SUV sales may be perpetually hot, but there’s no denying it’s tough for many shoppers to get excited about three-row crossovers. Functionally, these are minivans—though they look far tougher than those perennially uncool vehicles, three-row full-size crossover SUVs are designed to haul people and things and do little else, often leaving hardcore off-road capability to smaller or more rugged body-on-frame four-wheelers. The new 2023 Honda Pilot aims to adjust that paradigm. Bigger, roomier, and more capable than the version it replaces, the new Pilot aims to add a bit of daylight between it and the automaker’s Odyssey minivan by offering a sportier experience and an off-road-ready Pilot TrailSport model.
What’s New With the 2023 Pilot?
The attention-grabber of the new 2023 Pilot line is undoubtedly the new Moab-tuned TrailSport model, but before we get to it, it’s worth taking a look at what’s going on under the skin of all new Pilots. Riding on an updated version of the automaker’s light truck platform (versions of which are shared with the Ridgeline pickup, two-row Passport, and the Acura MDX), the new Pilot is longer and wider than the version it replaces. Its wheelbase and overall length both grow almost 3 inches versus the previous Pilot, while its track widens by up to 1.5 inches. The end result, Honda says, is that the new Pilot is more stable and fun for the driver, and both roomier and more comfortable for occupants.
Powering the 2023 Pilot is a new narrow-angle 3.5-liter V-6. Good for 285 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque (up 4 horses from the previous version), the new engine is smaller, simpler, and more efficient than the engine it replaces. Further amping its efficiency is cylinder-deactivation technology and a new 10-speed automatic, which replaces the often-clunky nine-speed auto in the previous Pilot.
The Pilot will be available in front-wheel drive and with Honda’s latest torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system. The updated AWD system features an upgraded rear differential, allowing the Pilot to send up to 70 percent of its power to the rear axle and 100 percent of that power to either wheel.
The New Pilot TrailSport
Speaking of all-wheel drive, the new system comes standard on the new Pilot TrailSport (as well as the loaded Pilot Elite). Unlike the previous-generation Pilot TrailSport, the new one was planned to be part of the Pilot lineup from the get-go, advancing beyond the old badge-and-trim job into what Honda says is a Moab-tuned family crossover capable of “moderately difficult” off-road trails. To do that, the TrailSport model adds a host of off-road upgrades, including 18-inch wheels with proper all-terrain tires, a unique suspension tune designed to give the Pilot better ground clearance, off-road ride comfort, and articulation, steel skidplates for the oil pan, transmission, and gas tank, and recovery points integrated into the front skidplate and rear trailer hitch.
The 2023 Pilot TrailSport also has a unique Trail drive mode. Designed for situations in which the Pilot might have an airborne wheel, the drive mode tweaks the AWD system’s software, utilizing the brakes up front and the near differential out back to send 75 percent of the available power to the tire that’s in contact with the ground and the remaining 25 percent to the tire without traction. Honda says this system allows for the immediate transfer of power once all four tires return to terra firma, making for a smoother overall experience. We were impressed by a ’23 Pilot TrailSport prototype we drove earlier this year, which handled exactly the type of mid-grade off-roading Honda promised.
Styling the New Pilot
Although the Pilot TrailSport got the brunt of Honda’s attention, all models benefit from some significant sheetmetal and interior changes. Outside, all Pilots sport Honda’s latest design language, which sees the SUV transforming from a somewhat anonymously styled mall-crawler to a properly handsome trucklet.
Inside, the Pilot eschews the honeycomb textures found in the new Civic, HR-V, and CR-V in favor of a more conservative, practical aesthetic. The new Pilot sports a deep center console, plenty of storage trays in the center stack, and a wide shelf built into the passenger side of the dash. It also comes standard with a digital instrument cluster (7.2 inches on most Pilots; 10.2 inches on the range-topping Elite), and a small 7.0-inch infotainment display on the top of the dash (Elite models get a 9.0-inch version).
The added length is also a boon for rear passenger comfort. Both the second and third rows are now roomier than before, with Honda claiming class-best legroom from the usually cheap seats in the way-back. The rear seats are more versatile, too. The Pilot will be available as an eight-seater with a second-row bench, a seven-seater with second-row captain’s chairs (the only available configuration for the TrailSport), and as an eight-seater with a removable Odyssey-style middle seat for the second row that also doubles as an armrest and can store underneath the rear cargo floor.
Speaking of, Hondas also claims it’s added more cargo space behind the third row, giving it 22.4 cubic feet of space, while, with the rear two rows folded flat, cargo capacity balloons to 113.7 cubic feet.
What to Expect from the Pilot, Safety-Wise
Even though it’s yet to be crash-tested by the NHTSA or IIHS, Honda is aiming for top scores in both tests. To ace those tests , the automaker has notably developed a new chambered passenger-side front airbag designed to cradle the head and minimize rotation, reducing the risk of severe brain trauma. In addition to the new airbag, the 2023 Pilot features seven others, including standard knee airbags.
On the active safety front, the new Pilot gets the latest Honda Sensing advanced driver assist system, which features wider camera and radar fields of view, thus improving the suite’s performance. Standard active safety features include blind-spot monitoring, traffic jam assist, and low-speed braking control, lane keep assist, and adaptative cruise control.
When Does the new 2023 Honda Pilot Go on Sale? How Much Will It Cost?
With SUV sales booming, Honda is aiming to get its versatile new 2023 Pilot to dealers by December. The automaker plans to announce pricing closer to launch, but we would be surprised to see base pricing rise much beyond $40,000. Seems like we won’t have to wait long to find out if Honda’s gamble of making the Pilot more things to more people pays off.
|2023 Honda Pilot Specifications|
|BASE PRICE||$40,000-$55,000 (est)|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD/ AWD, 7-8-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.5L/285-hp/262-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,500 lb (MT est)|
|L x W x H||199.9-200.2 x 78.5 x 70.9-72.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.5-8.0 sec (MT est)|
|EPA FUEL ECON||18-19/25-27/22-23 mpg (MT est)|
|EPA RANGE, COMB||415 miles (MT est)|
|ON SALE||December, 2022|
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