2017 Honda Pilot EX-L 3.5 V6 Review
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2018 Honda Pilot EX-L 3.5 V6 Review

It won't win any beauty contests, but its ultimate ingenuity wins us over anyway.

The Wise Man

The 2018 Honda Pilot is Honda’s answer to the ever popular Ford Explorer. While it’s one of the most popular midsize crossover SUVs in the North American market, the Pilot’s popularity here is quite the opposite. Too bad, because while it costed more than its chief rival, the Ford Explorer, the Honda Pilot did a better job of being a midsize crossover SUV compared to the Ford Explorer, at least in my opinion. Unfortunately, I may be the last automotive journalist to drive this car, because after a two-week period with this car, I now wish that Honda Cars Philippines would continue to sell this car. Yes, the Honda Pilot has been axed yet again for the Philippine market. However, will consumers miss it? Let’s find out.

Exterior

Will consumers miss the Honda Pilot’s looks? Probably not, because while it does not look ugly by any means, it doesn’t look particularly stylish either. Sure, up front, there’s some flair thanks to the Solid Wing Face Grille, LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, and the chiseled fascia. At the sides, the Honda Pilot looks elegant. Smooth lines and gentle creases create a profile that is similar to the Mercedes-Benz GLS, while the rear has an interesting LED tail light design. However, the overall design is seriously begging for the 20-inch wheels found in its North American sibling’s Touring trim. Since we get the mid-tier EX-L from the North American market, the 18-inch wheels look tiny for the body, not helped by the fact that this White Orchid Pearl finish makes it totally blend even more with other vehicles in the corporate parking lot. At this price point, most people want to flaunt the price tags of their vehicles through its striking design.

Interior

Things brighten considerably when stepping inside the Pilot. The interior is impeccably built and well screwed together. Soft-touch materials are scattered all over the place, with only the areas you rarely touch being finished in the hard stuff. There’s just the right amount of satin chrome finishes and gloss black trims to keep it looking sophisticated and modern. The rest of the package feels ergonomic and user-friendly since everything is where you expect it to be without any annoying quirks. As most people say nowadays, don’t judge a book by its cover, because you might be in for a surprise once you open it.

Space and Practicality

Front occupants are treated to electronically adjustable seats, and in the case of the driver, the seats move back automatically when you turn off the vehicle, just like in a luxury car. There’s also an extremely wide center console enough to fit a bucket of fried chicken inside.

Honda’s ingenuity is further shown as you move through the back. Remember the Honda Odyssey? Yeah, that level of ingenuity. There are numerous nooks and bins around the Pilot, including a dizzying number of cupholders that is sure to stop anyone from complaining of dehydration. Aside from numerous storage areas, one of the advantages of utilizing a monocoque body over a body-on-frame design like in the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado and Mitsubishi Pajero is that there’s plenty of space inside thanks to the lower floor.

And I really do mean plenty. The interior height is tall, and the lower floor means that lolo and lola won’t ask for a ladder to climb up. Also, the Pilot is about 5 inches wider than a Toyota Fortuner, which means three adults sitting at the second rows won’t even be rubbing shoulders with each other. The flat floor improves things further for the middle passenger.

The Pilot’s monocoque construction also enables the third row to actually fit adults without the need to amputate their legs. And not just the usual two. Three can fit at a pinch back there so smaller kids will find it extremely roomy. Unlike most SUVs, the Honda Pilot is a genuine eight-seater vehicle, being closer to minivan-like than SUV when hauling people.

When not in use, the third row seats are dead easy to store under the floor, and you are offered with 1,325 liters of space. Pop them up, and you are left with an okay amount of space that’s actually smaller than the Ford Explorer’s. But wait, the false floor can actually be lowered to increase the trunk’s height. Additionally, the false floor can be flipped, revealing a plastic side if you don’t want to mess-up the carpeted side. Genius!

Features, Safety, and Infotainment

Apart from the usual array of automatic LED exterior lights and wipers, passive entry with push-button start, electrically folding mirrors, powered tailgate, sunroof, and so on, the Honda Pilot also comes with Honda Sensing, which bundles driver assist features that include automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning with rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. Adaptive cruise control is not quite the autopilot (pun intended) you expect since it doesn’t work in stop and go traffic, but it’s still a handy feature on long drives nonetheless.

Infotainment duties are provided by Honda’s Display Audio system. It’s not yet the newer interface found in recent Hondas, which means that there’s no Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or even a volume knob. For some reason though, the infotainment in the Pilot is very responsive compared to other Hondas.

Additionally, rear occupants can enjoy the privilege of a rear entertainment system, which can work independently from the infotainment system up front. Two wireless headphones are provided, while a pair of 3-millimeter auxiliary jacks let other passengers enjoy whatever’s being played through the screen without having to argue on who gets to listen to whatever is being played.

Powertrain

Under the hood of the Pilot is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 284 hp @ 6,200 rpm and 353 Nm of torque @ 5,000 rpm, mated to a 6-speed automatic. Power is sent through an i-VTM (Intelligent Variable Torque Management) AWD system that offers torque vectoring for better handling and cornering. 

How It Drives

Pressing the start button barely creates any vibrations through the cabin, plus the V6 smoothly growls into life. Having a V6 engine under the hood is certainly a refreshing experience. In a sea of newer, small displacement turbocharged engines, nothing beats the sound, smoothness, and refinement of a bigger engine. It sounds so nice when you mash the throttle, plus there’s a feeling of potency whatever the rev range. Its inherent linearity and smoothness are what we’ll miss in big non-turbo engines such as this. 

Whether out on the highway, city, or tootling around your gated community, the V6 engine and six-speed automatic are a match made in heaven. For the most part, it just fades into the background, blending gears together for the appropriate situation. If you want to overtake, the gearbox simply drops down to the correct gear. There are no paddle shifters, but for the most part, there’s no real need for it.

Thanks to excellent sightlines and a large glass area, the Honda Pilot never feels intimidating to drive. It’s a wide vehicle, eclipsing past two meters in terms of width when you consider the wing mirrors, but it’s easy to know where the hood and sides end. There’s also a plethora of sensors that further help you navigate the Pilot through tight streets and confines.

There’s no denying the feeling of stability when out in the highway. The cabin is extremely hushed. Plus the engine is well matched to the car it is bolted on. The chassis and suspension tuning deliver both a delicately plush ride, yet does an excellent job of controlling body roll. The steering is on the light side, masking the Pilot’s girth, but it firms up as you get up to speed. The Pilot has a level of agility dialed in that it drives much smaller than it is. It’s not as fun as the Mazda CX-9, but for most people, the level of grip and stability it provides is more than enough.

This V6 engine has cylinder shutoff, which means it can shut down some of its cylinders to save fuel. Surprisingly, this has enabled me to achieve an average figure of 8.7 km/l over a two-week period. Not bad at all, Honda, especially considering this car’s size and power.

Verdict

And we go back to the question, will consumers miss the Honda Pilot? That depends on who you ask. While there are many people who base their premium vehicle purchases on how much it flaunts itself in the corporate parking lot, there are others who look for an SUV’s inner beauty, and that’s where the Pilot excels. Whereas the Ford Explorer is the metrosexual, the Honda Pilot is the wise man who has more brains than brawn.

That said, the Honda Pilot will sure be missed, especially given the demand for premium large SUVs. Honda Cars Philippines hasn’t given an exact reason, but our sources say it’s because of the unfavorable exchange rates. Given that this car is transacted in USD due to its Alabama origins, it’s no surprise then, that the Pilot becomes unprofitable to be priced competitively in our market.

More Photos

Pricing and Rating

Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Features: ★★★★★
Safety: ★★★★★
Acceleration: ★★★★☆
Handling: ★★★★☆
Comfort: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆

Price: P3,380,000

Overall: 4.4 out of 5

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