The Honda Pilot entered its third generation for the 2016 model year, and with it came a completely redesigned vehicle that dropped its boxy look, shed a few pounds, and inches closer to the premium segment as far as interior materials and overall fit and finish. On the outside, the front end is now sportier with thinner wraparound headlight units, a stylish front fascia, muscular hood, sculpted side profile, new taillight units, and a rear end that is far less boxy compared to the outgoing model. Inside, the cabin has been redesigned to provide a more premium feel, despite still be packed full of hard plastic trim. There is a new digital instrument cluster, and eight-inch touch screen display and extra passenger and cargo room compared to the previous model. Honda didn’t do too much to alter the Pilot’s drivetrain for the third-gen model, but it did update the 3.5-liter to include cylinder deactivation, a stop/start function, and a six-speed automatic transmission.

More importantly, however, is the fact that the 2016 Honda Pilot should be safer than the outgoing model, earning “good” ratings for moderate overlap frontal offset, small overlap frontal offset, side impact, and roof strength, which was an improvement over the previous gen model, which received a “poor” rating for small overlap frontal offset and a “marginal” rating for roof strength for the 2009 to 2011 model years. With models like the Toyota Highlander and Chevy Traverse already sporting a more modern design, the new Pilot finally has what it takes to compete in the Large SUV segment once again. With that said, take a look at our detailed review of the new 2016 Honda Pilot below.

Updated 06/28/2018: Honda has updated the 2019 Pilot with a revised exterior look, a revised nine-speed automatic transmission, Honda Safety Sense, and a decent list of optional equipment for the taking. Check out the details in our updated section below.

What’s New for the 2019 Honda Pilot?

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The pilot looks like an all-new vehicle – at least from the front, anyway.

As far as exterior upgrades go, updates for 2019 are pretty minimal. The Pilot carries over with the same general look but has a new radiator grille that’s sportier, and the front fascia has been updated to include slimmer corner air intakes. The fog lights are now round while the mesh for the corner intakes have a deeper recess. The lower air dam is now smaller and resembles more of what you see on sports cars than SUVs. Finally, the headlights finally catch up with the rest of Honda’s lineup, featuring an NSX-Style layout that’s far more modern than the 90s-looking design that ran through the 2018 model year. It might not be much, but the pilot looks like an all-new vehicle – at least from the front, anyway.

The most important update for 2019 comes in the form of “significant” refinement to the nine-speed automatic transmission

The most important update for 2019 comes in the form of “significant” refinement to the nine-speed automatic transmission that comes in the Touring and Elite trims. For those of you who don’t know, these transmissions on pre-2019 models were clunky and unreliable. Ultimately, they have been marked as problematic. Honda didn’t go into details as to what the improvements were, however, you can expect that the transmission will shift smoother and quicker, among other things. To add to this, the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver assistance systems will now be included as standard equipment.

This means that from 2019 on, the Honda Pilot will include Collision Mitigation Braking to assist in accident avoidance, Road Departure Mitigation to help steer the car back onto the road should you begin to drift off, Active Cruise Control with low-speed following capability, and Lane Keep Assist to automatically steer you back into your lane should you begin to stray away from the centerline of your lane without signaling.

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It’s not to bad for a mid-cycle refresh, but the next-gen model should be a real winner.e

As far as optional equipment goes, the Pilot can now be had with an electronic, hands-free rear liftgate, 4G LTE Hotspot, Rear infotainment system that’s larger and support Blue-Ray and video streaming, Cabin Talk in-car PA system, Smartphone control capability, and a new Display infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Display infotainment system will also enable over-the-air updates, while the 4G LTE hotspot will require some kind of subscription through a major cellular service.

All told, it’s not to bad for a mid-cycle refresh, but the next-gen model should be a real winner. If you’re not willing to wait, the 2019 Pilot wouldn’t necessarily be a bad buy as long as you can pony up for the options. With that said, you do get the Honda Sensing safety system which is a huge plus either way.

Exterior

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The 2016 Pilot is sleeker, sportier and more muscular than its predecessor, while also boasting a more premium aspect.

Honda wasn’t kidding when it said the new Pilot will bring a "dramatic shift in design." After sporting boxy and dull exterior styling for more than a decade, the Pilot finally received a more attractive appearance that better integrates it with other Honda SUVs and crossovers. Obviously inspired by the 2015 CR-V’s design, the 2016 Pilot is sleeker, sportier and more muscular than its predecessor, while also boasting a more premium aspect.

The redesigned front end is very similar to the CR-V’s, although both the headlamps and the grille have unique features of their own. The lights lack the lower LED accents seen on its smaller brother, and the grille consists of three horizontal chrome slats, with the upper blade extending into the headlamps. Similarities with the CR-V continue, but only as far as the overall shape is concerned, as everything from the turn signals and side inlets to the center-mounted air dam make the Pilot stand out among other Hondas.

The new design approach continues around back, where the new SUV looks nothing like its predecessors. What’s more, there’s not even a hint of CR-V, which suggest the rear fascia was penned on a clean sheet of paper. Much like the front end, the rear looks clean and fresh. The sloping roof and the slanted tailgate add a touch of sportiness, while the revised taillights bring the Pilot into the 21st century. The apron’s design is also clean and simple compared to the CR-V’s.

Besides a new design, the 2016 Pilot also received a host of premium features, such as LED headlamps with auto high beam and optional LED DRLs and taillights. Customers can also opt for 20-inch wheels sporting a stylish five-spoke layout and, for the first time ever on the Pilot, a panoramic roof.

Side-by-side comparison

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Interior

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Customers will be greeted by an overhauled cabin that also borrows certain elements from the CR-V

Once inside, customers will be greeted by an overhauled cabin that also borrows certain elements from the CR-V. The dashboard feels more modern and less cheap. Even though there’s still a lot of rock-solid plastic in front of the driver and passenger, the dashboard’s new design makes things seem a bit more premium. A digital instrument cluster replaces the former unit, while the center stack has been reconfigured into a cleaner and more user-friendly layout. The A/C vents, door panels and the center console are new, andthe slightly reshaped steering wheel received new controls.

Although Honda’s PR talk mentions the premium quality of the new Pilot, there aren’t many standard features offered, aside from soft-touch materials and LED map lighting. Amenities such as heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats are only available at extra cost. Another new option, but reserved for upper-trim models, is the possibility of replacing the second-row seat with two captain’s chairs for enhanced comfort and easy access between the second and third rows. The second-row, three-person, 60/40 split seat for 8-passenger seating capacity remains standard.

Tech-wise, the new Pilot received Honda’s latest, including an 8-inch touchscreen powered by an Android-based operating system. A new embedded Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation with improved graphics and capabilities, and a 9-inch rear entertainment system with DVD and Blu-Ray can be added from the options list.

The 2016 Pilot boasts a larger cargo area and easier third-row entry and exit, courtesy of a one-touch, walk-in second-row seat that slides and tilts at the touch of a button. The center console has been enhanced as well, now being able to accommodate a full-size iPad or large purse in its cavernous storage compartment.

Drivetrain

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There's big news in the transmission department as well, where Honda replaced the Pilot's five-speed automatic with a six-speed autobox

As I suspected, the third-generation Pilot continues with Honda’s tried-and-true, 3.5-liter V-6. However, the unit benefits from numerous upgrades, including the cylinder deactivation technology and stop/start ignition that are in the Accord and Acura MDX. There’s big news in the transmission department as well, where Honda replaced the Pilot’s five-speed automatic with a six-speed autobox. What’s more, the SUV can be had with an optional nine-speed auto for the first time in a Honda. Naturally, customers can still choose between front- and all-wheel-drive configuration.

Technical specs are still a mystery, but Honda claims the upgraded six-banger will deliver "more refined, powerful and fuel-efficient performance than ever before." I expect output to have increased beyond the second-gen’s 250 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque, which should bring a noticeable increase in performance given the fact that the new Pilot is also 300 pounds lighter than the model it replaces.

Honda also anticipated top safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Prices

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Model Transmission MSRP EPA City/Hwy/Combined MPG
Pilot LX (2WD) 6-Speed Automatic $29,995 19/27/22
Pilot LX (AWD) 6-Speed Automatic $31,795 18/26/21
Pilot EX (2WD) 6-Speed Automatic $32,430 19/27/22
Pilot EX (AWD) 6-Speed Automatic $34,230 18/26/21
Pilot EX (2WD) w/ Honda Sensing 6-Speed Automatic $33,430 19/27/22
Pilot EX (AWD) w/ Honda Sensing 6-Speed Automatic $35,230 18/26/21
Pilot EX-L (2WD) 6-Speed Automatic $35,905 19/27/22
Pilot EX-L (AWD) 6-Speed Automatic $37,705 18/26/21
Pilot EX-L (2WD) w/ Honda Sensing 6-Speed Automatic $36,905 19/27/22
Pilot EX-L (AWD) w/ Honda Sensing 6-Speed Automatic $38,705 18/26/21
Pilot EX-L w/ Rear Entertainment System (2WD) 6-Speed Automatic $37,505 19/27/22
Pilot EX-L w/ Rear Entertainment System (AWD) 6-Speed Automatic $39,305 18/26/21
Pilot EX-L w/ Navi (2WD) 6-Speed Automatic $36,905 19/27/22
Pilot EX-L w/ Navi (AWD) 6-Speed Automatic $38,705 18/26/21
Pilot Touring w/ Navi and Rear Entertainment System (2WD) 9-Speed Automatic $41,020 20/27/23
Pilot Touring w/ Navi and Rear Entertainment System (AWD) 9-Speed Automatic $42,820 19/26/22
Pilot Elite w/ Navi and Rear Entertainment System (AWD) 9-Speed Automatic $46,420 19/26/22

Safety

Competition

Toyota Highlander

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Redesigned for the 2014 model year, the new Toyota Highlander also provides seating for up to eight, although its third-row seat isn’t as roomy as the current Pilot’s. On the other hand, the Highlander boasts numerous updates in the technology department and a refined interior. The Highlander has received much praise for its quiet and comfortable ride and strong V-6 engine.

With 270 ponies and 248 pound-feet at its disposal, the V-6 has more horsepower than the Pilot’s, although Honda’s unit provides slightly more torque. The entry-level models, on the other hand, are motivated by a 2.7-liter, four-cylinder mill rated at 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Both engines mate to a six-speed automatic. As for fuel economy, the four-banger returns 20 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, while the V-6 boasts 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. Pricing starts from $29,415 and goes into $40,000 territory with the V-6 engine and pricy options.

Read our full review here.

Chevrolet Traverse

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2013 Chevrolet Traverse

Updated for 2013 but around since 2008, the Traverse checks all of the right boxes for a mid-size SUV, and remains an excellent choice for customers who need seating for up to eight and plenty of cargo room. The Traverse’s ride is quiet and comfortable on the highway, while the suspension delivers good maneuverability for such a large crossover. With up to 70.3 cubic feet of space behind the second row, the Traverse is also one of the roomiest vehicles in its segment.

Power comes from GM’s venerable 3.6-liter, V-6 LLT engine, also available in the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. In the Traverse, the mill produces 281 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque, making the Bowtie-badged SUV more powerful than both the Pilot and the Highlander. EPA fuel economy estimates are 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway for front-wheel-drive models, and 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway with all-wheel drive. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission. The 2015 Traverse retails from $30,995.

Read our full review here.

Conclusion

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If you’re among those that were hoping Honda would use the Pilot’s 2015 redesign to finally ditch the boxy styling, then it’s time to celebrate the coming of a sleeker, sportier SUV. What’s more, it seems the SUV packs more of everything, being larger (yet lighter), roomier, and more powerful, while also featuring a more upscale interior, enhanced fuel economy, and several premium options previously not available. Arguably the biggest news is the addition of the nine-speed automatic, which makes the Pilot the first Honda model with nine cogs. The unit will likely spread to other Honda models by the end of 2015. I wish the SUV would’ve come with more premium features as standard, but, other than that, the 2016 Pilot is as promising as it gets.

  • Leave it
    • * Needs more premium standard features
    • * Strong competition

Update list

Updated 08/21/2015: The 2016 Honda Pilot has been awarded with a Top Safety Pick+ rating from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Updated 05/20/2015: Honda revealed prices for the 2016 Honda Pilot which will be put on sale later in June. Prices will range from $29,995 for the base LX version and up to $46,420 for the Pilot Elite version equipped with the w/ Navi and Rear Entertainment Systems.

Press Release

The all-new 2016 Honda Pilot SUV made its global premiere today at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. Reengineered and redesigned in America, the 2016 Honda Pilot delivers more family-friendly utility, more advanced technology and more premium attributes and amenities than ever before, boasting class-leading safety features, fuel efficiency and confident driving dynamics in a thoroughly modern, stylish and sophisticated new package.

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The all-new 2016 Pilot, launching at Honda dealerships nationwide this summer, is the third generation of Honda’s three-row midsize SUV to be designed, developed and manufactured in America. Reinforcing 2015 as the "Year of Honda," Pilot further strengthens Honda’s SUV/CUV triple threat by joining the exceptionally well received 2015 CR-V (2015 Motor Trend SUV of the Year) and greatly anticipated new 2016 HR-V.

"With looks that command attention and the powerful presence of true functionality, the 2016 Pilot sets a new benchmark in the midsize SUV class with an unmatched combination of sophistication and utility," said Jeff Conrad, Honda Division senior vice president and general manager. "This means the all-new Pilot will comfort, entertain and assist active families in all aspects of their lives, whether it’s an evening out for two, a road trip adventure for all or just the chores of everyday life."

Premium Style and Features
The all-new design of the 2016 Pilot sports a modern, sleek, yet commanding and muscular form incorporating new premium features, including optional brighter and more efficient LED projector headlights with auto high beam technology, available signature LED daytime running lights and taillights, plus available 20-inch wheels and a first-ever panoramic roof option. The premium quality of the new Pilot carries over to the interior, where designers have applied high-quality, soft-touch materials throughout the cabin and added thoughtful details such as LED map lighting.

Additional high-end amenities include available heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats. For the first time, upper-trim Pilot models will have available two second-row captain’s chairs, providing for easy walk through between the second and third rows, in addition to the standard second-row three-person 60/40 split seat for 8-passenger seating capacity.

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Advanced Technology
The new Pilot delivers the connectivity and power access that the modern family demands, including up to five USB ports, four that provide better recharging with 2.5-amp output, to charge iPads or smartphones while in use. Additional ports and plugs include an auxiliary jack for nearly any audio player, an HDMI port for a gaming console, two headphone jacks, two 12-volt power outlets and a 115-volt outlet to power just about anything.

The new Pilot also incorporates Honda’s latest thinking for advanced, family-friendly technology, including an upsized 8-inch capacitive touchscreen Display Audio telematics interface powered by a new Android-based operating system and more powerful processor, along with an available all-new embedded Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™. The new navigation system features improved graphics and new capabilities, including 3D renderings of terrain, buildings and road signs, improved lane guidance, live search function, 911 emergency services and more.

The Pilot’s Display Audio system enables simplified smartphone connectivity making for easier access to all the features and connectivity options of the HondaLink™ connected-car system. A 9-inch rear entertainment system with DVD and new Blu-Ray disc™ capability is available.

Family-Friendly Utility
The new Pilot builds on its reputation for best-in-class interior space, versatility and utility with 3.5 inches of added overall vehicle length, enabling a larger cargo area that can hold an 82-quart cooler without compromising third-row seating capability, a segment-exclusive feature. Third-row entry and exit is made even easier and more intuitive courtesy of an available one-touch walk-in second-row seat that slides and tilts to its forward-most position at the touch of a button. As compared with the current Pilot, the width of the lower portion of the third-row entryway has been increased by 2.5 inches with 1-inch lower step-over height.

The Pilot’s new center console features a cavernous storage compartment capable of accommodating items as large as a full-size iPad or large purse. And with its seamless cover in the closed position, the console provides a convenient, non-slip surface for items that the driver or front passenger may need close at hand.

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Earth Dreams Technology™ Powertrain
The 2016 Pilot delivers more refined, powerful and fuel-efficient performance than ever before courtesy of its new 3.5-liter, direct-injected i-VTEC® V-6 engine with Variable Cylinder Management™ (VCM™) cylinder deactivation technology. For improved fuel efficiency, the Pilot will include available Idle Stop technology that shuts off the engine when the vehicle is stopped, instantly and smoothly restarting the engine when the driver lifts their foot off the brake pedal. The new engine is mated to one of two advanced new transmissions – a Pilot-first 6-speed automatic transmission, or on upper trims, a Honda-first 9-speed automatic transmission – both delivering notably refined, responsive and fuel-efficient performance. The new Pilot will be available in front-wheel and all-wheel-drive configurations and will feature a completely new Honda all-wheel-drive system that delivers even more confident, efficient and dynamic all-weather performance.

The new Pilot is almost 300 pounds lighter than the outgoing model; its more rigid, tightly sealed yet lighter body in combination with new, efficient powertrains, a new all-wheel-drive system and class-leading aerodynamics result in class-leading dynamic performance and fuel efficiency along with a new level of cabin quietness befitting its status as a premium family SUV.

Advanced Safety Performance
In keeping with Honda’s commitment to safety, the new Pilot will feature the most comprehensive set of advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies ever offered on a Honda vehicle. Together these technologies make up Honda Sensing™, a suite of technologies designed to expand the driver’s situational awareness while sensing and responding to potential road hazards, including other vehicles, road obstacles and even pedestrians, mitigating the possibility or severity of a collision. It includes Honda’s popular LaneWatch™ display, Blind Spot Indicators, a standard Multi-Angle Rear View Camera, and available Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control and a Honda-first Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) system.

The new Pilot is expected to deliver the highest safety ratings in its class and targets a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a TOP SAFETY PICK+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), including a GOOD rating in all crash modes. The new Pilot incorporates Honda’s next-generation Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure, designed to more efficiently absorb and disperse the energy from a frontal collision, along with a new ultra-high-strength door ring designed to help better protect occupants. The 2016 Pilot also incorporates an all-new 3-bone platform while also utilizing high and ultra-high strength body materials, which together reduce noise, vibration and harness (NVH), improve handling, increase rigidity and reduce weight.

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Standard safety and driver-assistive features include four-channel anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist and Hill Start Assist; Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSA®) with Traction Control; an Expanded View Driver’s Mirror; dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags, driver and front passenger SmartVent™ side airbags and side-curtain airbags for all outboard seating positions; and a new Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) with real-time display of individual tire pressures.

All-American Honda Pilot
All three generations of the Honda Pilot have been designed and developed in America by Honda R&D Americas, Inc. at its Los Angeles design studio and Raymond, Ohio, vehicle development center. The Pilot and its engine are manufactured at Honda’s Lincoln, Alabama auto plant. In 2014, nearly 98 percent of all Honda-brand vehicles were produced in North America.

The Pilot joins the Honda CR-V – 2015 Motor Trend SUV of the Year and America’s best-selling SUV for eight of the past 11 years – the popular Odyssey minivan and the dynamic new HR-V crossover, launching this spring, in Honda’s growing lineup of innovative light truck offerings. An all-new Honda Ridgeline pickup will join the Honda lineup within the next two years. All Honda light truck models are produced in North America using domestic and globally sourced parts.

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