After our last review of the Honda Accord Touring Edition, I had the opportunity to drive the 2015 Honda Pilot. Since I have always been a fan of Honda vehicles, I took the liberty of driving the 4WD 8-passenger Pilot Touring Edition for the week. This top-of-the-line vehicle came equipped with navigation, rear-DVD system, tri-zone climate control, integrated 2nd row sunshades, rear-view camera and automatic tailgate with lift-up glass hatch. Yep, this baby was fully-equipped.
Honda has always received top marks for building great vehicles – I agree and for this reason, we have a new Honda Odyssey and CR-V in our fleet at home. Would this Pilot impress me? Let’s find out.
Right from the onset, the 2015 Honda Pilot is a big vehicle, both inside and out. This second-generation Pilot continues to go in the opposite direction than most of the industry and retain the boxy look. As you will read later, this structure has its benefits when it comes to interior space. On the outside, either you like it or you don’t; for me, it’s still pleasing to the eye and feels refreshingly different from the European look that most other manufacturers have decided to adapt. The vehicle is brash, yet retains an elegant, look. However, as many of you may have already seen, the all-new 2016 Pilot has been completely redesigned, inside and out. Thus, if you’re looking for a great value, now is the time to pick up the Pilot.
The interior of the 2015 vehicle can easily accommodate a full hockey team and two spares – it is roomy. There are also an abundance of storage bins and cubbies, more than an elementary classroom. There are dual map pockets in all the doors, storage trays in the passenger-side dashboard, and even a bin located under the third-row armrest. Note-worthy is the massive center console between the front seats. Need even more room? There are many more nooks and crannies to store crayons, water bottles, and other items. If you are carrying 8 passengers, the boxy shape of the vehicle makes a huge difference. The European-looking competitor vehicles, with their rearward sloping rooflines, create reduced headroom, especially for the 3rd row passengers. This generation Pilot, however, gives ample headroom for all passengers, maximizing all “usable” space throughout the vehicle.
The cabin of the Pilot is constructed mostly of hard plastic. I’m not a fan of hard plastic and would prefer softer materials; however, that being said, Honda did it right and the materials look as nice as any hard plastic can. The dash is well-thought and all the major controls are easily within reach. At the center sits the 8-inch navigation screen, which has vivid colours and a sharp picture. Honda even added a cover on top of the screen to prevent glare, allowing the picture to be clear at all times. The one spot where Honda missed the ball is with the navigation, audio, and climate controls. Even though there is a separation between the systems, the buttons all look similar and it’s easy to hit the wrong one when making a selection. My wife preferred the controls on her Honda Odyssey, even though it is three years older. That being said, the learning curve is not steep and within a short time, one becomes comfortable with all the controls. Bluetooth integration is fool-proof and the voice controls on this Pilot are near perfect. From changing radio stations to placing calls, Honda’s voice control never made a mistake.
Honda has spent its research dollars very wisely when it comes to engineering. This high-riding vehicle is very easy to drive, almost carlike. And like fine wine, the driving experience has only gotten better. Around town, the Pilot is nimble and maneuverability is excellent, which is quite surprising for such a large vehicle. The 18” tires absorbed most road imperfections, allowing for a quiet smooth ride, like the more expensive luxury SUV’s. I had no problems parallel parking the vehicle, thanks to the rear-view camera system, which has 3 different viewing options, and the parking sensors. On the highway, the Pilot drives like a big vehicle should – solid and capable. Yes, there is body roll, but that is expected for such a tall, 4600 pound vehicle. While it’s not going to win any slalom races, Honda emphasizes that it is a family hauler, not a curve hugging sports vehicle. The large, heated 10-way power leather seats were very comfortable and provided excellent support for the front passengers. My kids enjoyed watching their favourite Barbie movies on the rear 9-inch DVD system, a definite during long journeys.
Regardless of trim, the second generation Pilot is only available with the 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6, which is mated to a five speed automatic transmission. While the engine is quiet, very smooth, and relatively responsive, it definitely falls behind the competition. The 2016 will get a new 3.5 direct-injected engine, and depending on trim, either a 6-speed or a ZF-sourced 9-speed. On the upside, however, the current Pilot gives pretty good fuel economy, delivering 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. I averaged about 21.3 mpg during the test drive, which is excellent considering that I made sure the i-VTEC was kicking in often.
Keeping safety at the forefront, Honda fitted the Pilot with front airbags, side-curtain bags that cover all three rows, active head restraints, electronic stability control, tire-pressure monitoring system, and anti-lock brakes as standard. Nope, there are no HID headlamps, but again, the new model will surely be keeping up with the competition.
The Honda Pilot continues to impress even years after its launch. Yes, it does have some shortcomings, but for a family SUV, it delivers excellent value for a great product, even when compared to luxury SUV’s. With the redesigned 2016 hitting the market any time, this might be a great time to pick up the current model for a great price.