2016 Honda Pilot: The EX-L Navi Is the One to Get
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on March 4, 2016
Our recent back-to-back test convinced me that if I was in the market for a 2016 Honda Pilot, I'd buy one with the six-speed transmission and the conventional lever-action shifter. But the EX we tested lacked some things I'd like, such as leather-trimmed seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shifter, and heated front seats.
That very combination exists and it's called the EX-L. But it's more than just leather. It also differs from the EX in that it has a power hatch, a power tilt/slide moonroof, a four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat and "one-touch" second-row seat folding.
Including the compulsory destination charge, one of these goes for $36,955 in front-drive trim and $38,755 with all-wheel drive. Our Elite — which is only available with AWD — goes for $47,470.
The specific one I'd get is the EX-L Navi, which is Honda shorthand for "with navigation." This version costs $1,000 more than a regular EX-L, but even the pricier AWD version goes for less than $40,000. The front-drive version I'd probably choose would cost less than $38,000.
In addition to the 6-speed, the shifter and the leather, I prefer the EX-L because the backseat is still a 60/40 three-across affair. This Pilot seats one more person, and those with one child seat have a place to latch it in the middle. When up, the full-width seatback keeps your cargo from spilling forward, and when it's down the load floor doesn't have the big hole you get when you fold an Elite's middle seats.
The seat configuration part is equally true of the Touring, which lives between the EX-L and the Elite. But that one is off my list because it has the nine-speed I'm trying to avoid. It also lacks another thing the EX-L has: 18-inch wheels and tires. Not only do the 18-inch tires ride smoother, they're also cheaper to replace than the 20-inch rolling stock found on the Touring and Elite.
As of today, Tireack.com sells replacement original equipment 2016 Honda Pilot 18-inch tires for $169.30, but they get $232.75 for the 20-inch O.E. rubber ? some $63.45 more per tire and $253.80 more for a full set.
For the same price as my EX-L Navi, I could instead buy the EX-L w/Honda Sensing, a package that includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with collision mitigation braking and lane departure warning with lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation. Or I could choose yet another variation, the EX-L w/Rear Seat Entertainment, which costs $1,600 more than a regular EX-L.
This is where things can get sticky. I can get an EX-L with Honda Sensing, or with navigation, or with the rear seat entertainment system, but at the EX-L level I can't get any two of them together, much less all three. If I want the lot of them, I have to step up to a Touring, which costs $5,115 more than an EX-L and forces me into the 20-inch tires, nine-speed and weird shifter I'm trying to steer away from. No deal.
For me, this problem is not a problem because I don't want all three anyway. Smartphones and iPads make the Rear Seat Entertainment version unnecessary, and Honda Sensing isn't tuned well enough to keep me from switching it off all too often. Make mine the EX-L Navi.
What am I missing out on by going the EX-L Navi route?
The Elite and the Touring have a 500-watt, 10-speaker audio system, rear-seat charge-only USB sockets, memory seats and mirrors, chrome door handles and longitudinal roof rails (though the load-carrying cross-rails are extra.) And while all Pilots have an acoustic windshield to help quell wind noise, these two also employ "quiet glass" in their front door windows.
The Elite is the only pathway to heated and cooled front seats. The rear captain's chairs I don't like anyway are nevertheless the only route to heated middle row seats. It's the only one with a heated steering wheel, LED auto on/off headlights, rain-sensing wipers and HD radio. And it doesn't just have a regular moonroof, it has an extra-large Jurrassic Park-style panoramic moonroof. And for some reason, it's the only version with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts.
I'm not in love with any of it, except for HD radio, perhaps. KROQ-2 is always among my presets if a car has HD radio. But one radio station is no reason to spend thousands more. Besides, I can stream it.
But Mike Magrath isn't quite of the same mind. He isn't critical of the nine-speed like I am, and notes that its slightly better city mileage performance suits his commute.
Mostly though, he considers some of the EX-L's missing features to be dealbreakers.
Of the cooled front seats, he says, "It’s hot in L.A. and I go for more hikes than you'd expect in poorly-breathing shorts." He also wants the Elite's LED headlights because, "I find myself in very dark canyons all too often." The heated second-row captain's chairs appeal to him and he prefers the Elite's giant sunroof. "I’m a sucker for sunroofs," is how he puts it.
But he's no fan of the Elite's stiff price and Honda's pricing strategy that lacks a-la-carte options and forces him to buy the kitchen-sink model just to get the stuff he wants, even when it has features he isn't particularly interested in.
I get that, but I find the EX-L to have just enough of the equipment I want most. And I really like that I can get a Pilot that I could happily live with for less than $40,000.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 9,134 miles