2004 Pilot New Car Test Drive
The Pilot is the Honda of sport-utilities, and its strengths should please anyone shopping for a mid-size SUV. It delivers efficiency in packaging and operation, first-rate build quality and Honda's reputation for reliability and durability. The Pilot packs eight seats into an overall package so short that the EPA considers it a compact SUV. Yet its competition is the world's midsize SUVs. The Pilot offers more cargo space than the Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Trailblazer, and Toyota Highlander.
The Honda Pilot also sets the pace dynamically, with a smooth 240-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and the same crisp, predictable handling that have made the Honda Odyssey minivan and Acura MDX SUV hits. It also delivers class-leading EPA mileage ratings.
In the Pilot's second full model year, Honda has already begun expanding on its impressive flexibility. The second-row seat is now adjustable fore and aft, and its slide feature has more travel for easier access to the three-place third-row seat. 2004 models ordered with the leather interior come with heated front seats and side mirrors.
All Pilots come with all-wheel drive, a V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. Two models are available: LX ($27,100) and EX ($29,470).
All models are well equipped. Standard equipment on the Pilot LX includes air conditioning, power windows, cruise control, AM/FM stereo, in-dash CD player, front-passenger frontal and side-impact airbags, ABS, power windows, mirrors and door locks, and a rear wiper.
The EX raises the ante with aluminum alloy wheels, body-colored molding, door handles and exterior mirrors, a power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, synchronized front and rear automatic climate control, an outside temperature indicator, HomeLink garage-door remote and a more powerful seven-speaker stereo with that adds a cassette and steering-wheel controls.
As usual, Honda keeps it simple, by offering a limited number of options in three packages. In fact, the company prices Pilots as separate models with the packages; we'll list them by what it will cost beyond the price of the EX, which brings us to another familiar practice. If you want to upgrade with any of the extras, you can't start with the base model. The option packages for the EX include leather interior ($1,400) with heated front seats and side mirrors. The entertainment package ($2,900) includes the leather package and rear-seat DVD video system. The navigation package ($3400) adds leather and a satellite-linked guidance system. There are also a number of factory-approved, dealer-installed options, including a towing package and brush guards.
Compared to 2003, Pilot prices reflect a modest increase of $200 for each model. Yet Honda's pricing policy has its drawbacks. If you want alloy wheels on an LX, you'll have to go the aftermarket or buy from the dealer's inventory, at the dealer's price. If you want the DVD video without the fancy interior or other EX upgrades, Honda won't sell it to you.