Riding the wave of ever-increasing popularity among crossover utility vehicles (CUVs), Honda Motor Company has introduced an all-new version of its large, 8-passenger Pilot, a totally redesigned model that was the most significant debut at this year’s Chicago Auto Show. The new third-generation Pilot grows in exterior size as well as passenger and cargo space while featuring a sleeker design more in line with other recent Honda models such as the compact HR-V crossover.
Design: Larger, More Streamlined
In a segment that includes spacious entries like the Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Traverse, the previous-generation Pilot was always considered a little undersized. The new 2016 model is 3 inches longer than before, space Honda says has primarily gone toward increasing cargo capacity, where drivers will now be able to fit a standard-size 82-quart cooler without the need to fold down the third-row seat. That rear seat is also expected to be a bit roomier with enough space for 6-footers to sit comfortably in the outboard positions.
From an exterior styling standpoint, the Pilot sheds the boxy, truck-like look that made it a bit of an oddball in Honda’s modern lineup. The new model is much more curvaceous, with a pair of side-body character lines flowing nicely into an upswept kink at the C-pillar that closely resembles a slightly more chiseled take on the company’s best-selling crossover, the CR-V. Despite the Pilot’s overall growth, Honda promises the new model will be 300 pounds lighter than before, aiding in handling characteristics while offering the best fuel efficiency in the large crossover segment.
All 2016 Pilot models will come equipped with Honda’s latest-generation Earth Dreams direct-injection 3.5-liter V6 engine, here featuring cylinder deactivation technology for fuel savings when extra power is not necessary. This advanced engine features Honda’s i-VTEC variable valve timing and lift control tech plus a stop-start system that shuts off the engine while at idle, further adding to fuel savings.
Entry-level models will come with a new 6-speed automatic transmission, while upscale choices will feature a strengthened version of the 9-speed automatic that Honda has recently fitted to its Acura sedan models. Honda will also once again offer the Pilot with front-wheel drive as standard equipment, while a newly redesigned AWD system will be optional.
The 2016 Pilot’s interior has been totally revamped to make the best use of available passenger and cargo space. The power-folding, second-row bench seat now features a wider aperture to make access to the third row easier. Reclining captain’s chairs can be substituted for the bench seat in the second row, although that option will reduce total seating capacity to 7 passengers.
Honda has taken a page from its strong-selling Odyssey minivan in making the Pilot’s interior useful for today’s constantly connected families with a large number of power outlets and USB ports both front and rear for interfacing with mobile devices. The company’s HondaLink dual-screen infotainment system will make an appearance, featuring Apple Siri Eyes Free personal driving assistant tech for iPhone users along with Pandora internet radio, Bluetooth, navigation, and a standard rearview camera.
The 2016 Pilot lineup will be manufactured in Lincoln, Alabama with an on-sale date by Summer 2015. Pricing is expected to stay right around the level of the current 2015 model, which starts at $29,870.