• Jan 29, 2009
Click above for high-res image gallery of the 2009 Honda Pilot Touring

My family has fallen in love with Bruno. Yes, we named it. Clearly, the Honda Pilot has left an impression. Size is the first thing you notice, solidity the second – there's not a whiff of the gelatin-jiggles that afflict most of this CUV's body-on-frame competitors. The Pilot is also loaded up with thoughtful, family-friendly touches everywhere you look. It's big, accommodating, and solid. What else? Follow the jump to find out.


Photos Copyright ©2009 Alex Núñez / Weblogs, Inc.

With styling via a framing square, "pretty" is not a word that springs easily to mind when admiring the 2009 Honda Pilot. Aerodynamic improvements increase efficiency and quell noise, and the facelift looks surprisingly pugnacious. The chromey fangs are a ruse, though, as the Pilot is all pussycat. This is an easy-driving box. It's steering is light and would be considered numb in the sedan world, but if nothing else, it brings that trademark Hondaness to the realm of large CUVs.



The rest of the chassis lives up to the name on the tailgate, as well. A tightly snubbed ride might run the risk of liquefying occupants when the going gets bumpy, but the Pilot just eats up scarred macadam without drama. No doubt the structural improvements that Honda has effected on the updated Pilot play a role in the vehicle's aplomb. The Pilot glides over roads that make you wince, and despite carting around 4,000-plus pounds, this eight-seater feels light on its feet.



The engine bay is still occupied by Honda's 3.5-liter V6 delivering 250 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque, a marginal improvement over earlier versions. The V6 augments its ability to deactivate cylinders by adding a four-cylinder step, thereby eking out better fuel economy. Engine noise is muted, even when you wind it so hard the tachometer screams in protest. Despite its weight, and the fact that it packs "only" 250 horsepower, we were never able to catch the Pilot flat-footed. Its five-speed automatic transmission is always in the proper gear and obediently follows the command of the driver's foot. Clearly, the Pilot is no drag racer, but power levels are more than adequate.



While the Pilot is dynamically pleasing, if a bit numb, the driver's environment has actually sustained a downgrade. It's spacious and comfortable, but it's ergonomically confused and the materials and design harks back nearly two decades. Plastics are hard and shiny and things are best at night when you can't see the surfaces. The center stack sprouts lots of buttons; helpful in that you can operate the audio, HVAC and navigation systems without venturing close to Honda's imitation of iDrive. It's nice to have as little interaction with a GUI and infuriating multifunction knob as possible. However, we'd have preferred knobs instead of rockers for temperature and blower fan settings. It also seemed to take the heater quite a while to blow roasty-toasty. Of course, there is a lot of interior volume and thus a lot of air to exchange, but the vents could certainly get hotter more quickly.



Things are well thought out for the inevitable family duty. There's a convex mirror for keeping an eye on who's throwing what, and the second-row seat is wide enough to accommodate a rare trio of LATCH anchors that allows three very solidly mounted kidlets to ride just behind your shoulders. A center console with big, no fuss cupholders and a gigantic storage bin make it easy to stow everything but the kitchen sink, which will likely fit in the door pockets or on the shelf in front of the passenger.

In the interest of keeping things quiet, there's a DVD entertainment system for those long hauls through uninteresting scenery. A power liftgate seems like unneeded frippery until the first time you come upon the Pilot with full hands, barely able to press the fob button. The back seat, too, is easier to get in and out of with a sliding second row and extra wheelbase. Real people actually fit back there, as opposed to the kneecap-munching lack of legroom in similar steeds.



The Touring trim level our tester carried does not come cheap, carrying a price tag of $40,095. For that price, thankfully, there's little else to want in the Pilot. The Touring is loaded to the gills with the stuff you'd expect on luxury CUVs – the power liftgate, the DVD system, three rows of seats, surefooted performance, navigation, the works. The interior styling and execution, however, are disappointing from an automaker that's served as a benchmark. While it's quieter than before, it's still not luxury-quiet inside, but at least Consumer Reports' reliability ratings offer peace of mind to supplant the peace and quiet.



The Pilot is one of those vehicles that comes for an evaluation and stays on our minds long after its gone. It may not peg the exceptional meter on any one thing, but it would be hard to call it anything but a good choice for a buyer looking in the segment.


Photos Copyright ©2009 Alex Núñez / Weblogs, Inc.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 49 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Dreadful. The reviews haven't been that great. Seems like the previous generation was better thought out. This one is ugly inside and out and the driving dynamics seem to have gone downhill. The TL is butt ugly, but it drives well. Too bad the same can't be said for the Pilot.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Did you see a microphone in the headliner for the active noise cancellation?? Did it even have ANC?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Quite frankly the Pilot is an exercise of mediocrity. It's down on power and employs additional fuel saving technology, but still doesn't return fuel economy numbers that ace the more powerful and heavy domestic competition. The interior is downright cheap and nasty, and the overall design is rather lifeless.

      So long as vehicles such as the Traverse and Flex prove to be reliable, there isn't a single reason why anyone should run out and snatch one of these things up
        • 5 Years Ago
        "So long as vehicles such as the Traverse and Flex prove to be reliable, there isn't a single reason why anyone should run out and snatch one of these things up"

        You are correct my friend. PAss on the memo to C&D. Pilot is 3rd or 4th best in this class at best.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's C&D and if it has an H or propeller on the hood, it is almost destined to win first place. The fact that the reviewer went on about 'off road prowess' in a CUV comparo just goes to show you how off they can be in Ann Arbor sometimes.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The longer I look, the uglier it gets!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I generally like Honda vehicles, but I don't particularly like this one. The front and rear styling have become tolerable (it's not that bad to look at in person), and I really appreciate:
      1. the accommodating interior (for people and luggage)
      2. the reliability (some people may say that I blindly worship the big H, but many people I know have bought Hondas in the last few (3-8) years and have had 0 problems at all)
      I also don't really mind the button-happy center stack.
      However, the one thing that really turned me off to this vehicle was the quality of the interior materials (this is also true of the Accord). The plastics and surfaces in both, while general well aligned, are extremely hard and rough (completely uncharacteristic of Hondas owned by those same people I know). This is probably why (if I had to choose a full-size crossover) I would rather pick a Flex or CX-9 (Mazda and Ford's reliabilities have seemed to match Honda's in the last few years). Of course, on top of all of that, I would rather get a minivan for the sliding doors (infinitely superior to swing doors) and for the resulting extra versatility; given that, my pick would be an Odyssey. It has extremely luxurious amenities and very soft and smooth surfaces that are well put together; it is also more roomy and versatile in seating than the Pilot.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "This is probably why (if I had to choose a full-size crossover) I would rather pick a Flex or CX-9..."
        Oops, I forgot to add the Enclave. Buick's of late have been quite reliable as far as I know (especially the Enclave).
      • 5 Years Ago
      "ergonomically confused and the materials and design harks back nearly two decades. Plastics are hard and shiny and things are best at night when you can't see the surfaces."

      But I'm sure it gets a free pass because of the H on the grill right?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Exactly. The wife's 05 Oddessey has HORRIBLE dash materials. Hard plastic everywehere. But I never heard complaints from any review sites. But once they get into a GM, they nonstop harp on it. Funny thing is my 04 Grand Prix GTP Comp G is built much better inside and out compared to the Honda. Shocking to me with all the honda lovers out there praising their build quality.
        • 5 Years Ago
        yep...have had 6 Hondas for the past 10 years or so. The interior of the newer Hondas, starting with Pilots, but including the new Accords, are definitely much worse than before. It is really worrisome.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Its like Honduh realizes that Americans will buy anything with an H on the grill so they are almost daring us to buy their increasingly uglier cars with increasingly bad interiors. They probably figure they can slack off because we're gonna buy the Accord and CR-V no matter how ugly or cheap they make it, so why not save time and money and let the kids of the designers have at the designing.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Forgot to add though -- I sat in the Pilot when I was at a Honda dealership a few months back. It didn't take me long before I jumped out, shaking my head. The interior is disgustingly bad, especially for a Honda. It's a very poor choice and attempt to imitate the worst interiors found on an American work truck.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Who cares how well made it is if you have to close your eyes walking up and away from your vehicle? Not only that, but enduring the grimaces and laughter of passer bys and neighbor would be intolerable.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You walk backwards?
      • 5 Years Ago
      My 2 cents -- I drove one of these, too. In fact, the one photographed here is "mine."

      - I don't like the styling. The front is ugly, the rest is boring. Honda will never admit it, but they know the front's ugly, too -- hence the print/billboard campaign that showed the Pilot only from the rear 3/4 view.

      - The interior materials are pretty disappointing, especially considering what this thing costs. The gauges look gimmicky and chintzy in the daytime. The center stack is pretty cluttered, and I'm not a fan of Honda's iDrive-ish GUI controller, personally. The gray leather in this car doesn't help matters. I imagine tan leather would liven things up somewhat. Again -- that's a preference thing with me.

      - Interior space is good. With the 3rd row down it's pretty huge back there, and with it in place, there's still usable room for some stuff -- something you can't say for every 3-row SUV/CUV.

      - It's pleasant to drive. Quiet, with adequate power. Fuel economy was pretty "meh" -- 16 or 17 mpg in mixed use for me.

      Bottom line: the CX-9 is much more entertaining to drive than this, though its interior's nothing exceptional either, in my opinion. Overall, I'd still rather have a Buick Enclave -- I like pretty much everything about that car. The Subaru Tribeca's also nice in this 3-row segment. I haven't driven the Highlander, so I can't factor that into the conversation.
        • 5 Years Ago
        16-17 mpg mixed use??? My H3 gets about that much and it weighs as much as my house, not really, but seriously it weighs a lot more than a Pilot and is as aerodynamic as a brick. BTW I love my H3 and I hope HUMMER makes it through the downturn, just please kill the H2.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Other than C&D the reviews for the Pilot have been pretty poor.

      C&D decided they were going to give Honda a win, so they ran their test on a private offroad course against primarily pavement oriented competitors. So the Flex, CX-9, and Veracruz were marked down for "meager ground clearance", "fragile feel" and "twisty frame", respectively. The Traverse is actually pretty stout, so they marked it out of contention for being too big - without crediting the huge interior space advantage that entails.

      I like boxy, I like offroad capable, I'd like to like the Pilot. But I can't overlook the grotesque interior and gutless powertrain.

      Gimme a Pathfinder.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Your analysis is spot on wiht regards to C&D stupid comparison. Who cares of about the off road capability of a CUV? THe main reason the Flex came in 4th was because it lacked off road credentials as if that is important. All these Honda syncophants are hilarious. Honda comes out with a boxy, underpowered SUV with a horrible interior and mediocre mileage and Autoblog decides to offer up numerous excuses and focus on stuff like utility and a nice ride. Do you know how many CUVs offer those qualities? Pretty much the same could be said for all the newest entries into this class. Also, why is Autoblog comparing the rigidity of the Pilot to body on frame SUVS? Who cares? The Pilot's primary competition is unibody. The Pilot is not best in class in ONE single category and yet AB can hardly come up with any criticism of the vehicle.

        Sorry folks, but reliability and "peace of mind" are not enough to overlook mediocrity and worst in class hp.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I've driven it before and it is very accommodating. It has utility ,which is what its suppose to have, with out any flash or excitement for that matter. But IMO having something reliable and useful is an exciting prospect in itself.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Most of you can say up and down how ugly it looks, say that "there is no way in hell i would buy one of these", and swear that it will be an utter failure for Honda, it still doesn't beat the fact that I see a lot of these driving around on the highways so obviously they're selling very many of these newer Pilots. I see these around about as much as I see Ford Expeditions and Explorers.

      I'm actually starting to see a lot less of the previous models and more of these newer ones.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The auto press needs to catch up with the public and realize some of Hondas latest models are not great and have not done well. Even before Honda's sales started crashing in November the 2009 Pilot was not doing all that well. Why? Mileage was not impressive and design was lacking. Regular consumers dont evaluate large CUVs based on steering feel or other such subjective factors. They look at space, design, hp and fuel economy. The Pilot comes up short.
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