Pilot's Seating for Eight

Honda�s sport-utility vehicle is completely redesigned for 2009. The Honda Pilot is uniquely versatile and fits nicely into an unusual niche. The most direct competition to the Pilot comes from General Motors.

Honda’s sport-utility vehicle is completely redesigned for 2009. The Honda Pilot is uniquely versatile and fits nicely into an unusual niche. The most direct competition to the Pilot comes from General Motors. The Pilot has three outstanding features, an adjustable V-6 engine, safe 8-passenger capacity, and a short 191 inches in length.

There are many changes in our lives that make a vehicle like a Pilot appealing. Most of us don’t need seating for 8, but many of us want the capability or space because of where and how we live. You may be wanting out of your Lexus LX or GX, Nissan Armada, Toyota Land Cruiser, or even a Chevy Suburban. Most 8-passenger SUVs only offer a thirsty 8-cylinder engine, besides they are all about a foot longer and therefore need the extra propulsion.

The Smaller Large People Mover

Luggage space might be an issue with 8 passengers, because you wind up with a very small amount of available storage space for a weekend trip. On the exterior, this size offers the great advantage of the easy parking and nimble handling in tight situations, a real advantage over the monster trucks.

A new Honda Pilot will be a great savings if you are getting out of one of the world’s largest private passenger vehicles. The Pilot will be of great assistance to those moving up. For many buyers, getting out of a minivan is a step up in image and glamour. As your children are growing, you may need more room for carpooling. The Pilot has four tethers to attach children’s seats—more than most of the competition.

Back in the day, many automakers built wagon configurations of their automobiles; Audi still does. Now, most automakers are forcing us into SUVs, which are more profitable to build than a traditional station wagon. If you’d like to buy a Honda Accord wagon, now you have to buy the Pilot. Luckily, the Pilot is a lot more vehicle then an Accord wagon ever was.

Two-Wheel or AWD

Are you moving or have you moved to where it makes more sense to have all-wheel drive all the time? If you are replacing a minivan or station wagon, and all you need is 2-wheel drive, then the front-wheel drive model is for you. If you like to drive on logging roads, unpaved roads, off-road, or live in the north with powerful winters, then entertain all-wheel drive.

The Pilot’s all-wheel drive system seeks to find the best traction at each of the 4 wheels, then applies power appropriately with the hope of not activating the traction control system. The traction control is part of the antilock brake system, which also controls the vehicle stability system. Because sport-utility vehicles are more prone to rollover, all Honda sport-utility vehicles come standard with electronic stability control.

Bold Styling, Intelligent Features

The new Honda is restyled with a bold, stronger look. The grill is visually unique and identifiable at great distance, even in a rearview mirror. The whole design seems more square, but with soft curves. Do you think the styling is sexy or warm like a Jaguar? The head lamp fixtures are large, yet barely wrap around the edge. Fog lights are standard on most models. The large, green-glass greenhouse makes for better- than-average visibility. The large taillights give you more visibility to track approaching vehicles.

The top glass of the tailgate opens separately from the whole tailgate, a nice convenience for loading. A power tailgate opener is available, as are exterior side mirrors with defrosters and turn signals exclusively in the top of the line Touring model. The 2-wheel drive-based model sells for about $27,000. The list of standard features is quite thorough and packed with goodies.

Simple and Purposeful Interior with Extra Features

The interior can go from simply delightful in the LX to computer complex in the Touring edition. The standard interior and controls are easy to understand—even the buttons on the steering wheel! As usual, the window controls are on the door rest, and the optional power driver seat controls are naturally where the driver’s left arm would fall.

The simpler standard center console is a bit odd, besides the fact that the gearshift lever is attached to the instrument panel to the driver’s side right above the center console and adjacent to the air-conditioning controls. The standard transmission is a 5-speed automatic. On the gearshift lever is a button that locks out overdrive and seems to encourage snappier driving around town, yet is great when coming down long steep grades to control your descent.

At the center of the instrument panel just above the console is a large square-like space to stow your odds and ends. Just above that are the air-conditioning and heating controls, and then the audio controls, which include a CD changer and 10 speakers, including a subwoofer. Of course, all speakers are strategically placed around the vehicle for the best effect from a minimal amplifier.

At the top center of the instrument panel on the LX is an LCD screen with no graphics. In front of the driver is a cockpit-like pod with three traditional analog gauges. These gauges are simple, direct, and attractive, in direct contrast to the odd LCD screen. This whole center portion of the instrument panel was designed for a navigation system and all the hardware that goes with it. Even if you order a light interior, the top of the instrument panel is always a dark-textured earth tone to minimize distracting reflection.

The center console is thick, deep, and wide with plenty of storage. For that matter, this whole vehicle is loaded with little storage pockets and hidden spaces, even under the floor. There are a few places where an Easter egg would never be found. Read your owners’ manual thoroughly.

There are a few more standard features that are special: active noise cancellation and acoustic glass combined with an active control engine mount system make this truck unusually quiet whether standing still or cruising at 70 miles an hour. A class-three trailer hitch is standard, as is a transmission cooler, power steering cooler, and a heavy-duty radiator. This SUV is ready to go and tow a couple of snowmobiles.

Space and Versatility

The standard driver’s seat has a manual height adjustment. The steering wheel has a manual tilt and telescoping feature. These two features combine to make the pilot very good for people under 5’6” in height. If you are 5’10” or taller, you may have some fit issues, particularly if you wear a 10 gallon hat. The interior assembly and fit is superior. All controls offer a good grip and feel.

Three rows of seats offer all kinds of space versatility. Side curtain airbags protect all three rows. The front airbags are unique to Honda and designed to decelerate you as gracefully as possible.

Pilot Sets Standard for SUV Engineering

If you think you need an SUV, the Pilot sets the standard. The unit body is rigid and offers a very tight, uniform feel. The suspension is supple and near car-like. Each wheel is independently suspended with disc brakes all around. The front and rear sub frames add great rigidity.

To have a great vehicle, you have to combine great frame with outstanding drive components. The Honda pilot 2- and 4-wheel drives have uniform drive components. The engine is an aluminum alloy V6 with a single overhead camshaft over each bank of 3 cylinders. This drive-by-wire system is very responsive and has variable cylinder management for the best fuel economy. Variable cylinder management allows the engine to run on only 3 or 4 of its 6 cylinders when you require less power. Cruise control is standard on all Pilots to help you achieve the best fuel economy possible. By controlling your tire pressure, your foot on the accelerator pedal, and minimizing your braking, you are likely to increase fuel economy by 10%.

The suspension is nicely supple and independent at each wheel. Steering is accurate, with average road feedback, and the AWD drive system is transparent. While engine and transmission response is fast, the Pilot is no sports car, yet it is still enjoyable to drive.

Model Choices

The midline model is called EX and offers a cloth or leather interior. The Touring model offers the best in luxury and technology. There are no more safety features, just more goodies, including a well-filled-out center instrument panel that is loaded with a superb navigation system and all sorts of other voice communication and Bluetooth devices that any self-respecting American boy or girl would want to have in a new toy vehicle. There is even a Zagats restaurant rating guide built into the navigation system.

Smooth Driving

The new Pilot is filled with no surprise driving. This is probably the most pleasant way for an automaker to design a vehicle that most people will like. The V6 runs on regular gasoline and is geared more like a truck. In the turns, the suspension reminds you that you’re behind the wheel of a high seating truck. Still, all mechanisms and their responses are state-of-the-art for small passenger trucks today. The brakes are superior.

The new hybrid trucks on the market of comparable size use V8 engines with electric motors in the transmission. The hybrid trucks might get better economy in an urban cycle for a while, until the batteries run down. But as soon as you get near or above highway speed, the Pilot gets better miles per gallon.

Fast Facts 2009 Honda Pilot AWD EX-L

Length 190.9 in.

Width 78.5 in.

Wheelbase 109.2 in.

Weight 4,544 lbs.

Doors/ Seats 4/8

Drive AWD

Engine 3.5-liter

Hp@rpm 250@5700

Ft-lb@rpm 253@4800

Transmissions 5-spd auto

Stability control Standard

City/Hwy 16/22

Gas Requirement Regular

Built Lincoln, Alabama

Safety Score 60*

Real Price $32,400.

Website www.honda.com