The third-generation Honda Pilot utility vehicle, which arrived for 2016, is one of a trio of the company’s vehicles receiving styling and content updates for the 2019 model year.
The Pilot joins the HR-V compact utility and the two- and four-door Civic car models that are also receiving facelifts. In terms of sales, all are at or near the top in their respective categories. Honda clearly intends to keep it that way.
Although exterior changes are subtle, they do help make the Pilot less anonymous. The redesigned grille is stylish without being overbearing, while the fog lights are integrated with the lower air-intake garnish instead of being positioned below. There are also new taillights and a redesigned bumper.
Interior changes are slightly more obvious, including a new touchscreen that comes with an actual volume knob for the audio system. Previously, you had to adjust the level on the touchscreen with a swipe of your finger, forcing you to take your eyes off the road to do it.
Now available for all but the base Pilot LX trim is a new infotainment system that includes CabinControl. With a smartphone app, rear-seat passengers can remotely change their audio and climate settings. CabinControl can also send directions to the navigation system.
Optional CabinTalk allows front-seat passengers to communicate to riders in back over the audio-system speakers. Note that CabinTalk doesn’t allow for two-way conversations.
Ultimately, what makes the Pilot so useful is its interior space. There’s room for up to eight passengers, which automatically places it ahead of other seven-seat utility vehicles such as the GMC Acadia, Ford Explorer and Mazda CX-9, but equal in capacity to the Chevrolet Traverse and Toyota Highlander.
The Pilot’s standard 3.5-liter V-6 carries over with 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque.
The LX, EX and EX-L models each come with a six-speed automatic transmission, while the premium Touring and Elite trims have nine forward speeds.
The available all-wheel-drive system, called Intelligent Traction Management (i-VTM4), is effective for most weather and surface conditions. It can direct up to 70 percent of the torque to the rear wheels and 100 percent of that to the outside wheel while turning. Called torque vectoring, it creates more cornering control/stability with reduced understeer (the natural tendency for the vehicle to travel in a straight line when turning the steering wheel).
The i-VTM4 can be set to Normal, Snow, Mud or Sand modes, with their own throttle, transmission and torque-distribution settings. A brief test of the Pilot’s AWD system over a boulder-strewn and deeply rutted off-road course (set up by Honda) clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of the system.
On the highway, the 2019 Pilot performs effortlessly and the torque-vectoring capability makes a noticeable difference at higher speeds. The V-6 is certainly no slouch off the line or when passing, and with the six-speed automatic transmission it’s rated at a decent 19 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway (20/27 with the nine-speed transmission).
A front-wheel-drive Pilot can haul up to 3,500 pounds, while the AWD-equipped model is rated at 5,000 pounds.
Pilot pricing starts at $32,450 for the decently equipped base LX model that, for 2019, adds LED headlights and LED daytime running lights, automatic high beams and a number of dynamic safety technologies — such as emergency braking — under the Honda Sensing banner.
At the upper end, the Touring and AWD Elite trims are new to the lineup and add heated second-row high-back bucket seats, hands-free power tailgate, ambient lighting, premium audio system and 20-inch wheels (18-inchers are standard). A dual-pane panoramic roof is exclusive to the Elite, which rings in at $49,000.
Whatever the trim level, the 2019 Pilot is a comfortable and competent vehicle, with the carrying capacity of a minivan, but with the all-weather, all-road capability normally reserved for serious off-roaders.
What you should know: 2019 Honda Pilot
Type: Four-door, front- /all-wheel-drive utility vehicle
Engine (h.p.): 3.5-liter SOHC V-6 (280)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic; nine-speed automatic (opt.)
Market position: The Pilot makes a strong case for a utility vehicle over a minivan. Aside from similar cargo/people capacity, all-wheel-drive-equipped utility vehicles are better suited for bad weather and road conditions.
Points: Styling refresh closely resembles the smaller CR-V. • Kudos to Honda for restoring the audio system’s volume knob. • Strong-running V-6 is one of the best, but why not make the optional nine-speed automatic transmission standard across the line? • Added standard safety tech is to be lauded.
Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (std.); emergency braking (std.); lane-departure warning (std.); road-departure mitigation (std.)
MPG (city/hwy) 19/27 (6 AT); Base price (incl. destination) $32,450
B Y C O M P A R I S O N
Base price: $30,000
Second-generation model comes with four-cylinder or optional V-6 power.
Base price: $33,000
All-new 2019 utility comes with standard AWD and a 260-h.p. turbo four-cylinder.
Base price: $31,750
New full-size utility is a first for VW. Four-cylinder and optional V-6 engines.