Tested: 2016 Honda Pilot AWD Elite

Boxy no more, does this next-generation family hauler truly think outside the box?

The Honda Pilot always toed the line between SUV and minivan. Personally, I was always on the SUV side, because it was an outlier in the world of most minivans, opting for a boxier figure with more masculine, and, frankly, more interesting exterior lines. However, for the next generation Pilot, the boxiness is gone, replaced with their own version of a smooth—both physically and performance-wise—people hauler.

While the exterior features take some getting used to, it’s not a drastic change that will have you in a kerfuffle. Honda seems to have buffed up the Accord’s sleek front end for the Pilot, drawing more of a contrast with their Odyssey minivan. The goal seems to be reaching a broader, more upscale audience with the Pilot. Only certain cars can get away with incredibly boxy dimensions: Land Rover, Mercedes G-Class, and the aforementioned last-gen Pilot. But now, the strategy looks to be developing an audience willing to spend more money on refinement.

Along with shedding the boxy looks, 300 pounds have been removed thanks to a new platform and materials, while overall length has actually increased 3.5 inches. And with a price increase on the base model of only $125 compared with the outgoing model (now starting at $29,995), the Pilot keeps value as a prime objective. It’s when you start adding options such as AWD, leather, 2nd-row captain’s chairs, and NAV that the price skyrockets to almost $50K.

Built in Alabama, in the good ol’ USA, our AWD Elite model was decked to the nines, literally, with a 9-speed automatic joined together with the standard-for-every-model 280-horsepower V6 and Honda’s new all-wheel-drive system. The new system incorporates intelligent torque management (also known as torque vectoring), which allows the Pilot to adapt to multiple road conditions and terrain changes. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to fully test the system, as New Jersey’s climate has been a boring one deprived of any sort of weather. The AWD and moderately peppy V6 do allow the Pilot to scoot out of its own way, but don’t expect to do any stoplight racing while heading out of town.

Because the Elite is the top dog, many new features complement its interior. One of the best is the electronic gear selector, which gets rid of traditional mechanical connections. In turn, this gives you plenty of added storage space where the center console is. (You’ll have plenty of garba…err, stuff, piled in there in no time!) If you have kids, dogs or elderlies you stuff in the third row from time to time, the Pilot offers one-touch operation for the rear seats, which is helpful if your hands are full.

While looks are subjective, we will give the Pilot credit for a smooth, pleasant and overly enjoyable ride. The 9-speed transmission is barely noticeable even with an overload of gears; the independent front and multi-link rear suspension soaked bumps with compliance; interior features are abundant; and the 540-watt entertainment system pumped out the jams with exceptional clarity.

If you’re looking for minivan usability without the minivan stigma, the Honda Pilot can get you from A to B with SUV capability.

Specs

Efficiency:       19/26/22 mpg (city/highway/combined)

0-60 MPH:        6.1 seconds

Top Speed:      114 mph

Horsepower:     280 horsepower

Torque:            262 lb-ft

Cost:                $46,420 (base) / $47,300 (as tested)


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