2016 Honda Pilot: No longer the box it came in

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Dri

(February 21, 2015) Honda pulled the wraps from the 2016 Pilot at the Chicago Auto Show, and more than a few in the audience were confused. Where was the big, round-cornered box on wheels? What was this oversize CR-V doing on the stand? Why is Honda selling the car with two autom
atic transmissions, one a six-speed, the other a nine-speed? [Adding one gear to the outgoing five-speed, and making it standard only on the lower trim levels suggests the nine-speed’s extra cost would have placed the base Pilot models at a disadvantage when compared to its competition.] How can it be bigger when it looks so much less bulky?

Buyers of the current model may drop their bowl of granola when they see the new Pilot. The shape is sleek, bordering on radical. It will change the look of the local Whole Foods market parking lot. However, at a time when even Volvo has long-since cast off the box in favor of sleeker, more aerodynamic sheetmetal, sticking with a shape that is more suited to Playmobil toys than a real vehicle no longer makes sense.

The only surprise is that the design language is bottom-up rather than top-down, and plays off the successful styling introduced by the CR-V and continued with the entry-level HR-V.

Despite looking less boxy, the 2016 Pilot is still quite spacious; helped, in large part, by a 3.5-in increase in length. Honda claims the lower portion of the rear door opening has been increased by 2.5 inches to ease entry to the third row, and the cargo space grown to allow owners to carry an 82-quart cooler in the cargo area without affecting space in the third row.

In addition, the Pilot finally gets the option of second-row captain’s chairs in the upper trim levels, though the bench-style seat that has been a mainstay of the SUV since its inception is still standard, maintaining the Pilot’s claim to standard seating for eight.

Honda says the new Pilot is almost 300 pounds lighter than the 2015 version, while being more rigid and having better weather and noise sealing. It also says the vehicle will feature a new all-wheel drive system, though it didn’t go into any detail. Undoubtedly, it will be a version of the SH-AWD found in the mechanically similar Acura MDX.

Power is supplied by a direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 with standard cylinder deactivation. Buyers also will be able to order stop-start as an option. As before, the Pilot can be ordered in front- or all-wheel drive form.

In addition to available amenities like heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats and a heated steering wheel, the 2016 Pilot will offer up to five USB ports, an auxiliary port that fits nearly any audio player, an HDMI port for a gaming console, two headphone jacks, two 12-volt power outlets, and a single 115-volt power outlet. The Android-based Display Audio telematics interface has an upsized capacitive touchscreen display and embedded satellite-linked navigation system with improved graphics and new functions. These include 3D terrain rendering, improved road guidance, 911 emergency services and more. In addition, the available rear seat entertainment system has a nine-inch display with DVD and Blue-Ray capability.

Safety equipment is, in a word, extensive and includes the following standard and available items under the Honda Sense banner:

    Lane Watch
    Blind spot detection
    Multi-angle rearview camera
    Collision mitigation braking
    Lane departure warning
    Forward collision warning
    Lane keeping assist
    Rear cross-traffic monitor
    Adaptive cruise control
    Road Departure mitigation

Pricing will be set closer to launch later this year.

The Virtual Driver