Honda launched the midsize Pilot sport utility vehicle for 2003, billing it as "not too big, not too small." Larger than the company's compact CR-V and youth-focused Element, the Pilot replaced Honda's Passport. It carries on largely unchanged for 2007.
The Pilot is powered by a 244-horsepower V-6 that operates via a drive-by-wire throttle system. All trim levels have a tire pressure monitoring system.
More standard features, including a Maintenance Minder and three-row side curtain airbags, went into 2006 models. A two-wheel-drive version with Variable Cylinder Management is available. The VCM system can automatically switch the Pilot's 3.5-liter V-6 between six- and three-cylinder modes to improve fuel economy.
Three versions are available: LX, EX and top-of-the-line EX-L. Honda's Vehicle Stability Assist electronic stability system and XM Satellite Radio are standard on all Pilots. A rear camera is integrated into models with a navigation system.
Only modest bodyside cladding is used on the Pilot, which exhibits a clean look. The hood slopes down to a wide grille that is flanked by wraparound headlights. All models have body-colored bumpers and side moldings.
Unibody construction includes front and rear subframes. Equipped with a fully independent suspension, the Pilot has 8 inches of ground clearance for offroad treks. All 2007 models have fog lamps.
Up to eight occupants can fit inside the Pilot, which features 60/40-split, folding seats in the second and third rows. Theater seating provides a better view for rear occupants. Leather upholstery is standard in the EX-L edition.
Maximum cargo volume totals 87.6 cubic feet. A 4-foot-wide sheet of plywood will fit flat on the floor. Options include a DVD-based navigation system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
Under the Hood
The Pilot's 3.5-liter V-6 produces 244 hp and 240 pounds-feet of torque and runs on regular unleaded gasoline. A column-mounted lever controls the five-speed automatic transmission.
All-disc antilock brakes and side-impact airbags are standard. Driver position and passenger weight sensors control front-airbag deployment. Seat belt pretensioners and headrests are installed for all eight seating positions. Honda's Vehicle Stability Assist electronic stability system is standard on all Pilots.
Honda did nearly everything right with the Pilot. Carlike traits are immediately noticeable, and the vehicle's slightly heavy feel is mixed with considerable overall refinement.
Performance is strong and confident, if not exactly blistering. Response is quick, easy and seamless from the engine and automatic transmission. The seats are firm and very supportive, and a large speedometer is easy to read.
Drivers can expect a smooth ride on good roads and a satisfying experience on rougher pavement. The Pilot stays reasonably flat in curves, but it's not quite as surefooted as some SUVs on narrow twisty roads. It seems a trifle uncertain through some demanding turns.