Enter the Pilot, with its abundant cargo space, fuel efficient V6 engine, and CD player.
It happened quietly, but in recent years Honda has managed to put together one of Canada's more well-rounded truck lineups. The automaker may not have an uber-popular hardcore hauler like a Ford F-150, or a go-anywhere off-roader like the Jeep Wrangler, but you can't deny how people-pleasing and on-the-money the Pilot, CR-V, and HR-V are in today's car market.
The current popularity of compact crossovers such as the HR-V is undeniable, but for a recent excursion for my annual cottage getaway with some buddies, I needed something that was more substantial. Enter the Pilot, with its abundant cargo space, fuel efficient V6 engine, and CD player (yes, I still use CDs - sue me, Generation Z, or whatever you youngin's are called these days!).
The Pilot, which was redesigned for the 2016 model year, proved to be a superb steed for my purposes during the week I drove it, and I'm confident it will be just as useful to families who need more than just cooled seats and a place to store a bunch of beverages and frozen burgers.
Pleasantly practical. It's no secret that this is a people-hauler, and Honda made sure the third-generation Pilot is plenty user-friendly. Whether it's the second row seats that slide and recline at the push of a button (on the top Touring trim, at least), the third row seats that can be folded or put back into place with minimal effort, or the numerous and smartly-placed storage spots, the Pilot keeps the fumbling to a minimum.
Built for the long haul. I put several hundred kilometres on the Pilot, thanks to the aforementioned getaway, as well as some city driving. Usually over that much distance, the annoyances make themselves well known. With the Pilot, that simply didn't happen. The seats may not be on par with European luxury crossovers, but they hold up well, and the added acoustic glass my Touring model uses help keep things uber-quiet inside. The ride is soft, the steering is predictable, and the mix of steering wheel controls and touchscreen functionality make for a vehicle that's plenty ergonomic.
About that third row. I can say this without hyperbole - the Pilot may have the best (read: roomiest) third row I've ever encountered in a crossover. I can't stand third row seats that seem thrown in as an afterthought, but Honda has made the Pilot's rear-most bench a place an adult human could actually sit in for longer than a trip around the block. Comparing the dimensions to others in the segment only confirmed what I suspected while sitting in the back of the Pilot. Ingress and egress is still a little difficult for a tall guy like me who's 6"2, but the roominess of the third row should help avoid fights between youngsters.
No turbocharging, no problem. Honda - and every manufacturer on the planet it seems - is moving quickly to downsizing engines while adding forced induction. Every Pilot, though, is equipped with one engine - a naturally-aspirated 3.5-litre V6. It's about on-par with competitors in terms of power, and while it doesn't blow me away when it comes time to pass on highway, this SUV never seems wanting for quick acceleration when I need it. The fact that it's very competitive in terms of fuel economy as well is definitely a bonus.
Honda premium in full effect. When it comes to pricing, SUVs in this segment are mostly fairly even. That changes, though, when you look at the top trim of each competitor. The Pilot - nicely equipped as it is - moves well into $50K+ territory, whereas others in the class straddle that line, but may not quite pass it.
Lacking in the excitement department. Yeah, I get it - vehicles in this segment typically aren't engineered to get pulses racing. That said, it would be nice if the Pilot offered some semblance of a connection between driver and car. It's altogether possible you couldn't care less about quick steering feel, grin-inducing acceleration, or even sexy styling, and that's fine. If you do though, the Pilot may not be the right SUV for you.
Photos: Daniel Barron / Motor1.com Canada