To keep your head when all about you are losing theirs
The pretense is gone. The 2016 Honda Pilot, particularly the Elite allwheel-drive version used for this column, no longer mimics a rough-stuff sport-utility vehicle.
Instead, in what is now its third generation, it is truer to its original concept as a friendly family hauler — mostly square-bodied in its 2016 manifestation, outfitted with the latest advanced electronic safety and onboard entertainment equipment.
It is luxury enough for buyers more in search of value, utility and reliability than they are in need of a prestigious manufacturer’s badge to tell the world they are doing well.
Prestige, in this case, is relegated to the substantially more expensive, but like-bodied, Acura MDX. At an estimated $8,700 higher transaction price for a similarly outfitted MDX, you can have it.
Both the Pilot Elite and MDX are equipped with 3.5-liter gasoline engines with marginal differences in horsepower and torque. The Pilot Elite delivers a maximum 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The Acura MDX comes in at 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet. For nearly $9,000, I can live with those differences.
Here’s the thing: Most people in the market for amidsize-to-large SUV aren’t looking for earth-scorching performance or sub-five-second 0-to-60-mph times. Their primary concerns are comfort, safety, utility, decent fuel economy, and overall competent and enjoyable highway performance.
The 2016 Pilot Elite gives them all that and more. It is an exceptionally well-appointed vehicle, with leathertrimmed seats and steering wheel and an ergonomically sensible, easy-to-seeand-use instrument panel featuring an eight-inch touch screen.
There is a Blu-Ray rear entertainment system with a highdefinition screen. There are five USB portals to keep passengers connected with the outside world, assuming they find that more appealing than bonding with other people inside the vehicle. The Pilot Elite is a music lover’s delight — 540-watt premium audio system with 10 speakers and subwoofer, and an easy Bluetooth connection for streaming audio to turn smartphones and other devices into portable orchestras.
How does it drive? Easily. I would have no trouble taking this one across the country, or on my usual round trip between Northern Virginia and New York. The Pilot Elite is darn comfortable. And it is wonderfully quiet, largely thanks to extra efforts by Honda engineers to isolate road noise. It is a pleasant place to be, especially when driving with contentious personalities.
It is amazing how an electronic device plugged into a USB portal can defuse arguments. I’ve heard all that talk about how modern technology is eroding “family togetherness” during travel time in cars and trucks. Baloney! I’ll take beep-beep, click-click over a mobile argument anytime.
My one complaint about the Pilot Elite has more to do with our increasingly subpar U.S. driving infrastructure than it does with the vehicle itself. The Pilot Elite is wide, nearly 6 feet 7 inches, which should allow enough maneuverable room on most roads in this country. But, alas, too many of them are narrowed by ongoing repair work — either that, or their width is compromised by egregious disrepair. The wide-bodied Pilot Elite becomes a bit of an albatross in those settings.
Still, I’d happily drive this one in most paved places, even in Baltimore, the District of Columbia and New York. It handles extremely well, more like a sedan than a sport-utility or wagon. It rides high. I can see everything.
And there’s this: Many of those things I can’t see, or see immediately, are handled by technologies such as blindside monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure warning. On foggy nights, when fellow motorists are slamming on their brakes because they’ve too quickly approached vehicles ahead of them, the Pilot Elite helps out with forward collision warning. I like all those things. They help, especially on long drives under trying circumstances. Thank you, Honda. Thank you.
The Pilot Elite is wonderfully quiet, largely thanks to extra efforts by Honda engineers to
isolate road noise.