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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

Intro to the 2009 Honda Pilot

I can launch into the merits and shortcomings – and I will – but the simplest way to describe the most desirable quality about the mid-size SUV Honda Pilot is that its not too big, not too small, but sized just right.

I drove a 3-row, 8-passenger 2008 Honda Pilot EX-L with a 250-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine. Interior highlights included leather seats, XM satellite radio, driver's 8-way adjustable power seating, and tri-zone climate control (all rows). Exterior new bonuses include a tailgate with a lift-up glass hatch (not on previous models). Total vehicle price came to $33,595.

Launched in 2002, the Pilot has been redesigned for 2008 and the shape is boxier – a bit reminiscent of the newer Jeep Commander. The bulk pulled tighter around the edges and is sharper than the previous years' models. The roof height on front-drive versions got rid of less than an inch, but length expanded to 2.9 inches and the width at 1.0 inch.

When I drive a vehicle, I spend a majority of my time fiddling around with the technology or other powered accouterments, testing for usability or driver friendliness. I spent most of my time in the Pilot feeling perfectly settled, just basking in delight with its performance and comfort. So did my passengers, including those in the third row. In other words, we all felt downright at home.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: I had a larger third-row passenger take on hours of sitting without complaint. Most third rows offer minimal comfort in terms of head and legroom – Honda added 2.9-inches of wheelbase for 2009 model to create a third-row that is actually functional with easy of access. I found the EX-L trim very pleasing and sufficient; but not to be outdone by its Acura line, Hondas are stepping it up with the luxury factor and now offer a luxury-oriented Pilot Touring edition with the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation2 System™ as standard equipment, starting at $36,795.

Reliability & Safety Factor: On National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests, the pilot earned five out of five stars on frontal crash and side crash, and four out of ive on rollover. Standard safety equipment includes the Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE®) body structure; Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSA®), also commonly referred to as electronic stability control, with traction control and ABS; three-row side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor; dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags; a driver's front side airbag, and a front passenger's side airbag with an occupant position detection system. The Pilot is backed by a 36-month/36,000 mile or a 60-month/60,000 powertrain warranty.

Cost Issues: The mid-size, non-luxury SUV market is a very tough market to be in – you've got a lot of great cars at great prices (Saturn Outlook, Buick Enclave, Kia Borrego) – but the Pilot remains a contender at under $35,000. Hondas are extremely reliable cars, with the Pilot being no exception.

Activity & Performance Ability: Very smooth and silent, with agile and secure handling. Acceleration is not immediate when passing others on highway; a bit hesitant, but still delivers – not a vehicle good for towing.

The Green Concern: It has SUV gas needs, but at an average of 19-mpg (17-pg city and 23-mpg highway driving), the Pilot is a little less thirsty than most competitors of its size. Another added bonus is the new Variable Cylinder Management (VCM), which allows the engine to operate on six, four or three cylinders, depending on engine load. There is a light on the dash that indicates when the VCM is working, netting 1-2-mpg improvement in fuel economy.

FINAL PARTING WORDS: A perfectly sized SUV built by one of the most reliable auto manufacturers in the world at an affordable price makes the Honda Pilot a sought-after vehicle.

Katrina's Car Tips For Women Drivers
2010 and 2009 Model Reviews
2008 Model Reviews

©2008 Katrina Ramser