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2016 Honda Pilot First Look

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 2/12/2015 Scott Burgess
2016 Honda Pilot First Look

The Honda Pilot has always been a bit of an enigma for me. It’s never been particularly graceful or pretty. But it is big. It’s the biggest Honda at a dealership by far, besides the Odyssey minivan

2016 Honda Pilot© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Honda Pilot

In 2014, Pilot sales dropped 14.1 percent,, just clearing 108,000 units for the year. Those aren’t great numbers, especially when you look at other three-row vehicles such as the Toyota Highlander (146,000 units), the Ford Explorer (189,000 units, with 20,000 more Police Interceptor Utility SUVs) and General Motors's three-row GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse that combined for just under 188,000 units sold in 2014.

The Pilot has been due for an overhaul.

At the 2015 Chicago Auto Show, Honda revealed an even bigger Pilot, but one that has improved its boxy looks and created a much more functional interior that will work for kids and adults.

Related link: See more from the 2015 Chicago Auto Show

2016 Honda Pilot© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Honda Pilot The third-generation 2016 Honda Pilot adds a more efficient powertrain and a variety of choices for consumer to create a much more appealing SUV.

First, here’s the exciting part.

The 2016 Pilot, which arrives later this summer, will come with a revised 3.5-liter V-6 that will again include variable cylinder management, allowing the engine to turn off two or three cylinders when additional power is not needed. While power figures were not released before the show, we hope to see an increase from the 250 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque the 3.5-liter V-6 created in the 2015 model.

The Pilot will offer a newer version of Honda’s all-wheel-drive system, while just front-drive Pilots will also be available. The engine will be mated to a new-to-the-Pilot six-speed automatic transmission or a nine-speed automatic transmission on higher trims. While mileage numbers were not released, we expect to see a 2-3 mile gain over the previous generation’s five-speed automatic that provided 17-18 mpg in the city and 24-25 mpg on the highway. There was room to improve and Honda took full advantage of that.

Related link: Research the current Honda Pilot

2016 Honda Pilot© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Honda Pilot
Even if the new V-6 is not much more powerful, Honda says it trimmed the Pilot’s weight by nearly 300 pounds despite making it 3.5 inches longer overall. (The increase in length has generated more cabin space behind the third row.)

Power was never really the Pilot’s weakness, however. It had an interior that felt dated and less than user friendly. There were a plethora of buttons and knobs on the center stack that were confusing to operate and a touch unseemly to look at. All of that is gone and much better organized and user-friendly interior has emerged. Perhaps the most noticeable is the second row, which will now offer optional captain’s chairs. (This is a long overdue and very welcome edition.)

Additionally, the 2016 Honda Pilot will offer up to five USB ports inside the cabin, four of which can charge a device at a 2.5-amp output while in use. This may not seem like a very important addition, but, nowadays, family vehicles need to consider second row passengers recharging needs. Nothing is worse than two siblings finding another reason to fight.

2016 Honda Pilot© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Honda Pilot 2016 Honda Pilot© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Honda Pilot The 2016 Pilot's second row also has an optional 9-inch rear entertainment system that can play Blu-Ray discs and DVDs. (Nothing keeps kids quieter on a long trip.) There were also improvements in providing access to the third row by the way the second row now folds up, creating another 2.5-inches more space and 1-inch lower step-in height. It may not sound like much, but it is a big difference.

Of course, front-row passengers will enjoy the 2016 Pilot's new interior more. There’s an 8-inch touchscreen, fewer buttons and a cleanly laid out center stack. The center console includes a cavernous storage contain that Honda says was designed for women’s purses, but it can fit some carry-on luggage.

The Pilot will still offer the same high-riding position that many drivers want and the ability to carry an entire hockey team and their gear in one go.

As for the exterior, Honda has added a few more lines, available LED headlights, and optional 20-inch wheels. It still looks big, but slightly more refined and much more modern.

2016 Honda Pilot© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Honda Pilot Honda will also include a raft of high tech safety features and expects the highest safety ratings from both the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration.

Among the features, the 2016 Pilot will include Honda’s LaneWatch display, which uses a camera mounted on the passenger side exterior mirror to monitor objects that might be in the blind spot. (There will also be blind spot monitors.) Honda will offer a multi-view rearview camera, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and Honda’s road departure mitigation system that is constantly monitoring the vehicle’s position on the road and stands by ready to help.

Really, it’s amazing how much this technology does, even when it isn’t obvious. It’s constantly monitoring everything the driver is doing as well as the environment the driver is going through. It can charge the brakes, slow a vehicle down, and adjust the body from shifting too much, all without the driver actually noticing.

So with all of the changes coming to the new 2016 Honda Pilot, it is fair to say that I leave Chicago a little less puzzled about the SUV. It remains a very big vehicle, but gets a lot more comfortable inside with significant upgrades where it really needed it.

It’s definitely better, but what’s less certain is whether people will continue to move away from hulking SUV-like vehicles and into more nimble crossovers.

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