Crossover vehicles have picked up where SUVs left off, delivering you and your family, plus all your gear, to destinations in any kind of weather and across varied terrains. The difference is that crossovers like the 2011 Honda Pilot are much more car like to drive and don’t saddle you with a truck-based 4x4 chassis. That means efficiency is higher and the interiors can be more spacious because there’s no giant frame to make room for.
The 2011 Honda Pilot (MSRP $28,320) is in its second generation, and it delivers refinement, comfort and a cavernous interior with eight seats without a ravenous appetite for fuel. The Pilot is styled with rugged looks that speak to its solidity, yet it will also easily tuck behind a garage door. The squared shoulders help make possible 152.7 cubic feet of passenger space across three rows of seats. The second-row seats slide fore and aft and are split 60/40 for both ease of access and cargo-carrying flexibility. Families with more than one small child will find the Pilot’s abundance of LATCH anchors, three across in the second row and one in the third row, a welcome feature that’s uncommon, even in crossovers.
Cargo space is a big 18 cubic feet behind the third row, and there’s an additional 2.8 cubic feet below a hinged cover in the floor of the cargo area. With second- and third-row seats folded, there’s 87 cubic feet of space and four-foot-wide items fit easily.
The rigid Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body design of the Pilot is a rock-solid platform for the strut front and multi-link rear suspension systems. Honda uses a lot of high-strength steel throughout this structure to keep weight down and provide structural rigidity. The car-like suspension system leads to car-like maneuverability. Standard 17-inch wheels provide plenty of traction over hill and dale, in rain or shine, and the Pilot’s 38.6-foot turning circle makes for easy maneuverability.
All Pilots are powered by a 250-hp 3.5-liter intelligent Variable Valve Timing and lift Electronic Control (i-VTEC™) V6 with Variable Cylinder Management™ (VCM™). VCM deactivates two or three of the engine’s six cylinders under light load conditions to boost efficiency. This high-technology trick and a five-speed automatic transmission with Grade Logic Control helps the Pilot return EPA fuel economy ratings of 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway in front-wheel drive models and 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway with four-wheel drive.
Four-wheel drive is provided by the available Variable Torque Management® (VTM-4®) system. This fully automatic system seamlessly applies engine torque to all four wheels automatically with a front-wheel drive bias when conditions allow like dry-weather highway cruising. Instead of waiting for wheel slip to occur, like most systems do, VTM-4 anticipates the need for increased traction such as during hard acceleration when pulling a load, or on less-than-ideal road surfaces, and sends torque to the rear wheels before they slip. In conditions where you need the maximum traction, the VTM-4 system has a “Lock” button that transfers as much torque as possible to the rear wheels, getting you out of sticky situations with ease.
There are four Pilot models: LX, EX, EX-L and Touring. Buyers can pick between two- and four-wheel drive in any trim level, and all versions are equipped well. The Pilot LX has all the core goodness baked in from the strong V6 to the rigid structure with front, side and three-row side-curtain airbags, plus a front and rear split air conditioning system with air filtration. The Pilot EX adds a three-zone climate control system with humidity control, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, six-disc audio system with subwoofer and XM® Satellite Radio and 17-inch machine-finished alloy wheels. Pilot EX-L comes with a leather interior, heated front seats and a power moonroof. A Honda DVD Rear Entertainment System (RES) and 115-volt power outlet are also available for the EX-L, as is the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™. The Touring-trim Pilot features the Navigation System with Voice Recognition, Off-Road Tracking, (which marks your route when you travel off mapped roads) and rearview camera standard. Bluetooth® hands-free integration is also standard, along with a Programmable Multi-Information Display (MID), power tailgate, second-row sunshades, USB input and Rear Entertainment System.
Any way you slice it, the Honda Pilot is a tasty hunk of automotive love that looks after your family as you travel over hill and dale. The Pilot is always value-packed, and it totes around the Honda reputation for reliability and impeccable build quality. There are many crossovers out there to choose from, but very few that come close to offering the full suite of convenience, value and features that the Honda Pilot effortlessly brings to the fore.
Based on 2011 EPA mileage estimates. Use for comparison purposes only. Do not compare to models before 2008. Your actual mileage will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.
MSRP excluding tax, license, registration, $810.00 destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.