2016 Honda Pilot: Why You See a Photo of My Jeep
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on December 3, 2015
My friends and I were going on a backroad tour of the Mojave Desert, and I figured the 2016 Honda Pilot might be a suitable stand-in for our 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk, which wound up on the disabled list after being rear-ended. After all, our 2012 Honda CR-V had proven to be nicely capable during a similar trip in Nevada awhile back.
But the trip leader wasn't so sure. The roads he'd picked see less maintenance than those Nevada tracks, and the area was generally less predictable. He pointed out that a series of late summer storms had washed out a section of Interstate 40 not 20 miles away.
He was already nervous about the 2012 Toyota Highlander that Terry was bringing and the 2012 Honda Pilot that Rodger would be driving. He assumed I'd be bringing my 2012 Jeep Wrangler, and didn't much like the idea of losing access to a second vehicle with a winch.
So I looked up the relevant clearance specs of our 2016 Honda Pilot. What I found sealed the deal.
I took my Wrangler instead. Better to be part of the solution than the problem.
2012 Honda Pilot (Rodger's)
Approach angle: 24.4 degrees
Departure angle: 22.1 degrees
Ground clearance: 8.0 inches
2016 Honda Pilot (ours)
Approach angle: 18.0 degrees
Departure angle: 19.7 degrees
Ground clearance: 7.3 degrees
The same trend emerges if you compare Terry's last-generation Highlander with a new one. Both new-model approach angles are much worse in what can only be an attempt to increase fuel economy with deeper front spoilers to improve aerodynamics.
Sure enough, Rodger's 2012 Pilot hit bottom up front and dragged its tail through what turned out to be numerous small wash crossings that hadn't seen grader attention in months. Along the way he lost a decorative chrome exhaust tip and had to be yanked out of some sand. He even had to trot out some zip-ties to reattach a plastic underbody trim piece that had come adrift after the front chin spoiler did a snow-plow impersonation on gravel.
He loved every minute of it, but he had well and truly found the off-road limit of his Pilot. Terry's Highlander fared slightly better because he'd replaced his worn OE tires with slightly knobbier ones. And his aftermarket trailer hitch grounded out instead of his rear bumper.
It was clear I made the right choice. Our 2016 Honda Pilot has much lower clearance limits than Rodger's. I would have torn it up or gotten truly stuck, possibly both.
Meanwhile, the Wrangler yawned its way through the entire weekend, as did the 4-Runner and FJ Cruiser. They're built for the unexpected; crossovers aren't. And the situation will only get more acute with successive full redesigns as increasing fuel economy pressures exert their influence on the overall design. It would seem that clearance angles are the first attributes for sacrifice.
I am curious about bringing the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk out here once it's back in service. That's a crossover that should have nothing to fear out here.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ "nope" miles