leather seating, ventilated front seats with driver cushion extension, power-folding third-row seats, 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation, 12-speaker audio, on-board intercom and leatherette dashboard trim.
With this edition you also get a 360-degree outdoor camera, hands-free power liftgate, interior LED lighting, blind spot monitor, front parking sensors and a drive-assist system on highway.
Finally, the Palisade Ultimate comes with LED taillights, rain sensing wipers, a seven-passenger configuration with ventilated second-row captain's seats, nappa leather upholstery, four-way power lumbar support, head-up display, wireless charger, suede headliner, digital gauges, two-panel sunroof and 115-volt power outlet.
The only option available with the Palisade is a seating configuration for seven passengers in the Luxury version.
Regal on the road
While the standard list of equipment is impressive, the driving experience is even more so. Not only is the Palisade comfortable and quiet, it also offers plenty of space for passengers and their luggage. The engine delivers a lot of power and works smoothly and efficiently with the transmission and gives the Palisade a feeling of confidence and comfort on the road.
Inside, the second row of seats slides forward for an easy access to the third row, which can be lowered into the floor at the touch of a button. Speaking of the third row, a normal-sized adult can actually sit in reasonable comfort back there. A surprising vehicle, in a pleasant way...
Advantage Honda Pilot
Honda offers proven reliability, excellent resale value, a more-efficient AWD system with more advanced off-road capabilities if you need them. Cargo space is also more generous.
Advantage Hyundai Palisade
You get better warranty coverage, a longer list of equipment, better layout inside and more third-row space for passengers.
When it comes to overall interior space, engine performance and fuel economy, what the two vehicles offer is comparable.
For the first time since the Pilot arrived on the road, we can honestly said that it’s finally found its Waterloo. The Palisade does as well as or better than the Pilot in several departments. But above all, it's the more affordable pricing Hyundai placed on it, to go with comparable or better equipment, that makes the Palisade more attractive; it also has a better interior layout and more space in the third row.
2020 Honda Pilot
Powerful and economic engine
Excellent resale value
We like less
High pricing for the versions most buyers will want
Finicky transmission (9-speed)
2020 Hyundai Palisade
Comfortable and spacious
We like less
The overall silhouette
Some cheap materials inside
|...||2020 Honda Pilot||2020 Hyundai Palisade|
|Transmission||6- or 9-sp auto||8-sp auto|
|Drivetrain||AWD||FWD or AWD|
|Fuel consumption (city)||12.4L/100 km||12.3L/100 km|
|Fuel consumption (highway)||9.3L/100 km||9.6L/100 km|
|Output||280 hp||291 hp|
|Torque||262 lb-ft||262 lb-ft|
|Cargo space||524 L, 1583 L||509 L, 1296 L|
|Fuel tank||74 L||71 L|
|Towing capacity||2,268 kg||2,268 kg|
|Length||4041 mm||4980 mm|
|Width||2029 mm||1976 mm|
|Height||1846 mm||1750 mm|
|Wheelbase||2820 mm||2900 mm|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km||5 yrs/100,000 km|
|Pricing||$41,290 to $55,190||$38,499 to $53,999|