Larger 2016 Honda Pilot plays catch-up

Redesigned SUV looks more contemporary, boasts numerous improvements

Last updated: April 10, 2015 04:30 PM

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Longer, lighter, and a whole lot more sophisticated and contemporary looking than the ripe for retirement model it replaces, Honda says its redesigned three-row midsized SUV will also be quieter, better finished, and deliver improved fuel economy and performance. These promised improvements are welcomed, as the current Pilot has fallen behind its key competitors, such as the Hyundai Sante Fe and Toyota Highlander. (Read our current Honda Pilot road test.)

Power comes from a new 280-hp, 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine loaded up with fuel-saving technology, including direct-injection, cylinder deactivation, and stop-start technology. On lower trim levels, it's paired with the first six-speed automatic in Pilot history, while upper trims up the cog ante with a new nine speed. The Pilot will again be offered in front- and all-wheel-drive configurations.

On the safety front, the new Pilot gets a suite of available features, including forward-collision warning with mitigation braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and road-departure mitigation to intervene if an inattentive driver starts to wander off the road. A rear camera is standard.

Inside, soft-touch materials lend a more upscale look and feel, and a new one-touch system slides the 60/40 split rear seat forward and out of the way to ease third-row access. Buyers can also choose second-row captain's chairs.

Also new is an available panoramic sunroof, but connected families may not notice, thanks to as many as five USB ports, an HDMI port for a gaming console, two headphone jacks, two 12-volt power outlets, a 115-volt outlet, and an optional nine-inch rear DVD system with Blu-ray capability. Three inches added to the overall length should leave room behind the third row for them to stash all their electronic toys or other gear.

Up front, the Pilot gets a deep console big enough to swallow up a full-size tablet or purse, and one feature we're less excited about—an eight-inch touchscreen interface for entertainment, navigation, and other functions. Other recent Honda model updates have included touchscreens that are an unintuitive, distracting nightmare, but we'll withhold judgment until the Pilot goes on sale this summer and we're able to purchase one for testing.

See our complete 2015 New York auto show coverage.

Jim Travers



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