New Honda Pilot boasts all-day road trip comfort

New Honda Pilot boasts all-day road trip comfort

It’s not an overly exciting crossover, but it has a good third row

For most of us, a classic car is something fun to zip around in on weekends. For our daily transportation, we instead rely on our “normal” late-model cars, SUVs or trucks.

For those daily chores, more and more Americans are opting for trucks and SUVs for their size and convenience, price tag and (in some cases) practicality be damned, they just want to drive big trucks. In the full-size SUV sector, the Honda Pilot is one of the top-selling members.

Why? It could boil down to something ultra-simple: It offers all-day comfort for a family.

Most SUVs that offer three rows of seating have two that are actually comfortable, while the people in the very back are left with cramped space and nearly zero legroom. That’s fine if it’s a kid, a dog curled up on the seat or some baggage, but it can be agony for grown-up humans – especially on long trips.

The fact that the 2019 Honda Pilot actually has a usable third row means it can offer a larger family enough room to spend hours in the car. It is by no means gargantuan, but a couple of small children will find it downright spacious, while adults could make do.

In addition to room for the whole family, the Pilot also offers more than 16 cubic feet of storage behind the third row, which is about five medium-sized bags — perfect for a road trip weekend.

The leather-trimmed interior offered with the top-of-the-line Pilot Elite that I drove was certainly comfortable and lent a light air of sophistication to what boils down to a people hauler. I found the seats to be comfortable and the sight lines to be good, which is nice considering the vehicle’s overall size.

The Blu-Ray/DVD entertainment system mounted on the ceiling behind the front seats is a great feature for keeping little ones entertained, and it comes standard with the Elite trim. The system comes with wireless headsets, which let  passengers in the second and third rows stay entertained while traveling in the middle of nowhere. Like similar systems in other vehicles, those headsets let the adults up front continue listening to music or podcasts on the premium sound system instead of being subjected to seven hours of Dora the Explorer.

I have one complaint about the interior: The lack of an actual shifter for the transmission is irritating. Some manufactures have gone away from the traditional console shifter in favor of buttons or dials, which I find maddening. And given the Pilot’s design with the buttons directly adjacent to two cupholders, the potential for a spill getting into your transmission buttons made me anxious.

Honda photo

Honda photo

Considering that it’s a full-size SUV, the Pilot is not a bad-looking vehicle. Some in this class are still embracing the full boxy look, but Honda has added some curves that make Pilot look like the bigger sibling of the popular compact CR-V.

Boasting all LED lights, including headlights, on the exterior, the Pilot I drove benefited from the combination of a Steel Sapphire Metallic paint job and 20-inch alloy wheels. There’s zero doubt that you’re driving a family conveyance, but the design makes it look sharper and sportier than it actually is.

On the road, the Pilot handles like a full-size SUV – it’s big and has some weight to it, but it’s not as bruising of a ride as a pickup. The 3.5-liter V6 makes a respectable 260 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, which I found was plenty to get the 4,300-pound vehicle up to freeway speed.

The VTEC engine is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and has little trouble locating the proper gear to accelerate when needed.

The ride is unremarkable in its smoothness, though pot holes provide a decent jolt. The suspension does well to avoid the soft ride of a luxury car. The steering is predictable and the wheel offers enough road feel to let the driver feel in tune with the miles of highway the Pilot was designed to cover. In all, the Pilot offers a nice, if unexciting, driving experience.

Honda didn’t try to make the Pilot more than it is. Instead, the Japanese automaker built a full-size SUV that’s good at getting people and items to their destinations in comfort. It supplied a decent design, decent gas mileage for a full-size SUV and a usable third row.

It might not be the most exciting or sexiest car out there, but the Pilot gets the job done.

2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite

Vehicle type: 7-passenger full-size SUV, all-wheel drive
Base price: $48,020 Price as tested: $49,015
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 260 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 262 pound-feet of torque @ 4,700 rpm Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 111 inches Overall length/width: 196.5 inches / 78.6 inches
Curb weight: 4,319 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 19 city / 26 highway / 22 combined
Final assembly in: Lincoln, Alabama

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