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2012 Honda Pilot

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Pilot is a three-row eight-passenger sport utility vehicle holding firm to traditional styling and rugged appeal, but sees quite a few upscale redesign changes for a more sophisticated interior to support popular high-tech conveniences.

I drove a 2012 Honda Pilot with the standard 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 engine with Variable Cylinder Management producing 250 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque. Paired to a five-speed automatic transmission with Grade Logic Control, fuel economy estimates are 18 miles-per-gallon city and 25 highway as with my two-wheel drive test drive. Available in four trims – the base LX, EX, EX-L and Touring – my EX-L model came with the following standard features: leather-trimmed upholstery; heated front seats; ten-way power driver’s seat; XM Radio; Bluetooth; USB audio interface, power moonroof, power liftgate with lift-up glass hatch; an eight-inch multi-information screen; tri-zone climate control; and fog lights. Total vehicle price came to $34,720.

New for the Pilot model is a three-slate front grille, restyled headlights and new wheels. The interior sees a new center stack design and other assorted touches. Fuel efficiency gains – 1 miles-per-gallon city and 2 highway – also give way to boasting rights. There are many three-row utility vehicles to pit again the Pilot – the Ford Flex, Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Sequoia come to mind – but none capture the Pilot’s humbled ruggedness, which makes a utility classic like the Nissan Xterra (two-row only) a good vehicle to pit it against.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: It’s the trim pluses that paint appeal, like a sunroof, leatherette upholstery, power liftgate, and a third-row bench that can actually accommodate adults comfortably. If your style is no-frills toughness in a ute, the Pilot pleases – because this vehicle does not have the inspired cabin design nor quality materials the fancier full-sized SUVs deliver. The exterior as well can be overshadowed by more highly styled three-row crossovers.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Pilot scored crash test ratings of “Good” in frontal and side-impact tests, but just “Marginal” in roof strength by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Pilot an overall rating of 4-Stars. Important standard safety equipment includes Vehicle Stability Assist, ACE Body Structure, three-row curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic brake distribution.

Cost Issues:The Pilot still costs a pretty penny at $40k fully loaded – the Touring trim brings a ten-speaker premium audio system featuring Song by Voice, Honda’s Satellite-Linked Navigation System, rear DVD entertainment system, multi-view rearview camera, integrated second-row sunshades, and trailer harness – but that price is where a Sequoia base trim starts.

Activity & Performance Ability: The Pilot’s newfound redesign might not possess the siren’s call some other three-row SUVs seem to have, but the V6 engine offers a capable ride with improved insulation for a more comfortable one. For the size, it’s far from bulky on the roadways and in busy parking lots, offering drivers a svelte and commanding feel. Yet at corners, the Pilot can be a tad unwieldy. It lacks the off-the-line acceleration some crossover competitors offer, but it’s functional, spacious, and gets the job done – enough for big families that prefer practicality over refinement.

The Green Concern: A gain in fuel economy is always a marketing plus in the big-sized car department, and the Pilot held its word at achieving a combined 21 miles-per-gallon with the two-wheel drive model. The four-wheel drive achieves 17 miles-per-gallon city and 24 highway for 20 combined.

FINAL PARTING WORDS Simple ruggedness receives a touch of elegance with the 2012 Honda Pilot, proving this classically styled SUV can keep up with the contemporary wishes of techies and kids. But it’s still a rough-and-tumble SUV great for eight passengers or any of your furry friends.

2012 Katrina Ramser