2016 Honda Pilot Long-Term Road Test - Wrap-Up

2016 Honda Pilot Long-Term Road Test



Read the 2016 Honda Pilot's introduction to our long-term fleet.

See all of the 2016 Honda Pilot's long-term updates.

What We Got

Well before three-row crossovers became one of the hottest segments in the industry, Honda was there with the Pilot. It has seen plenty of changes since its debut 14 years ago, with 2016 marking its second complete redesign. It has become a vital piece of Honda's lineup as it offers families a more rugged-looking alternative to the Odyssey minivan.

For 2016 the Honda Pilot offered five trim levels — LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite — and as with most Hondas there were no stand-alone options.

All versions of the Pilot offered the same 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and either front- or all-wheel drive, with the exception of the AWD-only Elite. A six-speed automatic transmission was standard for all LX, EX and EX-L models, while the Touring and Elite models came equipped with a new nine-speed automatic.

We had a good idea of what we wanted going into the shopping process. The appeal of a top-trim Elite gave us access to all of Honda's latest features, such as adaptive cruise control and various electronic safety systems. What it didn't have was a second-row bench seat, which was replaced by captain's chairs that come on the Elite trim. It limits overall passenger capacity, but it does make third-row access that much better.

Honda agreed to lend us the vehicle for one year to see how it measured up against its predecessor. Here's a summary of how it measures up against Pilots of the past.


  • "Much has been said about the various vehicles that have been negatively impacted by the application of this particular nine-speed automatic. It doesn't seem like any car company can elegantly calibrate the confounded thing. And it feels like nine gears are 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 push-button shifter that comes with it is frustratingly slow, too." — Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

2016 Honda Pilot

  • "During acceleration testing, the engine revs smoothly and feels best from the mid-rpm range to high-end. It tends to make its best power just before 5,000 and upward, where torque peaks. The transmission shifts quickly and crisply, keeping in lockstep with the eagerness of the engine. Nice powertrain under these conditions." — Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant


  • "... the return trip [from Oregon] 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." — Dan Edmunds

  • "As for fuel economy, the Pilot's in-car fuel economy meter showed 26.1 mpg after 294.7 miles of driving. I was initially excited that I got EPA highway (something Dan struggled to do on his trip), but after I pumped in 12.572 gallons, actual fuel economy turned out to be 23.4 mpg." — Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Cargo Space

  • "Holy schnikes, our long-term Honda Pilot has a colossal center console cargo bin. What you see (in this picture) is an entire 2.5-gallon water dispenser neatly slotted into said bin. It simply dropped right in there." — Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

2016 Honda Pilot

  • "Door pockets: quietly clever multi-level design with the bottle holder high and forward in an easily reached spot. I had my wallet and sunglasses 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." — Dan Edmunds


  • "The Pilot is an agreeable long-distance companion. It's respectably quiet and comfortable on the highway, and the V6 gets it up to speed when you give it the spurs. The Pilot isn't luxury-car quiet, but it's quiet enough. The only thing I didn't really care for was the Pilot's big body motions when driving over larger bumps on the highway. Granted, the Pilot is a big crossover SUV, but I wouldn't mind just a bit more body stability." — Brent Romans

  • "On our way up to Sacramento, there weren't many complaints, but limited legroom in the third row was one noted shortcoming. There's plenty of headroom and space to spread out when you're the only person back there, but if you're an adult over 5 feet 4 inches and you're sitting upright, your knees will likely be pretty close to your chest." — Travis Langness, Automotive Editor


  • "There was plenty of space for three guys and three hunting dogs, and we had to keep two of them separated (the dogs, not dudes). The underfloor storage bin proved a handy place to store items that I didn't want crushed. It was deep enough to accommodate my wide-brimmed hat and stayed cool enough not to ruin my bottle of Scotch, Cuban cigars or assorted snacks." — Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

  • "In crossovers of this size, the cargo space behind the third row is limited. The Pilot is no exception, with the distance between the seatback and hatch at just 16.5 inches. Unlike some other crossovers, the Pilot has a false cargo floor that expands the height a few inches when removed. This would prove invaluable for our trip as we could fit luggage behind the third row without compromising visibility out the rear window." — Cameron Rogers, Associate Editor

Audio and Technology

  • "[The touchscreen audio] is 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." — Dan Edmunds

2016 Honda Pilot

  • "Even on a gloomy, wet day, the backup camera on the Pilot still delivers a vibrant, clear picture when you're in reverse. Makes a huge difference when parallel parking or coming out of a space in a parking lot. Some cameras get pretty murky when the light is low, but not this one." — Ed Hellwig, Executive Editor


  • "I was sitting at a nearby coffee shop when Kevin called just past 8 a.m. 'I just got to Honda and looked at the glass. There's a small chip in the lower corner. You'd probably never notice it, but it wouldn't be right for me to install it. I'll order another one for you and it'll be in on Monday.' " — Cameron Rogers

  • "At the two-hour mark, I gave Honda of Santa Monica a call. I was transferred to service two different times and greeted with the same automated message each time: The service department was unavailable. Click. Finally, on my third call, I got through to my adviser's voicemail. A few minutes later, he called back saying he needed another 30 minutes with our Pilot. ... It wasn't clear why the service took longer than estimated. That left me disappointed with this visit overall." — Michael Massey, Vehicle Testing Assistant


  • "In addition to the six-speed, the shifter and the leather, I prefer the EX-L (over our Elite) 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." — Dan Edmunds

  • "I used the adaptive cruise control throughout the trip except when I needed to pass or when traffic slowed in construction areas along I-15. Although it's far from perfect, I like the system more than in the Acura TLX. There were several times when a car cut in front of me to pass a slower vehicle in their lane. Rather than slam on the brakes like I expected, the Pilot beeped like crazy and flashed the 'Brake' light in the instrument panel. The brakes were applied after a few seconds, but I appreciated that the system didn't immediately physically overreact like it does on the TLX." — Cameron Rogers

Maintenance & Repairs

Regular Maintenance:
Routine service intervals occurred in roughly 7,500-mile intervals. Our first service was a basic A1 oil change and tire rotation. The second was a more significant B16, which included an oil and filter change, tire rotation, rear-differential fluid change and multiple visual inspections. The third and final service during our test was another minor A1.

Warranty Repairs and Service Campaigns:
We had to replace a window regulator and the switch for the heated steering wheel, both were covered under warranty. There was just one technical service bulletin (TSB) during our test, 15-072. This software update resolved a problem where the infotainment screen goes blank without warning and stops working. The only non-warranty repair in the past year was replacing a cracked windshield.

Fuel Economy and Resale Value

Observed Fuel Economy:
The EPA told us to expect 22 mpg (19 city/26 highway) from our nine-speed, all-wheel-drive Pilot. At the conclusion of our test we'd averaged just 20 mpg. Our most efficient tank of fuel was 28.8 mpg, however, so it's possible to extract some pretty impressive mileage figures. Our farthest stretch between fill-ups was 506 miles.

Resale and Depreciation:
MSRP on our Pilot Elite was $47,300. After one year and 25,041 miles, Edmunds TMV Calculator valued the SUV at $39,255 based on a private-party sale. This means it depreciated by 17 percent, which is a low number for vehicles in our fleet.

2016 Honda Pilot

Summing Up

Quiet, comfortable cabin that's accommodating for both short trips and long drives, well-designed storage spaces up front, solid acceleration for its size, versatile cargo area, only two minor problems in 25,000 miles of hard use, strong resale value.

Nine-speed transmission that comes on Touring and Elite trims is clumsy and unrefined around town, touchscreen controls for the radio are hard to use, we weren't able to match its combined EPA figure, forward collision warning system was overly sensitive, push-button shifter can be awkward to use for those used to more common shift levers.

Bottom Line:
The latest Honda Pilot is perfectly in tune with the wants and needs of shoppers looking for a roomy, comfortable and reliable three-row family vehicle. It's quiet on the highway, surprisingly nimble around town and never needed anything more than basic maintenance. Our only major complaint was the performance of the nine-speed automatic transmission that often felt confused and unrefined. The six-speed automatic in the lower trim levels works much better and has a more traditional shift lever.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs: $343 (over 12 months)
Additional Maintenance Costs: $810
Warranty Repairs: Replace driver window regulator, replace steering wheel heater assembly, reprogram infotainment system per TSB 15-072.
Non-Warranty Repairs: Replace windshield.
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 3
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 3: Install special-ordered part for steering wheel heater assembly and special-order a window regulator that was missed the first time; install window regulator; and for TSB 15-072.
Days Out of Service: 1
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Best Fuel Economy: 28.8 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 12.3 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 20.0 mpg
True Market Value at service end: $39,255 (private-party sale)
Depreciation: $8,045 (17% of original MSRP)
Final Odometer Reading: 25,041 miles

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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2016 Honda Pilot Research