2019 Honda Pilot Elite AWD

2019 Honda Pilot Elite AWD

This family SUV does most things well.

By Cherise Threewitt, Contributor, Car-ED.com | October 2018

What is this vehicle?

The Honda Pilot is a family-friendly three-row SUV. The Pilot is known for above-average reliability, for spacious passenger seating and cargo areas, and for affordable convenience and driver assistance features. This is also one of the more comfortable, easy to drive vehicles in the segment. Unlike some of its competitors, the Pilot avoids falling into the trap of trying to be sporty, which is a wise decision on Honda’s part. The Honda Pilot was last redesigned in 2016 and gets some minor updates to the features menu this year.

Who is this vehicle for?

Looking for an affordable midsize SUV that can seat up to eight passengers, and is spacious enough for adults to find a comfortable spot in the back row? You really only have a few choices, and the Pilot is one of them. Of course, if you’re willing to compromise rear space and just leave the third row for the kids, you’ll have more options, but the Pilot doesn’t ask you to make that compromise. In short, the Pilot is a very good vehicle for a family, especially when you take a look at its safety and convenience features.

Why is this vehicle important to you, the buyer?

The Pilot was already a pretty well-rounded vehicle, but in this competitive segment, that’s not always enough and more frequent updates are always welcome, even when a redesign is not due. Thus, the 2019 Pilot keeps things fresh with several new standard features that help make this SUV safer and easier to use. Honda adds extra value by including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, road departure mitigation, and adaptive cruise control to every Pilot. Furthermore, Honda has also added wireless device charging to the options list, which probably isn’t a must-have feature for most consumers, but it’s cool that it’s available.

Interesting facts about this vehicle!

Every 2019 Pilot comes with the same engine, a 3.5-liter V6 paired with either a six-speed or a new nine-speed automatic transmission, rated for 280 horsepower. 

Front-wheel drive is standard in every trim except the top-tier Elite, which comes standard with all-wheel drive. Every trim can be configured with all-wheel drive as an upgrade.

The Pilot tested for this review was a top-end, loaded Elite model with a sticker price of $48,020. The base model is pretty affordable for the class, but a loaded Pilot ends up in luxury SUV territory, which might be a hard sell for some buyers.

What Impressed Us / Top Likes:

Here we must note that we got only about half an hour with the Pilot during the Midwest Automotive Media Association Fall Rally — thus, we didn’t have a real opportunity to check gas milage, try loading up the cargo area, or pull u-turns in a city street. 

The addition of the aforementioned driver assistance and active safety features is a big plus. These features can cost thousands of dollars if they don’t come standard, and this helps give the Pilot an edge in terms of value.

The Pilot is really comfortable to drive. It doesn’t feel particularly nimble or athletic, but it has smooth acceleration and grips the road well. It moves easily through traffic. It won’t necessarily keep up with more performance-oriented SUVs, but Honda is pretty forthright about its capabilities.

Items to Make Better (Least Favorite Things):

There was some sticker shock associated with the top-end Elite trim provided for our test drive. It’s a nice vehicle, but is it worth nearly 50 grand — especially when all Pilot models get the same engine and lots of advanced safety features? We’d lean toward “no” since most buyers can probably get what they need in lower trim levels.

Fuel economy ratings are only average for the class; it would be nice if the Pilot actually had an advantage here.

Segment and Competitors:

There are a couple ways to approach this. You could compare the Pilot to three-row SUVs regardless of size, or stick to midsize SUVs. 

In the three-row SUV category, good choices are:

  • Ford Expedition
  • Chevrolet Tahoe
  • Kia Sorento
  • Toyota Highlander
  • Subaru Ascent
  • Mazda CX-9
  • Volkswagen Atlas
  • Hyundai Santa Fe

Other good midsize SUVs include:

  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Ford Edge
  • Ford Explorer

Unique Specifications:

The Pilot is offered with two family-friendly features that may not be unique, but they aren’t exactly common. CabinTalk allows the driver to talk into a microphone so that rear passengers can hear, eliminating the distraction of turning around and shouting. CabinControl uses a smartphone app to enable other passengers to access cabin features like the audio system or climate control. When we asked Honda’s PR team to give an example of its use, they suggested that kids could adjust the rear row temperature without bothering their parents to do it.

Pricing and Availability:

Six trim levels let you find a Pilot to suit your needs and budget. The 2019 Honda Pilot LX starts at $31,450. The loaded Honda Pilot Elite, as tested, checks in at $48,020. The Pilot is available now.