Is the 2023 Honda Pilot a Good SUV? 5 Pros and 3 Cons

honda pilot elite 2023 44 exterior front angle scaled jpg 2023 Honda Pilot | photo by Christian Lantry

As the market for mid-size SUVs continues to grow, so too does competition and the demand for added features, tech and capability. Manufacturers have responded with more spacious interiors filled with the extras buyers are looking for, along with added towing capacity and available off-road packages. Against this backdrop, a redesigned Honda Pilot arrives for 2023, delivering on those needs and more.

Related: 2023 Honda Pilot Review: Flying Straight and Level

The new Pilot is larger, more technologically advanced and powerful than the one it replaces, and it thankfully brings a new infotainment system that’s far better and easier to use than the old one. There’s also a new TrailSport off-road trim that goes beyond cosmetic tweaks to deliver real capability for venturing into the hinterlands. All in all, it adds up to a compelling package, ready to do battle in an increasingly competitive market.

Our Brian Normile traveled to Sedona, Arizz., recently to sample the new Pilot, in both Elite and TrailSport trims, in a variety of conditions. While the new incarnation bests its predecessor in many notable areas, there are a few things we’d like to see improved. Hit the link above for our full expert review; for an overview of the highs and lows, read below for five things we like about the 2023 Honda Pilot and three things we don’t.

Things We Like

honda pilot trailsport 2023 04 exterior rear angle offroad scaled jpg 2023 Honda Pilot | photo by Christian Lantry

1. Easy Handler

A new platform and revised front and rear suspensions result in a comfortable and composed ride, with little lean in corners. The new Pilot is 3 inches longer than the old one, and it’s not a lightweight. While its driving dynamics won’t be confused with a performance sedan, the Pilot remains controlled and competent even over rough surfaces, and larger brakes with good pedal feel are more than up to the job.

2. Added Off-Road Chops

The new TrailSport trim first appeared on the outgoing Pilot for 2022, but it brought little more than a raised suspension. The redesign brings a more capable TrailSport, with a suspension raised by 1 inch and tuned for off-roading, more aggressive all-terrain tires, a tweaked AWD system and skid plates underneath. There’s also a low-speed camera system to better let you see your surroundings below 15 mph. The trade-off for the TrailSport’s added capability is a slightly choppier ride than other trims and a bit more tire noise underway.

3. Smoother Powertrain

All Pilot trims get a carryover 3.5-liter V-6 engine matched with a new 10-speed automatic transmission. The engine gets a slight power bump to 285 horsepower, but the big powertrain news is the new transmission: Smoother and more responsive than the old nine-speed, the 10-speed automatic works well with the V-6, providing smooth acceleration and adequate power for highway merging and passing.

4. Easier Infotainment

The new Pilot gets a vastly improved infotainment system that relies less on touch-sensitive controls in favor of physical knobs and buttons for some functions, including volume and tuning. All but base trims use a larger 9-inch display that responds faster than the old one and is much easier to use. There’s also wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

5. Accommodating Interior

The Pilot’s front seats are spacious and comfortable, and the spacious second row gains another 2.4 inches of legroom. Headroom is also good front and rear even with the available panoramic moonroof. Better still, Elite trims come with a second row that can be configured for either two or three passengers thanks to a removable center seat that can be stored in its own compartment under the rear cargo floor.

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Things We Don’t Like

honda pilot trailsport 2023 21 interior front row scaled jpg 2023 Honda Pilot | photo by Christian Lantry

1. Cabin Shortcomings

While the redesign brings improved interior quality and materials, the overall effect is more one of solid build quality than the upscale ambiance you might expect in a vehicle priced north of $50,000. Forward visibility is one area where the old Pilot had an edge, although overall visibility remains good. There’s plenty of interior storage available, but not all of it is easy to access.

2. Tight Third Row

The second-row seats slide forward for easier access to the third row, but there’s not a lot of room once you’re back there. The redesign brings slightly more than an additional half inch of legroom compared to the old Pilot, but that’s not enough to provide sufficient room for adults to be comfortable.

3. Transmission Hiccups

As much as the new 10-speed automatic transmission is generally smooth and a big improvement over the old nine-speed, we experienced some awkward downshifts under acceleration. Rather than dropping several gears at once for smooth acceleration and optimum power, the Pilot seemed to stumble some, only downshifting one gear at a time.

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