Reviews

2018 Honda Pilot Driving Impressions


The Pilot’s engine is a revamped version of Honda’s direct-injected 3.5-liter V6. Wound up toward redline, it has a lovely engine note that underscores Honda’s legendary reputation as an engine builder. We estimate acceleration from zero to sixty in less than seven seconds.

The LX, EX and EX-L use a 6-speed automatic transmission, while the Touring and Elite get a new 9-speed automatic, which brings one more mile per gallon. We prefer the 6-speed. It has a narrower spread of gears (first gear is higher and sixth gear lower), making it a bet less quick from the start and a bit less relaxed on the freeway, but it shifts more cleanly. Only once or twice did we feel it wait too long to upshift; while with the 9-speed, it happened fairly often. It also surged when it unnecessarily shifted to a lower gear. If we had wanted that gear, and had shifted with the paddles, there wouldn’t have been an issue.

With the 6-speed, there’s a shift lever on the console. With the 9-speed, a bunch of buttons replaces that lever, as well as the paddles. The 9-speed also has a Sport mode and shift logic that anticipates downhill gear changes, and can hold gears when cornering. Clicking the left paddle twice does a double downshift to make the most of the engine’s energetic thrust and sound. When you use the paddles one time, the transmission goes into manual mode for 30 seconds, before reverting back to automatic in order to save fuel. If you put it in Sport mode, the transmission stays in manual.

The all-wheel-drive system has torque vectoring that lets it turn in more sharply to corners, which doesn’t necessarily work with the soft suspension. Pilots with the big 20-inch wheels are more softly damped, to counteract the harshness that big wheels can induce. The front-wheel-drive version is firmer, on its standard 18-inch wheels and tires, on the lower trim levels.

The AWD can send up to 70 percent of power to the rear wheels, and further split the power between them using electronic actuators and hydraulic clutches. It all happens quicker than you can think.

Finally, most versions of the Pilot come with a traction-management system like the one on the Land Rover Discovery Sport (and borrowed for the Ford Explorer). It lets drivers choose a mode (Normal, Snow, Mud, or Sand) and sets up the drivetrain for ideal traction, whether it means starting in second gear, speeding up throttle progression, or disabling traction control. It and the Pilot’s 7.3 inches of ground clearance give it serious all-weather capability, but it’s still limited, not designed for hardcore off-roading.

The Pilot rides on an independent suspension, struts in front and multiple links in the back for precise body control. Its dual-path shocks dampen the lighter bumps to a gentle audible thunk, while the secondary action in the shocks rounds off the edges of deep potholes. The Pilot also uses its brakes to help corner better, by applying an inside front brake in tighter corners. That’s torque vectoring.

The available road-departure mitigation uses sensors and cameras to determine if the Pilot is leaving the pavement, then tries to pull it back on the road with stability, braking, and steering inputs. The package comes standard on Pilot Touring and Pilot Elite trims. We don’t like it. Far too often, it thinks you’re headed off the road when you’re not.

Prices shown are manufacturer suggested retail prices only and do not include taxes, license, or doc fee. Manufacturer vehicle accessory costs, labor and installation vary. Please contact us with any questions.

**Based on 2014 EPA mileage ratings. Use for comparison purposes only. Your mileage will vary depending on driving conditions, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, battery-pack age/condition and other factors.

For 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, 115 combined miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent (MPGe) electric rating; 47 city/46 highway/46 combined MPG gasoline only rating. 13 mile maximum EV mode driving range rating. 570 mile combined gas-electric driving range rating. Based on 2014 EPA mileage and driving range ratings. Use for comparison purposes only. Your MPGe/MPG and driving range will vary depending on driving conditions, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, lithium-ion battery age/condition, and other factors. For additional information about EPA ratings, visit http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/label/learn-more-PHEV-label.shtml.

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