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2016 Honda Pilot Review By Larry Nutson

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2016 Honda Pilot

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The all-new 2016 Honda Pilot SUV made its global premiere at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show and went on sale earlier this past summer. It was time for a new Pilot as the outgoing model had been around for six years and Honda needed to catch up with the competition.

James Jenkins, Manager of Light Trucks at Honda Product Planning, recently stopped by the Chicago area and addressed members of the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) to speak about the all-new Honda Pilot and Honda’s other light trucks.

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The crossover SUV segment has been growing in leaps and bounds. The Pilot is a midsize three-row SUV for those who need more people-room and the changes and improvements on the 2016 Pilot make it a viable consideration for anyone shopping for good comfort and utility.

Honda has done a nice job in offering choices on the new Pilot without making it too difficult for a buyer choose. The 2016 Pilot is offered in five trims – LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite. There’s a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive, which gives a total of seventeen different models to pick from.

Prices start at $29,995 for the front-drive EX and go up to $46,420 for the all-wheel drive Elite. Depending on model there’s seating for up to eight.

Cargo room abounds growing from 16.5 cuft with all seats in place, to 46.8 cuft with the third row folded and then to 83.9 cuft with both rear rows folded. Front drive models can tow 3500 pounds and all-wheel drive models are rated for 5000 pounds.

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As you can see, the all-new 2016 Pilot offers lots of versatility for moving people and things. Providing the moving-power is a new 3.5-liter direct injected i-VTEC 24-valve SOHC V-6 engine that produces 280 HP. The engine features Variable Cylinder Management cylinder deactivation technology to help reduce fuel consumption.

The new engine is mated to one of two new transmissions – a 6-speed automatic (6AT) for LX, EX and EX-L trims, and 9-speed automatic (9AT) for Touring and Elite models. Models equipped with the new 9AT also have a new Idle-Stop capability to further enhance fuel efficiency. The 9-speed transmission gear selector is a push-button control in the center console. At first it takes a bit of concentration to use when selecting drive, reverse or park but after a while it becomes second nature. Paddle shifters are equipped on 9-speed transmission models if you prefer the DIY approach. A more conventional console shifter is used on the 6-speed automatic.

Peak engine output is up 30 horsepower and nine pound-feet of torque over the previous model, with increased torque over the engine's entire RPM operating range.

The new engine and transmissions, along with a lighter all-wheel-drive system, plus a nearly 300-pound mass reduction on the upper trims along with and a major reduction in running resistance, result in improved performance and fuel efficiency.

EPA test fuel economy ratings vary a bit by model. The highest rated are the front-drive Touring and Elite models at 23 mpg combined, with 20 city mpg and 27 highway mpg. The all-wheel drive LX, EX and EX-L are the lowest rated at 21 mpg combined, with 18 city mpg and 26 highway. In any case these ratings are all fairly competitive and, from my view, EPA test ratings within 1 mpg of each other are effectively the same due to the rounding methodology used to arrive at a whole number for the rating.

The 2016 Pilot features a new push-button-operated Intelligent Traction Management System that offers four different AWD operating modes: Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand; and two FWD modes: Normal and Snow. With the push of a button the operating parameters of the power train are modified to better suit the traction and driving conditions.

Honda has upped the ride and handling game with the new Pilot with a stiffer body structure an enhancements in the front and rear suspension. I found the ride quite smooth in my around town Chicago jaunts in the 2016 Pilot AWD Elite I was driving. Handling is very comfortable and confident and city street potholes were eaten up quite well. I thought the steering to be a bit light for my taste, yet still had decent feel.

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On the inside the Pilot provides all those SUV-advantages your would expect. In the rear the second-row seats tilt and slide forward for third-row access. The Pilot’s infotainment and navigation system is all touch-screen operated. A couple knobs for functions like volume and tuning would be nice to have.

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>Everybody has push-button start these days and sometimes the button is not so obvious. Honda does a nice job with a very well placed and noticeable red button. HVAC controls also are easy to use.

I have two outside mirror related nit-picks with the Pilot. One is that the Pilot is fairly wide at 78.6 inches. Add on the width for the outside mirrors and often times it is hard to squeeze between a parked car and a double-parked trash collection truck on a narrow city street. I’d like to see a power-fold function for the outside mirrors. Also, with the complete redesign of the Pilot I was surprised to find the power mirror adjustment switch mounted to the left on the instrument panel, thus requiring a back and forth rocking chair movement to adjust the mirrors in the right position. On the door armrest is much better.

I should note I did like the location of the door panel-mounted fuel filler door and rear hatch buttons.

A great feature that’s unique to Honda and equipped on the Pilot is LaneWatch display, which uses a camera located at the bottom of the passenger-side outside mirror to capture a wide-angle view of the passenger side roadway that is displayed on the IP screen. The image is displayed when the right turn signal is activated, or when a button on the end of the turn signal stalk is pressed. I love this feature to check for bicycle riders on the right side. The 2016 Pilot also has a multi-angle rearview camera.

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There’s a lot more detail and specifications about the Pilot that you can find with just a mouse click on Comparing the Pilot to other three-row SUVs can be done right here at

The 2016 Honda Pilot has received a 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) when equipped with optional front crash prevention.

Honda made a big move with the 2016 Pilot with a complete redesign that is very different with a fresh look on the outside. Plus there’s a new engine and transmissions and restyled driver controls and upgraded interior materials. It’s worthy of a hard look if you are shopping.

2015 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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