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At its debut, the Honda Pilot essentially defined the emerging market for midsize crossover SUVs. Offering decent V6 power, above-average fuel economy, easy maneuverability, plenty of interior comfort and versatility, and seven-to-eight-passenger seating, the Pilot was exactly the kind of vehicle that families leery of the minivan stigma were looking for.
Of course, a lot more crossover SUVs have come out since the original Honda Pilot. Honda responded with a full redesign, and we've found the second-generation Pilot to be a little off the mark. While it typifies Honda's usual knack of milking as much usable interior space as possible from a vehicle, it's less maneuverable than you might expect from a Honda. However, a used example of the original Honda Pilot is one midsize crossover you'll definitely want to look at.
Used Honda Pilot Models
The current, second-generation Honda Pilot debuted for the 2009 model year and represented a huge change from the vehicle it replaced. There was more usable interior space and Honda's latest selection of features and interior controls, but in terms of character it's more trucklike.
This Pilot spent its first three years essentially unchanged. These Pilots are pretty similar to today's version, though we didn't think as highly of them as we do of the current model. Notably, these 2009-'11 Pilots suffered from poor braking performance, unremarkable fuel economy and a dashboard control layout that many people found confusing. As such, we would advise shoppers considering this generation to focus on the 2012 or later models.
The first-generation Pilot was introduced for the 2003 model year, making this Honda one of the first midsize crossover SUVs available with a third-row seat. A 240-hp 3.5-liter V6, matched to a five-speed automatic transmission, was always the only available power source. From 2003-'05, all Pilots sold were all-wheel drive; a front-drive version was offered alongside AWD after that.
Honda originally offered the Pilot in three trim levels: LX, EX and EX-L. The Pilot LX came with a respectable collection of convenience features, while the EX added upgrades like a power driver seat and automatic climate control. The EX-L had leather seating and could be ordered with an optional navigation system or rear-seat entertainment system. Alas, the nav and entertainment systems couldn't be ordered together.
Changes for this generation Pilot were minor, though some important safety features became more readily available as the years went on. For 2005, the V6 was revised, and horsepower increased to 255. This was also the year that stability control became available, but only on the EX-L.
In 2006, some minor changes were made to the Honda Pilot's exterior design. The adoption of revised SAE certification procedures also saw this model year's horsepower rating dropped to 244, but performance was unaffected. ABS and front-seat side airbags were always standard on Honda's midsize SUV, but 2006 models gained a three-row side curtain airbag system with a rollover sensor. Honda also made stability control standard on all Pilots for this model year. For the final model year, the LX trim was replaced by the Value Package, and a new SE trim debuted that slotted above the EX and added a sunroof and DVD player.
In reviews, we found the original Honda Pilot to offer good handling and a smooth ride for a midsize SUV. We also enjoyed its well-organized instrumentation and the quality of interior materials -- both hallmarks of Honda. Although seating accommodated seven to eight passengers, we considered the third row uncomfortable for adults. Cargo capacity, on the other hand, was always sufficient to handle what most families required.
If you are looking for newer years, visit our new Honda Pilot page.