Strengths and weaknesses:
- Somewhat industrial dashboard
- heavy steering
Pilot doesn't take a flyer on mid-sized segment utility
"I like the more refined version of the big, boxy shape, the large outside mirrors and the new wheels."
Honda’s Pilot received a number of light tweaks for 2012 which is all well and good, but more needed to be done.
During a week behind the wheel of a Pilot in Touring livery courtesy Honda Canada, I find a good deal to like, even love, about it, but I come away wishing for more.
What have they done?
New Touring tweaks include a smoother, more aerodynamic, exterior with a new fascia, Bluetooth audio, 660 watt premium audio system with 10 speakers and 5.1 Surround Sound Theatre Mode and satellite-linked navigation with trilingual voice recognition, multi-view rear camera with on-screen display guidelines and illuminated steering wheel-mounted controls.
Updates include heavy-duty power steering cooler and automatic transmission cooler, roof rails, auto-on headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome door handles, outside temperature readout, illuminated steering wheel mounted audio controls, acoustic windshield, Bluetooth phone interface, and power tailgate.
I like the more refined version of the big, boxy shape, the large outside mirrors and the new wheels. It all comes together to make a strong visual statement.
Inside, the instrument panel has been revised. Its rather industrial, workmanlike design still dominates the visual space. A new button layout has simplified the centre stack and the textures have a “softer” look and feel.
The big thing about the interior is Pilot’s ability to carry eight adults. Naturally the people in the middle of the second and third row seats don’t rave about the comfort, but they fit – if they’re of average stature. And access to the back row is relatively easy. I hear no complaints in that respect.
Like all three-row utes, Pilot doesn’t have a lot of space (589 litres) for gear when all seats are in use, but with the third row folded down, there’s substantial load floor (1,351 litres) which becomes huge (2,464) when the second row is folded.
Under the hood is a 3.5-litre V6 engine with Honda’s cylinder deactivation technology. It’s a slick engine, quick to respond and smooth. I never feel the switch in cylinder activation.
I find it a tad thirstier than the Eco Guide figures indicate, but I don’t make it a habit of driving to get the utmost economy either.
While the five-speed automatic is smooth enough, one more notch would probably produce a notable improvement in consumption.
Power gets to all four wheels though Honda’s Variable Torque Management 4WD system.
I’m giving the Pilot a pretty good workout in our time together and I find its versatility a more-than-adequate alternative to a minivan in terms of carrying people and cargo.
I can’t resist taking a Pilot to the airport – to pick up my daughter, Krista, and my two grandchildren. This is one mid-size ute with a full size attitude. It swallows up their luggage and car seats and with my wife in the front passenger seat, daughter and kids ride comfortably in the second row without a problem.
The interior has tons of storage bins, including a cavernous centre console for all those gotta-have amusements kids have with them. The overhead entertainment system, keeps little minds occupied on longish trips, eliminating the usual “are we there yets.”
Pilot navigates the highway quietly and smoothly. There’s no rocking or rolling on corners and the vehicle is tight – even a stint on washboard road surfaces brings no squeaks or rattles. Increased sound-deadening measures ensure no untoward noises find their way into the cabin.
Downsides? Not many. On the inside, I’m not crazy about the industrial dash, but I can live with that. Mechanically, other than the five-speed automatic and heavy steering feel, the Pilot flies easily with the rest of the mid-size ute squadron.
2012 Honda Pilot
Trim level: Touring
Price as tested (before taxes): $48,520
Options on test vehicle: none
Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.5L V6/ 5-spd auto. with sequential shift
Power/torque: 250 hp/ 253 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): regular (80L)
Fuel economy ratings: 12.3 L/100km city; 8.2 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 10.9 L/100km over 675 km
Warranties: 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Chevy Traverse; Ford Explorer; Kia Sorento; Mazda CX-9; Toyota Highlander.