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Sneak peek: 2012 Honda Pilot

Consumer Reports News: September 02, 2011 01:53 PM

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Arguably, Honda zigged when it should have zagged in designing the current Pilot. Just when the market was shifting to car-based crossovers, Honda moved the Pilot in a more truck-like design direction. Further, the former Top Pick lost ground, with notable performance demerits. For 2012, the Pilot styling is softened, the interior is upgraded, and fuel economy is nudged up. Will it be enough to make the Pilot more competitive?

The Pilot face is freshened with a new fascia, grille, and headlamps. The styling changes are said to improve aerodynamics and contribute to the fuel economy boost. Combined with friction-reduction efforts in the powertrain, a variable-displacement power steering pump, and low-rolling-resistance tires, the 2012 tweaks see the two-wheel-drive Pilot improve 1 mpg city, 2 mpg highway for a combined 21-mpg EPA rating. The four-wheel-drive version is rated at 20 mpg overall—up from 18 mpg in 2011.

The cabin is updated with new gauge faces, redesigned center control stack, deeper storage pockets, and some revised controls. Honda cites numerous measures to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH)--characteristics we have be critical of in several recent models. By improving sealing around seams, changing suspension mounts, upgrading insulation materials, and reducing air leaks, Honda promises a quieter driving experience.

2012-Honda-Pilot-Touring-pr-int.jpgThe last Pilot we tested had a smooth powertrain and sound ride and handling. However, it lost ground over its predecessor on interior fit and finish and braking. Further, our testers complained that road noise was omnipresent and the center console crowded the driving position. We’ll see if these weaknesses have been addressed with the 2012 update. We aim to find out, with the 2012 Pilot on our schedule for testing.

Honda redesigns: Is the automaker resting on its laurels?

Jeff Bartlett

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