The redesigned 2023 Pilot three-row crossover SUV arrived too late in the year to be considered for our 2023 award, but its retro style, roomy interior, standard features, and strong, smooth V-6 engine qualified it as one of the nine finalists for The Car Connection Best Car To Buy 2024 award.
An off-road-oriented TrailSport model reflects the burlier design of the new Pilot, with a body-color C-pillar and integrated roof spoiler that calls to mind the old Isuzu Rodeo while still being refreshingly modern.
Honda revised the 3.5-liter V-6 to reduce emissions, while it gooses output from 280 hp to 285 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. That said, the heavier, larger model dips 1 mpg in the EPA ratings versus last year, to 19 mpg city, 25 highway, 21 combined with available all-wheel drive. The 10-speed automatic helps real-world efficiency, and it flicks so quickly and smoothly as to be nearly unnoticeable, except on the occasional downshift. The new all-wheel-drive system sends up to 70% of the torque to the rear axle, and torque vectoring apportions it to the wheels with the most grip for more traction on and off road.
TrailSport models add a Trail mode that let the 18-inch all-terrain tires grab hold and cling in low-speed crawling, and recovery points built into the standard hitch (towing capacity of 5,000 pounds) and the front skid plate provide some reassurance, as does the surround-view camera system that lets you see under the Pilot.
The TrailSport upgrades bring the price above $50,000, and the loaded Elite nearly hits $54,000, but even with standard all-wheel drive, that price prompts us to look at less expensive Pilots. We’d step over the LX for the Sport or EX-L that has second-row captain’s chairs, a 9.0-inch touchscreen, leather upholstery, wireless smartphone charging, and a power tailgate for $42,700.
2023 Honda Pilot
Every Pilot gets automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control, and clever storage spaces throughout. The center console is as deep as a truck, a ledge over the glovebox conveniently holds smartphones, and cupholders and USB ports abound. One of the unique features of the Pilot in its eight-seat configuration is the middle of the 40:20:40 bench seat can fold down into an armrest with cupholders built in. That would be the default position unless needing to cram in for carpool duty. On top trims, the middle seat can be removed and easily stowed in the hidden storage floor in the cargo area. It’s only 25 pounds, so it’s so much easier than removing a seat from, say, a Honda Odyssey.
The Pilot still benefits from one of the more spacious passenger and cargo areas, and pushbutton second-row seats make it easy to access the third row. The third row can fit two adults with more headroom and legroom than many midsize crossover SUVs.
Practicality comes first in the Pilot, and we’re a practical bunch. The TrailSport adds some attitude and can let it cover more terrain, but at a cost that squiggles our practical eyebrows. Still, it’s a worthy contender for our top award that will be announced on Jan. 3, 2024. We’ll then also announce our Best Car To Buy for Motor Authority and Green Car Reports.
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