Overall: What Honda vehicle seats up to eight passengers, has moving-van stowage capacity and comes with a standard V6 engine? No, we don’t mean the Odyssey minivan.
Drivetrain: The usual V6 is backed by six- or nine-speed automatic transmissions; front- and all-wheel-drive.
Honda’s third-generation Pilot sheds its previous boxy structure that made it look the part of a proper boulder basher. The automaker has determined that a softened appearance will broaden the Pilot’s already broad appeal. That same approach has worked well with the Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder and Chevrolet Traverse, whose utility also caters to family life. The new Pilot grows by 3.5 inches in overall length and by nearly two inches between the front and rear wheels. The roofline is slightly lower for improved aerodynamics. The changes mean a bit more passenger legroom plus slightly more room behind the third-row seat. The rear side door openings make third-row access a bit easier while pushbuttons on the outer edges of the second-row bench, or newly optional individual high-back chairs, make them super easy to slide and tilt forward. The engine is the latest rendition of Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 that makes 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, up from the previous 250/253 rating. Base models come with a six-speed automatic transmission, while top-end versions employ a nine-speed unit. All-wheel-drive is optional with LX, EX and EX-L but standard with Touring and Elite. Unlike most competing systems, the AWD can direct 100 percent of the rear torque to the outside wheel while turning, without applying braking force to the inside wheel. The resulting “torque vectoring” creates more corning control/stability with reduced understeer (the natural tendency for the vehicle to travel in a straight line when the steering wheel is turned). AWD-equipped Pilots also have “Intelligent Traction Management” that lets the driver vary torque delivery to the four wheels via Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand settings. Over the road, a combination of a few hundred pounds less heft, more power, and AWD improvements provide the two-ton-plus Pilot with impressive acceleration with a noticeable crispness in the turns, which is a quality that many of its competitors lack. We’re not talking sports car-like by any means, but the Pilot’s sharpness is reassuring.