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2018 Honda Pilot Review

2018 Honda Pilot Review
Whether it’s an LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, or Elite, we’re here for that Pilot. It does almost all the family-wagon chores, doesn’t complain much, and tries to take it easy on us in the process. 

With softly rounded corners and a tapered silhouette, the Pilot hardly looks the SUV part. It’s heavy on the crossover design language that also styled the last Chevy Traverse, the Hyundai Santa get the picture. The shape still is elegant and well-detailed, with a neatly organized cabin to boot.

The Pilot pulls with 280 horsepower of V-6 gusto, a little more powerful than it frankly needs to be. The transmission choices are an older, smoother 6-speed we prefer to the sometimes juddery 9-speed. It can tow up to 5,000 pounds, and fuel economy figures rise to 22 mpg combined, though we’ve seen lower results in the real world. Its ride is fairly plush, and the steering’s relaxed—oddly enough, more sedate with the big 20-inch wheels than with the smaller 18s.

The Pilot excels in delivering space in all three rows of seats. All three are adult-friendly, and the middle row of seats can be fitted with a button that slides the second row out of the way for better third-row access. Adults can fit in that rearmost seat; the back two rows fold down for excellent cargo space.

Safety ratings are near the top of the class; the Pilot has earned a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, and five stars overall from the NHTSA. Forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking are offered on most trim levels, though blind-spot monitors only come on Elite versions.

Standard features include Bluetooth with audio streaming, touchscreen audio, power features, cruise control, and air conditioning. As you move up in price, you can add satellite radio, leather trim, a DVD entertainment system, and heated and ventilated front seats.

The 2018 Honda Pilot’s trim, sedate styling fits right in with today’s three-row crossovers.

Today’s Honda Pilot has pleasant styling. It’s no longer the glamourless box it was before its 2016 redesign. It’s not very memorable, though. We give it a 7 for styling.

The Pilot's current sheet metal is legitimately good-looking. It emerged from its wholesale renovation a year ago with a more organic, rounded shape. It makes the most of a lower front end, a three-light sideview with everything in common with Santa Fe and Rogue and Traverse, and a nicely finished rear end that avoids the pitfalls of understyling seen on the Chevy three-row 'ute. Put plain, the Pilot's now elegant and sculpted, without looking too dressy or musclebound.

Inside, the new Pilot couldn’t be more different from the old blocky, plasticky design that died with the 2015 model year. It’s very well finished, and trimmed in materials that have let us forgive Honda for the last Pilot's misadventures. We see design elements borrowed from the current Accord sedans, as well as some of the more utility-minded touches from the CR-V. All the lines and materials are subdued, save for the big touchscreen on upper trim levels. And at the top of the range, the Pilot gets its first-ever panoramic roof option, a glassy panel that opens up the rear two rows of seats to natural sunlight.

The 2018 Honda Pilot offers confident and predictable handling, but shifts and steering can seem slow.

Energetic acceleration and great gas mileage are the hallmarks of the latest Honda Pilot, but handling isn’t as crisp as some newer competitors.

The Pilot’s 3.5-liter V-6 has direct injection, 280 horsepower, and 262 pound-feet of torque. It issues lovely engine noises as it purrs toward redline, and no matter which transmission it pairs with, it can push the chunky two-ton SUV to 60 mph in about seven seconds.
On lower trim levels, Honda fits the Pilot with a 6-speed automatic. The more narrow spread of gears isn’t entirely a burden. It winds higher at interstate speeds and doesn’t launch as briskly as the 9-speed automatic on Touring and Elite Pilots. It also doesn’t suffer the occasional jerky shift like the 9-speed, which does omit the shift lever for console-mounted switches and wheel-mounted shift paddles. The 9-speed also holds gears longer and can double-downshift with two clicks of the left paddle.

The Pilot’s strength is in its softly sprung ride. Honda dialed lots of compliance into the Pilot’s springs and dampers, using dual-path shocks to softly round off the tops of crusty road bumps while the strut front, multi-link rear controls body motions well. Compared to rivals like the new Buick Enclave, the Pilot’s handling seems looser, with less control over wheel rebound motions and more suspension noise in general. The Pilot’s steering is very light and doesn’t give the driver much direct road feel, though the SUV’s brakes are applied to help it pivot through tight corners.

For traction in wet weather and muck, the Pilot can be configured with all-wheel drive that can send power to the rear wheels, then split it between the rear wheels, according to wheel slip and available traction. When the Pilot’s tires need more grip, its AWD system tells the axles to turn more on one of the rear wheel. The system responds very quickly, and its sharp reflexes can seem at odds with the Pilot’s lumbering feel.

Most Pilots also have a traction-management system with driver-selectable modes to manage wheelslip in normal, snow, mud, or sand. With the system and the Pilot’s 7.3 inches of ground clearance, it has very good all-weather capability. Hardcore users will be better served by other SUVs, but with good tires, the Pilot can trudge through winter without quaking in its boots. It can also tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Comfort & Quality
Only a minivan can best the 2018 Honda Pilot’s seats and cargo space.

In its three rows of seats, the 2018 Honda Pilot can accommodate almost every standard-size human. It’s so good at ferrying people around, it crowds around Honda’s own minivan for top family-wagon honors.

We give it a 9 out of 10 for comfort and utility. With higher-grade interior trim and sliding side doors, it’d be a perfect 10. It would also be an Odyssey. 

The Pilot now measures 191.0 inches long, and rides on a 111.0-inch wheelbase. It’s significantly smaller than the new Buick Enclave and that Odyssey, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

In front the Pilot delivers excellent space and comfort. Even the base seats have good support and thick bolsters. The leather-covered seats in Touring and Elite, conversely, could use beefier cushions and bolsters. On any model, the driving position is high, the view out commanding.

Controls include round steering-wheel buttons for phone and audio systems. Honda omitted a volume knob on the radio itself, but it’s due to make a comeback soon, since it appears on the new Accord and Civic. The center console has a pair of deep cupholders and a bin that holds Plus-sized smartphones near a fast-charge USB port. Pilots with 9-speed automatics have a set of transmission buttons on the console rather than a shift lever.

Small-item storage is abundant in the Pilot. There are cupholders everywhere, and a console big enough for an iPad. The third row folds down for a flat cargo floor. There’s a reversible cargo panel for dirty stuff like soccer cleats and beach chairs—and this cargo well behind the third row can hold an 82-quart cooler. Capri Sun for everyone!

In the second row, Honda offers a pair of captain’s chairs or a split-fold bench. The buckets are split by walk-through access and a floor-mounted cupholder tray. On EX-L Pilots and higher trim levels, the second-row seats have a button that folds and slides the second-row seat ahead for third-row access.

Access to that back seat is snug, but the seat is surrounded by enough space for full-sized adults. Leg and head room are excellent, and though the seat cushion rests right on the floor, the Pilot’s third-row seat isn’t just for children.

Honda quotes 18.5 cubic feet behind the third row, 55.9 cubic feet behind the second row, and 109 cubic feet behind the front seats. The commodious cargo hold doesn’t rattle or vibrate with excess road noise, and Honda blots up other cabin noise with lots of soft-touch trim and acoustic glass.

With good crash ratings and good features, the 2018 Honda Pilot gets the safety nod.

With good crash-test scores and equipment, the 2018 Honda Pilot earns 8 out of 10 for safety. 

In its most recent tests the NHTSA gave the Pilot five stars overall. In one test, for driver frontal protection, the Pilot earned a four-star score.

The IIHS gave the Pilot “Good” scores in all crash tests, and rated its headlights “Acceptable.” Its crash-avoidance technology was given the “Superior” label. It's rated a Top Safety Pick.

All Pilot crossover SUVs have a rearview camera. All other trims save for the Elite get a right side-view camera, while the Elite instead takes a set of blind-spot monitors.

The mid-level EX and EX-L models have a bundle of safety technology that includes forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings and active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. Honda’s lane control system doesn’t operate as smoothly as other systems; the crossover tends to boomerang from one side of the lane to the other. It’s time for surround-view cameras on the Pilot, too.

Are you not entertained? We’re not sure what advice to give if you can’t be pleased inside the 2018 Honda Pilot.

The 2018 Pilot comes in LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and Elite trim levels. Prices range from about $32,000 to nearly $50,000.

With standard features and options that fill all the usual line items, and with its decent infotainment system, the Pilot earns an 8 for features. 

Every Pilot comes with power features, cruise control, air conditioning, cloth upholstery, 17-inch wheels, and an AM/FM audio system with USB connectivity, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and a 5.0-inch color audio display. The base Pilot LX cannot be ordered with critical features like forward-collision warnings and the clever one-touch second-row seat.

The Pilot EX gains a power driver seat, a right-side-view camera, remote start, satellite radio, three-zone climate control, and two additional USB ports. Honda makes its lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems available on this trim.

The Pilot EX-L has heated front seats, the second-row one-touch seat, leather, a power moonroof, and a power tailgate. The Touring edition adds the forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems as standard, as well as 20-inch wheels, parking sensors, navigation, a Blu-ray entertainment system, two more USB ports, stop/start, ambient lighting, a 115-volt outlet, and the 9-speed automatic transmission.

The pricey 2018 Pilot Elite adds cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, HD radio, second-row captain’s chairs, LED headlights, and automatic high beams. In this version, the right-side-view camera goes away; it’s replaced by blind-spot monitors, which we prefer.

The basic audio system adds a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen display and runs both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Touring and Elite crossovers have a 540-watt, 10-speaker audio system.

Fuel Economy
Gas mileage is strictly average in the 2018 Honda Pilot.

With its latest EPA ratings in mind, the Honda Pilot earns a 6 for fuel economy.

With the 6-speed automatic, the base front-drive Pilot is rated at 19 mpg city, 27 highway, 22 combined. Those numbers drop to 18/26/21 mpg when all-wheel drive is fitted.

On the Pilot SUVs with Honda’s 9-speed automatic and front-wheel drive, EPA ratings sit at 20/27/23 mpg. With all-wheel drive, the numbers are 19/26/22 mpg.

In our long-term test of the Honda Pilot, we saw more along the lines of 21 mpg combined.

The similar Acura MDX has a hybrid system that lifts mileage considerably, but it’s not offered on the Pilot.


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