Following the updated 2015 CR-V and the all-new subcompact HR-V, Honda is rounding out its lineup of utility vehicles with the redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot. As one of the bigger introductions at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show, the third-generation Pilot replaces the current Pilot, which is severely outdated among the extremely crowded segment of three-row, mid-size crossovers. And things are about to get even busier with Volkswagen planning a new three-row crossover and Subaru rumored to be bringing one back.

Making a better case for the Pilot as a substitute for gas-guzzling SUVs, Honda starts things off with a more modern powertrain and a cleaner, more contemporary exterior design, but it is staying mum on official details and pricing. With the 2016 Pilot going on sale this summer, though, these specs won’t be withheld for long. Until then, check out what the new Pilot is going up against.

Click past the jump to read more about where the 2016 Honda Pilot stands in regards to its competition.

2016 Honda Pilot

2016 - 2019 Honda Pilot High Resolution Exterior
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Just looking at the new Pilot, you can instantly tell this is a different beast. I was admittedly disappointed by the softer exterior styling, but while the boxy design was the calling card of a tough and rugged SUV, the interior of the Pilot always came off looking more like a minivan (it is related to the Honda Odyssey after all). This is where the true payoff for the 2016 Pilot lies. I had time to crawl around inside and check out all three rows of this crossover, and I’m happy to report that the Pilot has a serious Acura vibe – right down to the push-button gear selector.

Although the Pilot displayed in Chicago was devoid of trim-level badges, it was almost certainly a fully loaded Pilot Touring, decked out with all the bells and whistles, so it will be interesting to see how the base models look and feel. Hopefully, the soft-touch areas of this show car aren’t limited to just the high-priced trims. Perhaps the most promising area of the new Pilot is the third-row seat, which offers plenty of legroom along with thicker seat bottoms and more padding. The available panoramic roof also helps to reduce some of the stuffiness of the third row.

Under the hood, the 2016 Pilot will use Honda’s new Earth Dreams V-6 that benefits from direct injection and stop-start technology, while the optional nine-speed automatic and a new all-wheel-drive system should improve efficiency and capability. The combination of its advanced drivetrain and more-upscale interior should help Pilot sales rebound from the 14.1-percent drop last year. The 108,857 units sold in 2014 was still enough to put the aging Pilot in second place in the segment last year, which is rather remarkable for a 6-year-old vehicle going up against some much younger rivals.

What it’s up against (in alphabetical order)

Chevrolet Traverse

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2013 Chevrolet Traverse

Like the current Pilot, the Chevrolet Traverse is an aging vehicle, but it still managed to crank out 103,943 sales in 2014. Credit the strong sales to the fact that the Traverse has the most spacious and versatile interior in this class, with seating for up to eight and cavernous amounts of cargo space – 24.4 cubic feet with all seats in place and 116.3 cubic feet with both rear rows folded flat. Starting at $30,995, all 2015 Traverse crossovers come with GM’s proven 3.6-liter V-6 rated at up to 288 horsepower, while still having decent fuel-economy ratings of 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. Even with its copious amount of interior space, the Traverse is also a capable tow vehicle, with a max tow rating of 5,200 pounds.

Dodge Durango

2014 Dodge Durango - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Arguably one of the meaner offerings in its segment, the 2015 Dodge Durango backs up its styling with an available 360-horsepower Hemi V-8 and a platform shared with the rugged, go-anywhere Jeep Grand Cherokee. The three-row, seven-passenger Durango delivers one of the best towing capacities among all crossovers and SUVs, with a max tow rating of 7,400 pounds, but the V-8 puts it at a disadvantage when it comes to fuel economy. Fortunately, the base 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 has 295 horsepower and ratings of 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. This one-two punch of powertrains helped Dodge sell 64,398 Durangos last year. Despite its SUV styling and abilities, the Dodge Durango has less cargo space than the current Pilot, with 17.2 cubic feet of cargo with all seats in place and a maximum capacity of up to 84.5 cubic feet. Prices for the 2015 Dodge Durango start at $30,495.

Ford Flex

2014 Ford Flex High Resolution Exterior
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The 2015 Ford Flex might be the ultimate expression of the anti-crossover, with its boxy, station-wagon-like design, but its niche look has kept sales fairly low compared to the rest of the segment. Last year, Ford sold just 23,822 Flexes, yet its starting price of $29,100 puts it right in the thick of things when it comes to the three-row CUV segment. The saving grace of the Flex is its duet of V-6 engine options with the base mill returning up to 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, while the turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 offers 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet and up to 4,500 pounds of towing. Even with its boxy exterior proportions, the Flex still only manages average cargo abilities, offering 20 cubic feet with all seven passengers in place or 83.2 cubic feet with the rear two rows folded flat.

Hyundai Santa Fe

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe High Resolution Exterior
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For 2013, Hyundai redesigned its Santa Fe, creating a two-model lineup with the Santa Fe and the two-row, five-passenger Santa Fe Sport. Lumped together, Hyundai sold a total of 107,906 Santa Fe crossovers in 2014, but only the larger seven-passenger Santa Fe has the three rows of seating. This model starts at $30,150 (compared to $24,950 for the Santa Fe Sport), and comes exclusively with the 3.3-liter direct-injected V-6 putting out 290 horsepower and delivering up to 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. Cargo space is on par with most rivals, providing between 13.5 and 80 cubic feet depending on the seating configuration, and when properly equipped, the Santa Fe can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Nissan Pathfinder

2014 Nissan Pathfinder - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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My feelings toward the design of the 2016 Pilot are very similar to how I felt when Nissan redesigned the Pathfinder in 2013, but the softer lines and improved interior paid off for Nissan with sales tripling from 25,935 units in the final year (2011) of the previous-gen model to 79,111 sales in 2014. On the flip side of that coin, this new Pathfinder has one of the smallest interiors when it comes to cargo volume, with as little as 16 cubic feet to 79.8 cubic feet with the seats folded flat, although it does offer up to 5,000 pounds towing capacity. In base form, the seven-passenger Pathfinder starts at $29,510, and it is equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 260 horsepower delivering fuel economy of up to 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway; there is also a Pathfinder Hybrid that increases fuel economy to 25 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

Toyota Highlander

2014 Toyota Highlander - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The whole segment of three-row crossovers continues to chase the Toyota Highlander, which is the best-selling CUV in this class with 146,127 units sold in 2014. Coming off a major redesign of its own for the 2013 model year, the Highlander might be the most SUV-looking CUV of the bunch (excluding the Durango), and it offers a class-leading trio of powertrains, including the fuel-efficient hybrid model. Priced starting at $29,665, the standard Highlander can be equipped with either a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine or a 3.5-liter V-6, but it’s the Highlander Hybrid that returns a best-in-class 27 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Like the Pilot, the Highlander has seating for up to eight, and cargo space is generous, ranging from 13.8 cubic feet up to 83.7 cubic feet.

Jeffrey N. Ross
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