2016 Honda Pilot: 1,767-Mile Road Trip Recap
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on January 11, 2016
The holidays are over and we're back home in southern California. All told, our round-trip to Oregon added 1,767 miles to our 2016 Honda Pilot. I'd like to say we enjoyed each and every one of them immensely, but at least two of us were cranky with head colds at any given time.
That's not the car's fault, of course. Mostly, it did its job admirably. But there are a couple of things we took issue with. Here's a rundown of the highlights and lowlights we encountered along the way.
Seat heaters: excellent tri-level heaters that warmed up quickly. "The best ever," according to my wife. Of course the companion steering wheel heater was inoperative, as Scott noted earlier. I vote to take it in for service now while the weather is still cold enough to make a difference.
Door pockets: Quietly clever multi-level design with the bottle holder high and forward in an easily-reached spot. I had my wallet and sunglass case on the second tier the whole time and other stuff lower down. Even the door-pull finger pockets are big enough to hold some loose change.
Cargo storage: When exposed, the shallow well behind the third-row was a handy way to confine grocery bags from straying too far, and this worked equally well with the third seat stowed or not. With its lid in place, the well became an underfloor storage spot that swallowed and protected our smaller presents so they wouldn't get crushed when we piled our luggage and larger items on top. As for the main cargo hold, well, it's huge.
Cruise control: I discovered an easy way to switch between adaptive cruise and regular cruise, which was a good thing because the adaptive system irked me no end with its overactive response to nearby cars. I can only tolerate it with little or no traffic, at which point I might as well use normal cruise control. But the normal system is annoying in the sluggish way it responds to "set" commands and its near complete inability to maintain my desired speed on upgrades or downgrades.
Nine-speed transmission: Much has been said about the various vehicles that have been negatively impacted by the application of ZF's nine-speed automatic. It doesn't seem like any car company can elegantly calibrate the confounded thing. And it feels like nine gears is simply too many. It has to downshift three or four gears when I need to pull out to pass, which results in a big lag while it sorts itself out. And the pushbutton shifter that comes with it is frustratingly laggy, too.
I'm willing to bet the six-speed and mechanical shifter combination that comes with the Pilot LX and EX would be far more satisfying to drive, or at the very least less frustrating. And I also suspect the nine-speed's one-mpg window-sticker advantage may well evaporate in real-world use.
Touchscreen audio: Where can I start? It's slow and the touch-sensitive volume control is a nightmare. This thing desperately needs physical volume and tune knobs. But the worst is the ridiculously tiny size of the "source" and "map" touch-sensitive regions (I wish I could call them buttons, but they're not) that are used to swap between modes. They're an inch wide, but only like a quarter-inch tall, which makes them easy to miss when the car is rolling, on account of the normal random vertical body movement a car has going down the road.
This is especially true in northern California and southern Oregon, where the roads are subtly wavy and uneven due to constant land movement. This is what happens when things are designed on a monitor and bench-tested indoors. A vehicle integration staffer driving a physical prototype on real roads should not have missed this.
As for fuel economy, the return trip was only slightly better than the trip north. Tanks of 20.8, 22.1 and 22.7 mpg resulted in a southbound average of an even 22 mpg, which brought the entire trip average up slightly to 21.7 mpg. But this is disappointingly weak when you compare it to the relevant rated fuel economy number: 26 mpg highway.
On the bright side, I did manage to set a new "best range" mark of 385.8 miles along the way.
But there's little rest for the weary. Now that I'm home I have the weekend to unpack and rest up before I have to climb aboard again and pilot the Pilot to Las Vegas for an event associated with the Consumer Electronics Show. But this time I'll be alone with just one small bag. And no matter how many others fly past, I plan to fix my speed at 70 mph on the freeway and use some secondary desert roads posted at 65 mph.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 5,367 miles