|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
If the name seems familiar, it’s because the Honda Pilot has been a huge critical and sales success in North America. Although it didn’t exactly scorch the charts when it arrived in the Philippines, the Pilot nonetheless paved the way for some important brand building. More than anything, it announced to the world that Honda is moving upmarket. Unfortunately, by the time the second-generation Pilot arrived, it’s facing pretty stiff competition not just from its fellow Japanese brands but from the Koreans, Americans, and some European makes as well. Can the all-new Honda Pilot finally escape the clutches of mediocrity and carve itself a nice chunk of the mid-sized crossover pie?
The answer to that largely depends on what you’re after in your mid-sized crossover. If you’re after a driver-centric crossover that carves canyon roads efficiently, look elsewhere. If you’re after a techie sort of crossover with all the bells and whistles, look elsewhere. If you’re after a crossover with serious off-roading capability, look elsewhere. Looking for a comfortable, spacious, practical, and easy to live with crossover, then you’re at the right place.
“Intelligent Family Adventure” is the main design ethos of the all-new Pilot and well, it wears this design statement on its sleeve. It’s distinctively and decisively boxy. The bold exterior features a rather interesting love-it-or-hate-it front facia with the squared-off headlamps and Honda’s trademark three-bar grille. The front bumper is engineered to be cut as low as possible for improved crash compatibility with passenger cars as well as to reduce the wind resistance and drag. At the side, the Pilot doesn’t do anything to hide its height or girth, and instead formalizes its two-box shape assuring that no one mistakes the ample headroom available inside. At the back, the Pilot continues its simplistic look with the square-cut two-tone tail lamps, and niftily, a two-piece tail gate with a separate glass. For those who love the great outdoors, the Pilot comes with functional roof rails as well as a tow hitch (maximum towing capacity is 2,045 kilograms). Capping off the looks is a set of high-contrast 17-inch alloys shod with 245/65R17 Michelin tires.
While the Honda Pilot looks rugged and chiseled outside, the interior is designed to be as refined and intuitive as possible. The black and beige color scheme is unified with less contrast between panels for a very upscale look. The seats (powered for the front row) and steering wheel are finished in high-quality leather while a glass-black finish surrounding the audio controls draws the eye to the large, high-tech center stack. Here, Hondas i-MID or Intelligent Multi-Information Display is housed. It incorporates an 8-inch QVGA screen which displays a wide variety of information from trip/fuel economy to song/track information of your USB or iPod. It also shows information when the Bluetooth HandsFreeLink is operational and doubles as the display for the Pilot’s standard rear parking camera. In fact, there’s little to complain about the Pilot’s interior except perhaps for the instrument cluster, where the black-on-white dials look rather dated and out of place in such an upscale crossover.
Apart from the Pilot’s stellar ergonomics, it also boasts of expansive room for eight, yes eight, adults—each one with their own adjustable headrest. Aside from having the roomiest interior in the segment (at least Honda says so), the Pilot also offers stellar cargo carrying capacity even with the third row seats up. There’s enough space to fit at a weekend’s worth of luggage and perhaps even a golf set or two.
Befitting a luxury crossover, the Pilot comes with a fully-featured entertainment system with CD/MP3 operation as well as full iPod compatibility and Bluetooth audio streaming. The Pilot also boasts of an internal 2 GB of internal flash memory which “rips” CDs allowing it to store up to 18 albums without the need for external software or computers. The sound is outputted through a 7-speaker audio system which is high in clarity but sadly, weak in thumping base.
Another weak point for the Pilot is the interior toys, or rather, the lack of them. Yes, it has the prerequisite items such as a moon roof and auto on/off headlamps, cruise controls, and proximity sensors with rear camera but it misses brownie points for not putting HIDs, rain-sensing wipers, a push-button start/stop or even a power tailgate as part of the package.
With the Pilot based off the Accord’s platform, it’s only fitting to see the services of Honda’s award-winning 3.5-liter V6 with Variable Cylinder Management or VCM under the hood. For the Pilot, this engine sees some unique changes including the application of a plateau-honed engine block, low-friction piston treatments, ion-plated piston rings, and the use of low-friction motor oil. All in all, the engine delivers 257 horsepower and 347 Nm of torque, figures which may look ordinary on paper, but are more than adequate in real life. No words of praise can do justice to the performance of Honda’s V6 engine: it’s powerful, smooth, and refined at any speed. The gearbox may only have 5 forward gears, but the gearing is superbly matched to the character of the engine.
The unibody construction and the use of independent suspension on all four corners suggest that the Pilot’s designed to tackle corners, but in reality, it’s rarely exciting to drive, but at least it’s stable and manageable. It handles quite tidily, but the long hood and thick pillars make squeezing through traffic rather discontenting which wasn’t fixed even after a week’s worth of driving. It’s a quiet ride thanks to enhanced body seam seals, re-tuned rear suspension sub-frame mounts, enhanced pillar separators, improved insulation materials, and using an acoustic glass for the windshield. The ride is plush and comfortable, despite purposely pumping the tires past 35 PSI. Why pump the tires above 35 PSI? To try to improve the Pilot’s fuel consumption figures which despite all efforts can’t even reach past the 5 km/L mark (it did 4.67 km/L to be exact).
Despite being based off the Accord (or even the Odyssey if you think about it), the Pilot’s chassis is strengthened by integrated perimeter rails for added off-roading and towing capability. It even comes with Honda’s variable all-wheel drive system with locking differential (VTM-4) as well as a 483 mm water wading depth—quite impressive given the Pilot’s city slicker origins.
With a price tag of P 2.6-million, it’s clear that this Honda isn’t for every Juan Dela Cruz. However, despite its weaknesses (fuel economy and lack of features), the Pilot is an intelligent, bold, and unique choice in the luxury crossover segment—adjectives which will surely tickle the right set of buyers. Honda has brought its A-game with the Pilot and offers true 8-seater comfort and luxury. So before settling with ubiquity, try something different. Try something a bit left-field. Try the Honda Pilot. Who knows, it may just match your new half-million peso watch.
2013 Honda Pilot
|Vehicle Classification||Luxury Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door Crossover|
|Engine / Drive||F/AWD, lock|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||V6|
|BHP @ rpm||257 @ 5,700|
|Nm @ rpm||347 @ 4,800|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Unleaded / 93~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||2,087|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-Link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electric (front)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40 (2nd), 60/40 (3rd)|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|No. of Speakers||7|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|