The first thing that you notice when you get into the Honda Pilot are the small details that Honda has become famous for. The dash gauges with the artistically appealing dial cluster showing what gear you are in. The golf ball dimpled black on-the-tree ratcheted gear shift. The smart, simple and well positioned controls for the radio, heater and air conditioner. Clean and understated interior swathed in battleship gray leather.
Driving around town the Pilot felt like an Accord, smooth comfortable, intuitive in steering, but the usual pain in the tail to pull out of parking space for the lack of an ability to guess just how far you are from the front bumper of that car right behind you. The "Peanut Gallery" immediately recognized the overhead dvd player for what it was and were thrilled. "Daddy !! Can we watch Scooby Doo and the Monster ?!?!."
The result was quiet, which was good because when we had the Escalade we expected the handling to reflect that of a large couch on wheels. But finding that the suspension on the Pilot is quite soft and that care has to be taken in changing lanes took us by surprise.
Maybe it shouldn't have surprised us as the Ford Escape had also felt top-heavy, while the larger Chevy Equinox felt more controlled than either. And maybe its just middle age taking its toll, but all of the last three Japanese and Korean vehicles had seats that took a bit of getting used to. Whereas the last three vehicles from what used to be known as "the big three" were more immediately comfortable, and stayed so for both short and longer trips.
Acceleration was quite good with the usual Honda silky smoothness. The brakes felt solid and progressive in spite of smallish drums anchoring the rear end. Honda, Toyota and Mazda are the champions for the buy-it-new-and-run-it-into-the-ground crowd. The Pilot is stylish, well-designed, should require little in major servicing and will return gas mileage generally above the average for it's class.
The Pilot has the capacity to carry seven with light gear or leave the seats folded, and five with travel gear is an easy fit. Negatives ? Impossible to put child safety seats into the third row and then belt the kids in. And alternatively put them in the second row and access to the third row is only through the rear hatch !
One big one, the Pilot returned almost nineteen miles per gallon as a average. But that is more than two miles per gallon worse that the Jaguar Vanden Plas that had far more room for people and stored gear, but lacked the relatively useless part-time four wheel drive of the Pilot.
If we were on the market for a practical mid-size SUV then the Pilot would be a strong candidate.