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2018 Honda Pilot: What You Need to Know

US News & World Report - Cars logo US News & World Report - Cars 5/24/2018 U.S. News & World Report
a car parked on a city street: 2018 Honda Pilot© American Honda Motor Co., Inc. 2018 Honda Pilot

The 2018 Honda Pilot delivers a pleasant ride, plenty of horsepower, and generous passenger and cargo space. These attributes place it in the top half of our midsize SUV rankings, but some rivals have more user-friendly infotainment systems.

The 2018 Honda Pilot is ranked:

Is the Honda Pilot a Good SUV?

The Pilot is a good midsize SUV. It’s a great family vehicle that boasts a smooth ride and roomy interior, including a spacious third row. Good safety scores and solid engine performance are among its other admirable qualities. The Pilot was also a finalist for our 2018 Best 3-Row SUV for Families award, thanks to its generous list of available safety features, overall spaciousness, and positive reviews from automotive writers.

Should I Buy the Honda Pilot?

If you're on the hunt for an SUV with ample cargo space, genuine third-row seating, and a pleasant ride, you should consider the Pilot. Still, the all-new Volkswagen Atlas comes standard with features that are optional in the Pilot—including standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay—and it has more space all-around. The Toyota Highlander doesn’t have as much cabin space or engine power, but it comes with a ton more standard driver assistance features than the Pilot. The redesigned-for-2018 Honda Odyssey is a less expensive, eight-seat option to consider.

Compare the Pilot, Atlas, and Highlander »

Should I Buy a New or Used Honda Pilot?

We Did the Research for You: 33 Pieces of Data Analyzed

Instead of basing our reviews on our personal opinions, we analyze the findings of the automotive press alongside data like reliability ratings and safety scores to help you pick the right new car for you.

This 2018 Honda Pilot overview uses applicable research and reviews from the 2016 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News & World Report has been ranking cars, trucks, and SUVs for a decade, and our team has more than 75 years of combined automotive industry experience. To remain objective, we don't accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies, and an outside team manages the advertising on our site.

How Much Does the Honda Pilot Cost?

Few 3-row midsize SUVs have a higher starting price than the base Pilot’s MSRP of $30,900. Among them are the Toyota 4Runner ($34,610) and Buick Enclave ($39,995). However, highly ranked rivals like the Kia Sorento ($25,900) have much lower starting prices.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Honda dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Honda deals page.

Honda Pilot Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander?

The Pilot and the Toyota Highlander are both good choices in the midsize SUV class, and they have similar starting prices. The Highlander has a lengthier list of standard safety technology, including standard adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and forward collision warning. For a stronger base engine and additional cargo and passenger space, go for the Honda Pilot.

Which Is Better: Honda Pilot or Volkswagen Atlas?

The Atlas is a superior midsize SUV with more third-row legroom and a more spacious cargo area. It also comes with an easier-to-use infotainment system with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The VW has a balanced ride, and it gets great gas mileage estimates with its base turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Both vehicles have plenty of optional safety features, as well as strong safety scores. The Pilot is more powerful and can seat one more person than the Atlas (seven versus eight), but the VW is still a more well-rounded vehicle.

Which Is Better: Honda Pilot or Honda Odyssey?

The redesigned Honda Odyssey minivan and the Pilot have a lot of similar attributes. Both vehicles offer seating for up to eight people, and they deliver comparable fuel economy ratings in their identical V6 engines. Still, you should consider purchasing the Odyssey over the Pilot if you don't mind driving a minivan. The Odyssey's available infotainment system is more user-friendly than the Pilot's, and the Odyssey has almost double the amount of cargo space behind its second- and third-row seats. You also won't find neat technology like CabinWatch—the Honda Odyssey's available video feed that allows you to monitor rear-seat passengers—in the Pilot. What makes this even better is the Odyssey is almost $1,000 cheaper than the Pilot.

Compare the Pilot, Highlander, and Atlas »

Pilot Interior

How Many People Does the Pilot Seat?

In all but the top trim, the Pilot seats eight. The range-topping Elite trim features heated second-row captain’s chairs, which decrease seating to seven. Cloth upholstery comes standard. Options include leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, and heated and ventilated front seats.

The Pilot’s seats are comfortable for long highway trips, though lateral support around sharp turns is a bit lacking. The first two rows have plenty of space, and unlike most SUVs with 3 rows, the Pilot has a roomy third row. The available one-touch second-row seats make accessing the third row a breeze. The second row also slides back and forth to make getting comfortable easier. Still, tall folks may have to sit knees-up in the third row.

Pilot and Car Seats

For connecting child seats, the Pilot has a complete set of LATCH connections in each second-row seat and one in the passenger-side third-row seat. The other third-row seats have a tether-only connection. Some of the hardware can be difficult to work with or locate, but the system as a whole is fairly easy to use.

Pilot Interior Quality

While there are some hard plastic surfaces, most of the Pilot’s touch points consist of high-end materials. The dash, door panels, and center console are all nicely padded. Sound insulation is top-notch, giving the Pilot a quiet interior. Still, you won't mistake the Pilot for a luxury SUV. For a midsize SUV with a luxury-grade cabin, look to the Nissan Murano and GMC Acadia.

Pilot Cargo Space

The Pilot has 16.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row of seats. Fold the third row down, and you get 46.8 cubic feet. That expands to 83.9 with the second row collapsed. The Pilot boasts more cargo space than most midsize SUVs. Consider the Volkswagen Atlas if you need even more. It offers 20.6 cubic feet with all seats in use and 96.8 with the back two rows folded.

Pilot Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Standard features in the 2018 Pilot include push-button start, a seven-speaker audio system, a 5-inch display, a USB port, and Bluetooth for phone calls and streaming audio. Upgrades include a 10-speaker audio system, an easy-to-use navigation system, an 8-inch touch screen, a moonroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a rear entertainment system.

In the EX trim and above, the Pilot has an infotainment system with an 8-inch display that relies heavily on touch controls. Carrying out basic audio functions can be a chore. Fortunately, climate controls are straightforward and not absorbed within the touch screen. The system comes with Pandora integration, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto alleviate some of the infotainment system’s shortcomings. They enable you to use your smartphone’s interface through the Pilot’s available 8-inch touch screen. A few rivals, like the Dodge Durango and the redesigned Chevrolet Traverse, offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard equipment.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

Pilot Performance

Pilot Engine: No Slouch

With its standard 280-horsepower V6 engine, the Pilot accelerates briskly from a stop and has no problem keeping up on the highway. The standard six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. For sportier performance, opt for the available nine-speed automatic, found in the Touring and Elite trims. It comes with paddle shifters and stop-start technology.

Pilot Gas Mileage: OK for a 3-Row SUV

The Pilot’s fuel economy is about average for the class. It gets 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway with the six-speed transmission and front-wheel drive. That changes to 20/27 mpg city/highway with the available nine-speed transmission. Regardless of the transmission, both city and highway fuel economy drop by 1 mpg with available all-wheel drive. For class-leading fuel economy, check out the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which achieves 30/28 mpg city/highway.

Pilot Ride and Handling: Pleasant Road Manners

The Pilot has a calm, comfortable ride, and it nicely absorbs most road imperfections. For a midsize SUV, the Pilot handles curves well enough, but it’s not the sportiest member of the class. Sharp turns reveal noticeable body lean. Still, most shoppers (parents) probably won't be driving like Jason Bourne, especially with the kiddos on board. If you crave a nimbler ride, check out the Ford Edge and Mazda CX-9.

Pilot Towing Capacity

Towing capacity varies by drivetrain. With all-wheel drive, the Pilot can tow up to 5,000 pounds. Front-wheel-drive models can handle up to 3,500 pounds. Only a few midsize SUVs can tow more. The Nissan Pathfinder can handle 6,000 pounds, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee can tow 7,200 pounds.

Read more about performance »

Pilot Reliability

Is the Honda Pilot Reliable?

J.D. Power has not yet released reliability data for the 2018 Pilot, but the nearly identical 2017 model earned a predicted reliability rating of three out of five, which is considered average for all new vehicles.

Honda Pilot Warranty

The Pilot comes with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. That’s average for the class, but some competitors, like the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe, come with longer warranties.

Read more about reliability »

Pilot Safety

Pilot Crash Test Results

Like many of its class competitors, the Pilot has excellent safety ratings. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the 2018 Pilot a five-star overall rating, with five out of five stars in the side crash test and four stars in the frontal and rollover tests.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety names the 2018 Pilot a Top Safety Pick. It earns the highest score of Good in all five crash tests. Its driver assistance technology nets it a Superior rating (the highest possible) for front crash prevention. Its headlights score the second-highest rating of Acceptable.

Pilot Safety Features

Though advanced safety features are lacking in the base Honda Pilot (only a multi-angle rearview camera comes standard), upper trims have an impressive list of standard and available driver assistance features. Upgrades include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, a road departure mitigation system, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, automatic high beams, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and Honda LaneWatch—a camera mounted to the passenger-side mirror that provides a video feed of your blind spot.

Read more about safety »

Which Honda Pilot Model Is Right for Me?

The Pilot comes in five trims: LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and Elite. Among them, the Touring is the most sensible choice. It comes with plenty of driver assistance features, navigation, and a rear-seat entertainment system.

All Pilot models come with a 3.5-liter V6 engine. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, while Touring and Elite models have a nine-speed automatic instead. Front-wheel drive comes standard, and all-wheel drive is available for $1,900.

Honda Pilot LX

The base 2018 Honda Pilot LX starts at $30,900. Standard features include push-button start, a seven-speaker audio system, a 5-inch display, a multi-angle rearview camera, Bluetooth for phone calls and streaming audio, and a USB port.

Honda Pilot EX

Next up is the EX, which starts at $33,330. It comes with infotainment upgrades like an 8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Pandora integration, and satellite radio. The EX also features remote start, a proximity key, tri-zone automatic climate control, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and Honda LaneWatch.

Honda Pilot EX-L

The EX-L costs $36,760 and gives you leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power-adjustable passenger seat, and a one-touch power-folding second row. But it’s not all about the seats; the Pilot EX-L also features a moonroof and a power liftgate.

Honda Pilot Touring

For $41,970, you can get the Pilot Touring, which is the trim we recommend. It’s worth the jump in price from the EX-L based on the added safety features alone. You get forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, a road departure mitigation system, adaptive cruise control, and front and rear parking sensors.

Infotainment upgrades include a Blu-ray rear-seat entertainment system, navigation, and second-row USB ports. The Touring trim is also equipped with the nine-speed automatic transmission, which comes with stop-start technology and paddle shifters.

Honda Pilot Elite

The Pilot Elite starts at a whopping $47,470, but it’s the most loaded trim of the bunch. It comes with all-wheel drive, which is optional in every other trim. It features the nicest interior in the Pilot lineup, complete with perforated leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, and ventilated front seats. It also has heated second-row captain’s chairs, which decrease seating from eight to seven. Other Elite goodies include a panoramic roof, HD Radio, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, automatic high beams, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Honda dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Honda deals page.

See 2018 Honda Pilot specs and trims »

The Final Call

Shoppers who want ample space in all three rows, a large cargo hold, and smooth performance won’t be disappointed with Honda’s largest SUV. But that doesn’t mean you should head to the dealership without comparing the Pilot to its toughest competition. Rivals like the Toyota Highlander offer more standard safety features, and foes like the Volkswagen Atlas deliver more seating and cargo space. Also, the Pilot’s infotainment system relies too heavily on touch-based controls, which is a deal breaker for some folks.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

Read the full 2018 Honda Pilot review on U.S. News & World Report for more details, photos, specs and prices.

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