The 2023 Honda Pilot enters its 4th generation. But while that usually means a complete redesign from the ground up, a lot of this new Honda Pilot is similar to the outgoing model. Is it a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?
Engine – The 3.5L V6 of the old Pilot remains as the sole engine option for this new generation. Power levels also remain broadly the same with only a slight horsepower increase. It now produces 285 hp & 262 lb-ft of torque (212 kW & 355 Nm). The Pilot Trailsport is the heaviest trim of the 5 available at 2,130 kg (4,696 lbs) which does hamper the acceleration. But while it may not be one of the faster 3-row SUVs in its price range, the V6 provides a bit of character with the noises that it makes at higher rpms. It’s as though its bark is louder than its bite. In any case, the Honda Pilot has “old school” vibes which some consumers still prefer over modern and increasingly complex powertrains.
Fuel Economy – Though this SUV doesn’t have a small turbocharged engine, the fuel economy is pretty good for a naturally aspirated V6. It is rated for 13.0 L/100km (18 MPG) in a city and 10.3 L/100km (22.8 MPG) on a highway. Best of all, it is easy to achieve the rated numbers as I averaged 11.9 L/100km (19.7 MPG) during my time with the Pilot. Furthermore, the other trim levels of the Pilot that do not have the all-terrain tires get better fuel economy ratings. And best of all, this V6 engine does not require premium fuel.
Transmission – The Pilot receives one extra gear over the previous model year with a 10-speed automatic. This is a smooth shifting transmission albeit a little on the slow side to react to a stab of the throttle. It does have quite a few gears to go through before settling onto the correct gear. But once it does, it sticks with it and it doesn’t change its mind.
The one hiccup with this transmission is at slow speeds when the SUV arrives at a stop light. If the light turns green and you apply throttle before coming to a complete stop and before the transmission shifts to first gear, you can feel a harder shift as the transmission does change into 1st to get the SUV going again. But this doesn’t happen too often.
Braking – The brakes are average for an SUV of this size. They provide good stopping power and are easy to modulate in everyday traffic. However the soft-ish suspension allows for quite a bit of nose dive under emergency situations.
Handling – The Honda Pilot is first and foremost an on-road family SUV. The suspension is tuned to be soft and absorb bumps which in turns leads to quite a bit of body roll. However, the steering is direct albeit on the light side in feel. The Pilot also delays the effects of understeer thanks to the i-VTM4 AWD system which has clutch packs in the rear differential that allows for real torque vectoring.
With this specific Pilot being the Trailsport trim, it has a few extra features that allow it to go deeper into the woods. It receives a 1” lift, all-terrain tires, unique stabilizer bars, and skid plates to protect the important components underneath the vehicle. Don’t mistake this, however, for a true off-road SUV like the Ford Bronco but it does have a bit more capability than the Passport Trailsport I test drove last year.
Ride Comfort – With the softer suspension, the 2023 Honda Pilot Trailsport is a very comfortable family SUV. I would even say that on some roads, the ride can become overly floaty in feel. But with that soft suspension, it means that your kids in the back will stay asleep even over the roughest and poorly maintained highways when taking a family road trip.
Interior Space – Another change for this 4th generation Pilot is the longer wheelbase, that’s the distance between the front and rear wheels. This provides more passenger space, particularly in the 2nd and 3rd rows. But starting with the front row, tall adults will have absolutely no problem with legroom and headroom. The seating position is high up with the 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat providing many adjustments for both tall or short drivers. Additionally, the front seats are soft and supportive.
In the 2nd row, at 6’4”, I have zero issues with space even behind my tall driving position. My knees do not feel squished behind the seat, my feet have plenty of space underneath the driver’s seat, and my hair doesn’t brush up against the headliner. This Pilot Trailsport is only available as a 7-passenger SUV but all other trim levels are available with 8-passenger seating.
Getting into the 3rd row is easy. A push of a button on the 2nd row seat tilts and slides it forward. The 3rd row is fairly spacious although tall adults will not want to be stuck there for very long. But smaller individuals and kids will have plenty of space for longer journeys.
And finally in the trunk, the Honda Pilot remains as one of the most spacious 3-row SUVs on the market. Behind the 3rd row, it has 618 L (21.8 cu-ft) of space. Other trim levels of the Pilot have 635 L (22.4 cu-ft) of space. With the 3rd row folded, the Pilot has 1,685 L (59.5 cu-ft) of space and with the 2nd & 3rd rows folded, it can accommodate 3,219 L (113.6 cu-ft) of cargo space.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – With the 2023 Honda Pilot being essentially a box on wheels, wind noise is actually well subdued from the cabin. As I mentioned earlier, engine noise is pleasant to the ears at higher rpms but in everyday city driving, it’s not too loud. However, what is loud is the tire noise on this Trailsport trim. The all-terrain tires produce a lot of noise at higher speeds forcing you to really crank up the radio.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – The 2023 Honda Pilot is not a cheap SUV. The Pilot Sport starts at $50,650 CAD ($36,300 USD, LX)and the Pilot Black Edition will cost you $62,850 CAD ($52,380 USD, Elite). This Trailsport trim is $57,450 CAD ($48,700 USD).
Gadgets – The TrailSport is the mid-range trim level of the 2023 Pilot and as such it comes well equipped but it doesn’t have every feature in the catalog. However, it still has leather upholstery, heated seats, heated steering wheel, sunroof, backup camera, power liftgate, 3-zone climate control, heated rear seats, wireless phone charging, and power front seats.
Interior Design – The 2023 Pilot receives broadly the same design and controls of other, and new, Honda vehicles. It has the same digital driver display, the same infotainment screen and system, same gear selector controls, and the same steering wheel mounted controls. The climate controls look different from other Honda models but they are all physical and super easy to understand.
The Honda Pilot also has a lot of small item storage space. There’s more than enough space for a second phone next to the wireless phone charger, there’s a cubby on top of the glove box, it has cup holders galore throughout the cabin, and the center console is really deep.
Exterior Design – The exterior looks have taken a more conservative approach for the 2023 Honda Pilot. There are fewer flowing lines and the front fascia is simplified with just the LED headlights and large black grille. The rear is also simplified and has a bit of a Honda HR-V look to it. What really stands out to me, in a bit of a bad way, is the 3rd row window. Its shape is very different from the front and 2nd row windows.
Safety – The base trim level of the 2023 Honda Pilot receives all of the available advanced safety systems. Moving up in the trim levels does not get you any more safety system than the base model. Automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with lane keep, blind spot sensors, rear cross traffic alert, and so on. It’s all there.
Unlike in the past, I have not noticed any false emergency braking situations. What I mean by this is that in previous generation Honda SUVs like the Passport, I had the automatic emergency braking warning flash in the instrument cluster because the car thought I was about to have a crash when in reality I was traveling from an area of harsh sunlight to very dark shade.
Warranty – The 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport is covered by a 3 year / 60,000 km new vehicle and 5 year / 100,000 km powertrain warranty. For more information on Canadian warranty, click here. For information on USA warranty, click here.
Conclusion – Overall, the 2023 Honda Pilot remains as one of the best family SUVs on the market right now. It’s very spacious, comfortable, and easy to drive. However, if you don’t have an adventurous family and don’t plan to go often off the beaten path, I’d avoid this Trailsport trim. The tires are very, very loud on highways.
Thank you to Honda Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Honda.ca