Honda's ready with an all-new, third-generation Pilot crossover that's longer, leaner and more efficient. The 2016 Pilot is oriented toward improved ease of use and higher technology content, while also fronting more upscale interior materials and the brand's first ever nine-speed automatic transmission.
More powerful and efficient V6 engine combined with less weight and an optional nine-speed automatic transmission should deliver excellent mileage; more room to stretch out; all the latest safety features and personal technology.
Doesn't offer a four-cylinder option or hybrid model like some competitors.
The 2016 Honda Pilot has been substantially redesigned with a new look, upgraded features and an improved V6 engine.
Honda says the 2016 Honda Pilot, its flagship eight-passenger SUV, is a thoroughly re-engineered and redesigned showcase of new technologies, versatility and dynamics unavailable on other large crossovers. That's bold talk and a heady cocktail of promised improvements, but Honda has proven it can shake up a segment when it throws resources at a new or updated model.
The new Pilot has a sleeker shape, with narrower window openings, more chiseled panels and a tapering roof line. It will be built atop a new chassis (also used by the recently redesigned Acura MDX) and gains 3.5 added inches of overall length. This will be most noticeable in the extra entry/exit space in the third-row seats, as well as extra room for arms and elbows.
Honda promises class-leading fuel economy from the new Pilot, as well as a host of new technology. Given that the current Pilot lags behind its competitors in available entertainment and safety features, "new" technology really means "catching up" but we don't rule out Honda's ability to deliver a surprising innovation or two, particularly on a mainstream vehicle like the Pilot.
What's Under the Hood?
An updated 3.5-liter V6 will replace the current engine of the same size. The new V6 should make around 300 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, a marked upgrade from the current output of 250 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque.
A six-speed automatic transmission will come standard, sending power to the front wheels, while upper trim levels will get an all-new nine-speed automatic. A completely new all-wheel-drive system should also include a terrain management system, allowing the driver to select settings that optimize traction for various road conditions.
Honda promises class-leading fuel economy from the new Pilot. The current SUV returns 21 mpg combined (20 mpg with all-wheel drive). That's on par with most of the class, although the Nissan Pathfinder's rating of 23 mpg combined makes a challenging target.
What Unique Features Will It Offer?
The current Pilot lacks many amenities and driver/safety aids available in other large family crossovers, so it's no surprise that the new model will offer now-common technologies like lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring (like Honda's innovative LaneWatch system, which uses a camera to display the passenger-side blind spot when the turn signal is activated), adaptive cruise control, forward-collision mitigation braking and lane-keeping assist.
The 2016 Pilot will also offer an overhauled interior with better cabin design and materials. Today's Pilot offers a useful interior -- not a bad thing when you consider the kind of abuse it sustains in the course of family service -- but it's still noticeably inferior to the Honda Accord sedan, and a few steps below the Pilot's competitors.
Honda's most recent entertainment and navigation systems are among the best for intuitive operation, graphics and features, so expect those to migrate to the Pilot as standard and optional equipment. The Pilot will also offer as many as five USB charging points (upgraded to 2.5-amp charging capability) and a center console large enough to stash away tablets and other large portable devices.
Slightly longer length may also help address one of our complaints about the current model: shallow third-row seating. While the Pilot's third row offers enough space for adults, the seats are mounted fairly low, forcing longer-legged passengers into a squatting, knees-up position. The longer chassis should open up a bit more room in both rows, but we won't know until we actually crawl back there.
Also, for the first time, Honda will offer a captain's chairs option for the middle row. This trims seating to seven passengers, but it's a feature available on other large crossovers and a nifty space-opening option if max passenger capacity isn't a priority.
How Much, and When Is It Available?
The 2016 Honda Pilot will arrive at dealers this summer. With the new look, design and features, expect a starting price slightly higher than the current model's $37,850. We say "slightly" since this is an ultra-competitive segment, with models like the Pathfinder and Chevrolet Traverse starting at around $32,500 and $36,000 respectively.
What Else Is Out There?
You're never short of choices when shopping a seven- or eight-passenger crossover, even when excluding luxury models from Acura, Audi and Infiniti, for example. Most crossovers achieve 19-20 combined mpg, offer all-wheel drive and can tow 5,000 pounds or more when properly equipped.
If towing is a high priority, the V6-powered Dodge Durango can pull up to 6,200 pounds, but only seats seven. The Toyota Highlander offers a spacious cabin and loads of cargo room, and can achieve 21 combined mpg. If you prefer more handling pizzazz from your big crossover, the Mazda CX-9 is the most fun to throw around corners and curves. The Ford Explorer, Hyundai Santa Fe and Mitsubishi Outlander are also worthy considerations.
Check back for a full review of the 2016 Honda Pilot, including specs, driving impressions and buying advice as it becomes available.