2013 Honda Pilot

LX FWD 4-Dr Sport Utility V6 auto trans

2013 honda pilot Reviews and News

Final Four Comparison Front View
This is Automobile Magazine's Family Crossover Comparo, our comparison test of the kind of vehicle that you see during America's summer vacation, the three-row family crossover.
Final Four Comparison Front View
As we noted in our Day One introduction, we've gathered eight of the best all-wheel-drive, seven-passenger family crossovers, and we're going to sort them out. We've driven all of them at the same time on the same roads, and we've made our notes and organized our facts and then argued about the results.
The way we see it, these are the best family crossovers available in America right now. We've done our best to ensure that our test vehicles represent a useful level of features -- nicely equipped, as they say -- yet don't cost too much. Given the practical realities of acquiring so many test vehicles at the same time, they aren't all priced exactly the same, but we've done our best.
These family crossovers include: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, 2013 Dodge Durango, 2013 Ford Explorer, 2013 Honda Pilot, 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, 2013 Mazda CX-9, 2013 Nissan Pathfinder and 2013 Toyota Highlander.
  • 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe prevailed over the 2013 Dodge Durango
  • 2013 Honda Pilot bested the 2013 Ford Explorer
  • 2013 Mazda CX-9 edged out the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse
  • 2013 Nissan Pathfinder knocked out the 2013 Toyota Highlander
As the tournament continues, the competition involves less driving and a lot more arguing, as the comments below indicate. It's not just about whether these family crossovers excel in this category -- because they all do -- but instead it's about finding the right kind of combination that meets our expectations.
As the tournament continues, here are the match-ups for our Final Four:
  • 2013 Honda Pilot vs. 2013 Nissan Pathfinder
  • 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe vs. 2013 Mazda CX-9

Honda Pilot vs. Nissan Pathfinder

2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum
  • The Pathfinder ticks a lot of the right boxes for us. There's a yin for every yang, yet it all evens out to a pretty good car.
  • "The suspension pounds the road, and you feel like you're wheeling around a mini bus," says Joe DeMatio.
  • "It's anonymously attractive," says Donny Nordlicht. Another editor responds, "Like a Labrador retriever, or black dress pants."
  • Shade of Gray: Arctic Blue. It's blue, no doubt about it, but the Pathfinder somehow turns gray when surrounded by seven gray cars. Are there really fifty shades of gray?
  • A nice manifestation of big crossover ideals. It looks big outside, but it's also big inside. So that's good. Also, it has excellent fit and finish.
  • Continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) isn't bad, but we'd prefer a conventional automatic transmission. Feel>fuel.
  • "Wasn't the Pathfinder cool?" asks a young editor. "Totally," replies old dog DeMatio. "No one who used to own a Pathfinder would own this thing, but you'd be a complete idiot to throw out such an iconic nameplate."
  • Emergency second- and third-row fold-down time: 12.7 seconds. You'll get wet trying to load up your groceries in the rain, but it's just water, people.
  • Panoramic sunroof is a must for third-row passengers. Otherwise, pray they're not claustrophobic.
  • "It's a Nissan that presents itself as a luxury car," says Michael Jordan. "It makes me less impressed with the Infiniti JX35," replies David Zenlea.

2013 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD Vs 2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD Front Left Side View
2013 Honda Pilot Touring
  • Sales don't lie -- this is the most popular vehicle in this group among the American public, and by a large margin.
  • "It's the Wrangler jeans of the group -- it makes a lot of sense, but hell if I want to be seen in it."
  • "It's a box and it drives like a box, but it's a very useful and well-built box," says DeMatio.
  • It's an appliance.
  • Shade of Gray: Alabaster Silver.
  • Most of us don't have kids, but forward-facing LATCH anchors in the third row are essential to some people, like proud dad Rusty Blackwell. Can you guess which of these four had them? Yep: "Two in the third row," notes Blackwell, "and six in the second row, which is impressive."
  • Honda has brand equity. You know that, when you buy this Honda Pilot as a used vehicle in five years, it'll run for at least another eight years.
  • Emergency second- and third-row fold-down time: 13.7 seconds. That extra second over the Pathfinder might not seem like a lot, but what if you're trying to load up your groceries in the rain when zombies come out of nowhere? It could mean life or death…
  • "You wouldn't want to take the Pilot on a road trip," says Jordan. "It's made only for trips to and from the soccer field."
  • The Pilot is fortunate to have Honda's reputation of reliability attached to it. Otherwise, it probably wouldn't be a top seller.
2013 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD Vs 2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD Rear Right Side View
The 2013 Honda Pilot is functional, straightforward, and as boring to drive as it is to look at. The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder is functional, too, but it leans toward passenger comfort rather than all-around utility. Because this reflects our own choices in the way we drive crossovers, the Pathfinder is awarded the win. - Christopher Nelson
Winner: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum. The Pathfinder moves into the final round.

Hyundai Santa Fe vs. Mazda CX-9

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited
  • This is the biggest surprise of the day. No one expected this crossover to make it past the first round, or be as good as it is. And it's pretty damn good.
  • "How much horsepower does that V-6 engine have?" "290." "Wow, it felt like more than that."
  • The third-row seats are bolted directly to the floor, and the second-row seats shake when no one is sitting in them and the car is in motion.
  • Shade of Gray: Iron Frost.
  • The greatest panoramic sunroof we've seen aside from that of the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. Definitely worth springing for the $2900 Technology package.
  • It feels agile and light on winding roads, although not as sporty as, say, the Mazda CX-9.
  • Shifts from the transmission are slow but not clunky. It's a wash.
  • Emergency second- and third-row fold-down time: 5.3 seconds. (Quick time assist goes to the two handles on both sides of the cargo area that remotely fold down the second-row seats.) Forget the zombies; they'll never catch you. You might not even get wet when you're trying to load up your groceries in the rain.
  • Things that make this your classic Hyundai: finish that's much better than fit; rear suspension that clunks over road imperfections; and a sport mode that changes steering effort and nothing else.
  • "I'm blown away," says DeMatio. "Getting into this car reminded me that crossover interiors don't have to be grim and depressing. This is the most carefully packaged vehicle in the group."

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Vs 2013 Mazda CX 9 Grand Touring AWD Front View
2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring
  • People like us -- people who care about the driving experience -- will err on the side of the Mazda. But most people -- those who actually buy seven-passenger crossovers -- won't.
  • "Mazda nails the basic dynamic qualities that other automakers overlook, which makes this the most enjoyable seven-passenger crossover to drive," says Zenlea.
  • Worst third-row seating of the bunch. Tiny side windows, no panoramic sunroof, and no cup holders. And it's not if you'll fit, it's how you'll fit. Knees up, heads down.
  • Shade of Gray: Meteor Gray.
  • "The interior is a horror story -- a black hole," says Jordan. "Really?" replies Nordlicht. "I think it's upscale without being pretentious."
  • 22 mpg on the highway? Yeah, this old Ford V-6 needs to go away.
  • If you want to see what the outside temperature is, why do you have to press the "outside" button? Why can't it just always be on display?
  • Emergency second- and third-row fold-down time: 25.4 seconds. If you're loading up your groceries in the rain when zombies attack, getting wet is the least of your worries. Leave the food, or the zombies will eat you.
  • "The seats make you sit very upright," says Jordan. "It's like you're getting your portrait done."
  • "The CX-9 is a fabulous value," says Nordlicht.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Vs 2013 Mazda CX 9 Grand Touring AWD Rear View
The Mazda is the best driver's crossover, but it's too one-dimensional to be a family-friendly beach cruiser. We're as shocked as you are, but it seems like the new Hyundai Santa Fe is going to upset an Automobile Magazine favorite. - Christopher Nelson
Winner: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited. The Santa Fe moves into the final round.
Come back to automobilemag.com tomorrow for a head-to-head comparison of our finalists (we go to a local drive-in for an old-fashioned, family-style meal) and to find out which crossover comes out on top.
2013 Dodge Durango Citadel AWD Vs 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Front View
Welcome to Automobile Magazine's Family Crossover Comparo, our comparison test of the kind of vehicle that you see during America's summer vacation, the three-row family crossover.
As we noted in our Day One introduction, we've gathered eight of the best all-wheel-drive, seven-passenger family crossovers, and we're going to sort them out. We've driven all of them at the same time on the same roads, and we've made our notes and organized our facts and then argued about the results.
The way we see it, these are the best family crossovers available in America right now. We've done our best to ensure that our test vehicles represent a useful level of features -- nicely equipped, as they say -- yet don't cost too much. Given the practical realities of acquiring so many test vehicles at the same time, they aren't all priced exactly the same, but we've done our best.
These family crossovers are: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, 2013 Dodge Durango, 2013 Ford Explorer, 2013 Honda Pilot, 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, 2013 Mazda CX-9, 2013 Nissan Pathfinder and 2013 Toyota Highlander.
To make our comparisons as direct as we can, we've organized a different kind of scheme, matching the vehicles in brackets just as is done in an athletic tournament. The losers will be knocked out one by one until the winner presents itself.
Today, we present an accounting of four vehicles, with two head-to-head match-ups. Tomorrow, we do the same, matching the remaining vehicles and reducing the field to four. The winning vehicles from today and tomorrow will then go head-to-head in a Final Four comparison on Thursday, and we will declare the winner on Friday.
We start the tournament with these randomly selected match-ups:
  • 2013 Dodge Durango vs. 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe
  • 2013 Ford Explorer vs. 2013 Honda Pilot

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe vs. 2013 Dodge Durango

2013 Dodge Durango Citadel AWD
2013 Dodge Durango Citadel AWD Vs 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Front View
The 2013 Dodge Durango has a lot going for it. It's got masculine good looks, plenty of cargo space, a sleek, luxurious cabin, and a pedigree that puts comparisons to that other three-row family hauler -- the minivan -- completely out of mind. As soon as we saw it, the Durango had us interested. Associate web editor Donny Nordlicht calls it the best-looking vehicle of the group. West Coast editor Michael Jordan observes that the Durango's upright stance and toothy, truck-style grille make it look like "the crossover for guys."
Praise for the Durango's looks kept on coming. Road test editor Christopher Nelson notes, "Everything is pumped up a bit. It's the most luxurious crossover here." It had better be, since our seven-passenger Durango's price of $46,925 is the heftiest of the day. Leather-trimmed heated and cooled front seats come standard, ensuring year-round comfort. An optional rear entertainment system will keep kids occupied during long drives, and standard navigation will make sure the drive doesn't last longer than it should.
The Power of a Truck
The Durango's 3.6-liter V-6 engine delivers 290 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, which is right in line with the competition. It manages 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway, about middle of the pack for our test group. The 2013 Durango also distinguishes itself with its 6200-pound tow rating, putting the Santa Fe's 5000-pound rating to shame.
"Can we take into account that the Durango gets a new transmission for 2014?" asks Nordlicht. The gallery responds with a resounding, "No." This pretty much settles it. With its dated five-speed automatic, the Durango is painfully slow to accelerate, giving you plenty of time to ponder each of the car's 5097 pounds as you inch away from the stoplights.
Think Big
The Durango feels every bit as big as it is, and you'd be forgiven for thinking it's a pickup truck under the skin if you were to drive it blindfolded (not recommended). Jordan assigns the Durango to heavy-lifting duty as far as this group of crossovers is concerned: "This is the right vehicle to drive to Home Depot, but around town? It's too heavy." It's hard to imagine the Durango making the school pick-up and soccer drop-off rounds, even if there is a Mercedes-derived unit body under the truck styling.
Christopher Nelson distills our complaints about the 2013 Dodge Durango into a single thought: "The Durango is a really good SUV, but I'm not sure if it's a great seven-passenger crossover." As impressed as we are by the Durango's looks and brute strength, it tries too hard to be something it isn't. - Annie White
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe
2013 Dodge Durango Citadel AWD Vs 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Rear View
The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD is the wild card in this comparison. It's the least expensive of our eight entrants and sells in the smallest numbers. Fresh off a redesign and rebadging, the seven-passenger 2013 Santa Fe (formerly the Veracruz) shares its looks and its new name with the shorter, five-passenger 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. With a spindly five-bar grille and a sporty exterior, the full-length Santa Fe shuns the clumsy, boxy look that marks so many of its competitors. It aims to be more than the sum of its parts, and it often is.
Stepping into the Santa Fe makes you immediately rethink what a three-row crossover can be. "Interiors don't have to be grim and utilitarian and depressing just because you're in a crossover," gushes deputy editor Joe DeMatio. Associate web editor Donny Nordlicht says the cabin of the Santa Fe is "one of the best interiors on the market under fifty thousand dollars." Comparisons are even drawn to the Audi TT. And, OMG, the panoramic sunroof. Santa Fe, you had us at hello.
Crossing the Country
Taking the 2013 Santa Fe on the road did little to sour our affair. The 3.3-liter V-6 engine makes 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque, putting the Santa Fe right in the peloton for three-row crossovers. Nothing special, but not lagging behind, either. The Santa Fe won't peel your eyelids back on acceleration, but we are favorably impressed with the action of this crossover's six-speed automatic transmission. Nordlicht is among the impressed, saying, "It will hold the gears and postpone the shifts if you want it to, like it understands what you're doing."
Need more good news? The Santa Fe's EPA rating of 18 mpg in the city is bested by only one crossover in our test, the Nissan Pathfinder. Meanwhile, the Hyundai's rating of 24 mpg highway is also among the best of this group.
Riding the Tilt-a-Whirl
So what's the fly in the ointment? Step into the third row for a spin around the block and you'll feel like you're on a bad amusement park ride. Knees in nose, seat bouncing, road noise for days. Sure, the third row is meant only for kids, but even they will be holding epic roshambo tournaments for a chance to get a seat upgrade into one of the comfortable captain's chairs in the Santa Fe's second row (standard in the Limited trim level; a second-row bench is available in the GLS trim).
In addition, the calibration of the rear suspension seems too soft, and the setup will bottom with a clunk even with light loads. In addition, while the slow steering is meant to keep you from getting into trouble when the whole family is on board, it is still too unresponsive to us. Such things keep the seven-passenger Santa Fe from being truly transcendent.
Even so, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe has us unexpectedly infatuated. "This is the surprise of the day," proclaims road test editor Christopher Nelson to general nodding among our group of test drivers. We can imagine the all-wheel-drive Santa Fe ferrying two adult couples to dinner on the town as easily as carting a family on a cross-country road trip. With the Santa Fe, Hyundai has figured out how to make an attractive, desirable three-row crossover for less than $40,000 -- quite an accomplishment. - Annie White
Winner: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

2013 Ford Explorer Limited AWD vs. 2013 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD

2013 Ford Explorer Limited AWD
2013 Ford Explorer Limited AWD Vs 2013 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD Front View
The 2013 Ford Explorer Limited AWD has a nameplate that has dominated the utility vehicle market for more than two decades. It is also the best selling of all the eight crossovers here, and more than 160,000 buyers per year can't be wrong, can they? Well, yes and no.
Buyers will appreciate the 2013 Explorer's 290-hp 3.5-liter V-6, which ties with the 2013 Dodge Durango and the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe as the most powerful engines in the group. That horsepower doesn't go to waste, either. Ford's six-speed automatic is smooth and unobtrusive and the steering is direct and well weighted, both of which give the driver confidence despite this seven-passenger, all-wheel-drive vehicle's curb weight of roughly 4600 pounds.
Power and Technology
Power isn't found just under the hood, as the seven-passenger, all-wheel-drive Ford Explorer is the only crossover in our test to offer a power-folding third row. In fact, the 2013 Explorer Limited that we tested is so replete with technology and convenience features that its price of $45,415 is the second highest in this group.
All of those extras are features that everyone likes, such as power-folding mirrors, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power tilt-and-telescope steering column, power-adjustable pedals, automatic wipers, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, automatic high beams, and active parking assist.
There's one piece of technology on display here, though, that doesn't meet our expectations. The MyFord Touch infotainment system might be designed to appeal to tech enthusiasts, but it proves counterintuitive to operate, yields inconsistent results, and requires the driver to look away from the road too often. JeanKnowsCars.com senior editor Molly Jean says it's "a kid's toy," not an adult-rated communication interface. One of the editors was even overheard cursing the system over our two-way communication radios when he tried to use MyFord Touch to change the music track it was playing on his iPod.
Does This Make Me Look Big?
The Explorer's high beltline makes this vehicle feel big, more like a truck than a crossover. Almost everyone says the view from the driver's seat compromises driver confidence. "It's like sitting at the bottom of a black bathtub," one editor says. Nevertheless, JeanKnowsCars.com senior editor Molly Jean insists the visibility is good, and she's hardly the tallest of our drivers.
Despite the new-generation Explorer's crossover platform, it seems less than spacious to us. "It's amazing how big the Ford looks on the outside versus how small it feels inside," says associate editor David Zenlea. Underpinning the 2013 Ford Explorer is an evolution of Volvo's P2 platform, which was developed for the 1998 Volvo S80 sedan. Versions of it can be found under the Ford Flex and the Lincoln MKT, among other Ford vehicles. But the process of engineering this platform for the Explorer resulted in thick roof pillars, an obstructively wide center tunnel, and high, wide door sills that make entry and egress cumbersome for both front- and rear-seat passengers.
The seven-passenger, all-wheel-drive 2013 Ford Explorer has a number of redeeming qualities, yet it feels outdated and trucklike in this group of crossovers, even though its redesign dates only to 2011. That's because, no matter how much new-fangled technology and horsepower Ford has added to this platform, the deficient packaging and limited outward visibility keep this crossover from being one in which we'd tote our brood. - Donny Nordlicht
2013 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD
2013 Ford Explorer Limited AWD Vs 2013 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD Rear View
Let's get this out of the way: the 2013 Honda Pilot is old. The second-generation Pilot that we're driving today debuted back in 2009, and although it received an update last year, this remains much the same Honda Odyssey-based utility package that first came our way in 2003. In fact, a significantly revised Honda Pilot is expected to be revealed within the next eighteen months. With this in mind, we slipped behind the wheel of the seven-passenger, all-wheel-drive 2013 Honda Pilot Touring AWD.
The 2013 Pilot's boxy shape has more personality than the anonymous family-style look it replaced, but this rough-and-tumble link to truck-based SUVs has not aged well. Deputy editor Joe DeMatio remarks, "It looks like the box it came in." Motor gopher Tom Foley also says that the angular interior looks meant for quick cleanup after a spell of barfing by your toddler, since there's barely a hint of the soft-touch materials found in the other crossovers in this group.
Fuel Economy, not Power
The powertrain also feels behind the times compared to most of our octet. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine provides reasonable grunt with 250 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque, but the antiquated five-speed automatic transmission shifts slowly and clumsily as it continually shuffles the gears to keep the V-6 on the boil as it lugs around 4608 pounds. The steering is slow yet surprisingly direct, and the ride is soft.
It's not all bad news with the 2013 Honda Pilot, however. Let's remember that it wears the "H" badge on its grille, and Honda has built a reputation for reliable, efficient, and inexpensive-to-own vehicles, which is the kind of thing that can make or break a purchase for lots of shoppers. The Honda Pilot also trumps the Ford Explorer by achieving 1 mpg more on the highway and combined cycles (17/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined versus 17/23/19).
Number crunching also reveals that the Honda's boxy shape pays dividends with respect to cargo capacity. While there are three cubic feet less than the Ford Explorer when all three rows are in use, the Pilot gives you 3.9 cubic feet more than the Explorer with the third row folded and a sizeable 6.3 cubic feet more when both the second and third rows are folded.
Another important number to those with families is "four," as in the number of LATCH anchors for child safety seats. Besting all other competitors, the Honda Pilot has an impressive three LATCH points in the second row and a fourth one in the third row. (Those of you with several small children, the 2013 Pilot is your car.) Speaking of safety, the 2013 Honda Pilot is also a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). We can also tell you that the Pilot's upright greenhouse delivers great outward visibility, and the bright, well-lit cabin feels airy and spacious even when packed with people and stuff.
The 2013 Honda Pilot is the crossover you buy with the left side of your brain; it is a pragmatic choice, a reliable, known quantity. This is a vehicle that will please those who view cars as an impersonal transportation cube to get from point A to point B. Unfortunately, this is also the Pilot's key failing. JeanKnowsCars.com associate editor Annie White expresses just what we are all thinking when she says, "Should we be okay with it being an appliance?" - Donny Nordlicht
Winner: 2013 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD
8 Crossovers Comparison Front View 2
When summer arrives, America hits the road. There's something about this country that calls out to all of us, so we yearn to go and see for ourselves. Sometimes it's Yellowstone National Park in the Rocky Mountains and sometimes it's the World's Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kansas, and as Americans we embrace both with cheerful enthusiasm. When the weather turns warm, we're all about the road map, the road trip, and road food.
Best of all, it's no longer necessary to drive Clark Griswold's infamous Wagon Queen Family Truckster to get there, as in National Lampoon's Vacation (1983). Instead we have the three-row family crossover, a miracle of packaging efficiency, thoughtful convenience, and comfortable transportation.
It's not fashionable among car people to pay tribute to the crossover, but we're smart enough to understand that Americans have figured out what you need to cross the wide-open spaces of this country on all kinds of roads and in all kinds of weather. It turns out that an all-wheel-drive utility vehicle with the easy-going personality of a family sedan is exactly what you want.
That's what has led us to compare the eight best three-row family crossovers that you can buy right now: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse; 2013 Dodge Durango; 2013 Ford Explorer; 2013 Honda Pilot; 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe; 2013 Mazda CX-9; 2013 Nissan Pathfinder; and 2013 Toyota Highlander.
Crossovers, Automobile-style
We began with the full range of family-style crossovers, which we define as mid-size vehicles intended primarily for passenger use but also capable of weekend adventure. That includes the ability to pack a useful amount of stuff and perhaps do some light-duty towing as well.
We have chosen eight finalists that represent the best aspects of the category, whether it's packaging efficiency or simple drivability. By choosing one of them as the best, we hope not only to define the current state of the American family crossover but also the character that the people who read Automobile want in a practical, everyday kind of family vehicle.
We have specified the ability to carry three rows of passengers, and while we acknowledge that for most people this feature is useful only a limited number of times each year, it's always a consideration in the buying process. We have specified all-wheel drive because it snows in the mountains, rains in the woods, and can be muddy almost anywhere. Our selection of vehicles also includes only what is on sale today, since people are buying what's on sale today, not next fall.
Crossovers, Bracket-style
We can't pretend to be the average buyer because, well, that would be impossible. Just like you, we are who we are. If you want complete objectivity unconfused by education, enthusiasm, experience, and just plain good taste, well, good luck to you.
8 Crossovers Comparison Front View 2
Also, we've again based our test on bracket-style, head-to-head comparisons between vehicles, just as we did with our comparison of mid-size sedans. We're not going to dumb down the comparison process into some kind of SAT test, where like geeks we carefully add up the points scored in a thousand little categories of performance. When you do that, you reward broad-based mediocrity, not excellence. And at Automobile, we're all about excellence.
The question of choice is personal and powerful, and we think that a one-to-one confrontation between vehicles reveals character in a way that giant test groups do not.
The Clark Griswold Factor
Every family must have a place to go, and our destination was the Tulip Festival in Holland, Michigan. Every May, 500,000 people make the drive to this eight-day celebration, which began in 1929 with a suggestion by a local schoolteacher to beautify this town on the shore of Lake Michigan by planting tulips in honor of the original Dutch settlers. Some 6 million tulips bloom in town each spring.
There are three parades, professional entertainment, fireworks, and dancers in wooden shoes (wear six to eight pair of socks before you try it). We stayed in the Euro-style CityFlats Hotel, looked at tulips, ate the heavy Dutch food, saw Big Red (the lighthouse at the harbor's entrance), and drove by the eighteenth-century Dutch windmill. Sadly, we missed the wooden shoe factory and the place where they do Delft dinnerware. The locals are so nice that they even shut down part of Kollen Park to let us take souvenir pictures. It was great.
Best of all, we made it a road trip. We set our own schedule, played our own music, found our own roads, and leaned out the windows and barked at the cows if we wanted to. We stopped for lunch at Bell's Brewery Eccentric Café in Kalamazoo (perfect for us, eh?). In addition, there were no airports involved at any point during our adventure, which is always a blessing.
The Road Map
Just like any road trip, it will take a while before you reach your destination.
We begin the trip today by selecting the vehicles for our comparison: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse; 2013 Dodge Durango; 2013 Ford Explorer; 2013 Honda Pilot; 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe; 2013 Mazda CX-9; 2013 Nissan Pathfinder; and 2013 Toyota Highlander.
Tomorrow and the next day, there will be head-to-head comparisons between the vehicles, with four vehicles involved each day. The day after that we'll sum up some of what we've learned during our tests, which include a rodeo-style timed test of third-seat stowage and a very messy lunch at our local Sonic drive-in. The last day, we'll stage the final head-to-head comparison and determine the winner.
You might want to start preparing the plans for your own summer vacation right now.
2013 Honda Pilot Front Left Side View
I was sitting in the school parking lot in the Honda Pilot, and though I could clearly see my son standing outside the doorway, evidently he could not see me. When he finally climbed into the cabin several minutes later, he explained: "Sorry, I didn't see you. Despite its bright maroon paint and its huge size, this Pilot doesn't stand out, because there's so many of them." True enough. In the pick-up line at school, at soccer practice, at Cub Scouts, or wherever parents congregate, you'll find the Honda Pilot -- often several of them. The Pilot is as much a staple of suburban family life as travel sports, take-out pizza, and the vinyl-sided colonial.
Like those modern shapers of subdivisions, the Tolls Brothers, Honda knows what families want -- space, and lots of it. The Pilot looks almost like it was designed using Lego bricks, but its blocky shape delivers a massive interior. The standard third-row seat is big enough for lanky teens (there are seat belts for three back there but two is more realistic), and if it's not, the second-row bench can slide forward a bit. That second-row seat is wide and flat, as is the floor in front of it, making three-across seating a piece of cake. Getting into either rear seat, however, entails a bit of a climb for littler kids, due to the unnecessarily high ground clearance and intrusive wheel arches. There's space not only for people but for their junk too, starting with a claimed 18 cubic feet behind the third seat. That appears to be an overstatement, but there is room for two roll-aboard bags and a couple of duffles stacked on top -- there's also a usefully sized cubby underneath. The stowage space continues with a vast center console (the shifter is on the dash), and even the door panels incorporate not one but two stowage bins.
Although undeniably practical, the interior materials are depressingly industrial-grade, and that's in the top-of-the-line Touring. The gray leather upholstery doesn't whisper, "luxury" as much as it says, "Spills wipe right up!" There's hard plastic everywhere, and the huge, bluff-like dash is faced with the stuff. The dash is also home to a daunting array of buttons and knobs -- true, that's better than having everything in some hidden menu on a touch screen, but not by much.
The Pilot may be technically a crossover, but at a tad over 4600 pounds (in AWD Touring trim), it's as big boned as a body-on-frame SUV. It's also about as nimble. The turning circle actually is quite good, but the steering is so overboosted and imprecise that at times it just feels sloppy. The brake pedal has lots of travel as well. Honda's hardworking 3.5-liter V-6 is the sole engine offering, and is rated at 250 hp and 253 pound-feet of torque, figures that are middling in this class. Acceleration is adequate but not much more. The automatic is only a five-speed -- most competitors have one more gear to play with. Despite that handicap, Honda engineers are able to extract surprisingly good fuel economy out of the Pilot: EPA ratings of 18/25 mpg (FWD) and 17/24 mpg (AWD) are near the top of the class, although they can't approach the new Nissan Pathfinder, with its continuously variable transmission.
Honda's long-earned reputation for quality and reliability make a Honda-brand vehicle a safe choice for a practical-minded purchase like a family-schlepping sport-ute. The Pilot's commodious interior and reasonable fuel economy mean that it serves its purpose well. But there's nothing here to elevate the driving experience or the ownership experience beyond the everyday. The Pilot may be ubiquitous, but it's not a standout.
2013 Honda Pilot Touring
BASE MSRP (with destination): $42,100
3.5-liter DOHC V-6
Horsepower: 250 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 253 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
5-speed automatic
18-inch aluminum wheels
235x60 r18 tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway):
17/24 mpg
4608 lb
Doors/Passengers: 4/5
Cargo (behind 1st/2nd/3rd row): 87.0/47.7/18.0 cu ft
Legroom (front/middle/rear): 41.4/38.5/32.1 in
Headroom (front/middle/rear): 39.3/39.8/38.2 in
Towing: 4500 lb
3.5-liter DOHC V-6
5-speed automatic transmission
All-wheel drive
18-inch aluminum wheels
Rearview camera
Power windows
Power locks w/remote
Power sunroof
Power front seats
Heated front seats
Automatic dual-zone climate control
Tilt-and-telescopic steering column
Leather-wrapped steering wheel w/audio controls
Leather seats
Chevrolet Traverse
Ford Explorer
GMC Acadia
Mazda CX-9
Nissan Pathfinder
Toyota Highlander
2013 Honda Pilot
2013 Honda Pilot

New For 2013

The Pilot was lightly refreshed in 2012, but now receives a standard eight-inch i-MID information display with Bluetooth and USB audio connectivity, as well as standard automatic climate control and a rearview camera. Obsidian blue pearl paint replaces Bali blue pearl paint.


With a track record for reliability and space for your whole brood, the Pilot is a great choice for active families. Many of the Pilot’s features will make Honda owners feel right at home. The Pilot is based on the Odyssey, so it drives in much the same fashion. The 3.5-liter V-6 is good for 250 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque, and the vehicle can tow up to 4500 pounds. The Pilot is one of the best-driving crossovers in its segment. The steering is nicely weighted, engineers have dialed in the suspension so that there’s little body roll, and the ride quality is neither too soft nor too stiff. On the inside, all Pilots get Honda’s eight-inch i-MID display, which shows audio and navigation (if equipped) information, as well as the images from the standard rearview camera. The Pilot has three rows of seats and can carry eight passengers, although it’s not as roomy as a minivan. There are other vehicles in this segment—such as the Mazda CX-9—that are more attractively styled and more powerful, but the Pilot manages to outsell the CX-9 more than four to one, thanks to its reputation for reliability, its convenience and space, and the cachet of the Honda name.


Front, side, and side curtain air bags are standard, as are ABS, traction and stability control, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

You'll like:

  • Simple, efficient interior
  • Rides and handles well
  • Three rows of seating

You won't like:

  • Boxy styling
  • Can be expensive

Key Competitors For The 2013 Honda Pilot

  • Ford Explorer
  • Mazda CX-9
  • Nissan Pathfinder
  • Toyota 4Runner

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2013 Honda Pilot
2013 Honda Pilot
LX FWD 4-Dr Sport Utility V6
18 MPG City | 25 MPG Hwy
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2013 Honda Pilot
2013 Honda Pilot
LX FWD 4-Dr Sport Utility V6
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2013 Honda Pilot Specifications

Quick Glance:
3.5L V6Engine
Fuel economy City:
18 MPG
Fuel economy Highway:
25 MPG
250 hp @ 5700rpm
253 ft lb of torque @ 4800rpm
  • Air Conditioning
  • Power Windows
  • Power Locks
  • Power Seats (optional)
  • Steering Wheel Tilt
  • Cruise Control
  • Sunroof (optional)
  • ABS
  • Stabilizer Front
  • Stabilizer RearABS
  • Electronic Traction Control
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • Locking Differential (optional)
  • Limited Slip Differential (optional)
  • Airbag Driver
  • Airbag Passenger
  • Airbag Side Front
  • Airbag Side Rear (optional)
  • Radio
  • CD Player
  • CD Changer (optional)
  • DVD (optional)
  • Navigation (optional)
36,000 miles / 36 months
60,000 miles / 60 months
Unlimited miles / 60 months
Recall Date
Honda is recalling certain model year 2009-2013 Pilot and 2011-2013 Odyssey passenger vehicles manufactured from March 13, 2008, through December 21, 2012. One or more rivets that attach the airbag module to the airbag cover may be missing.
The absence of more than one rivet could alter the performance of the driver's airbag during deployment. This could potentially increase the risk of injury during a crash.
Honda will notify owners and instruct them to take their vehicle to a Honda dealer. The dealer will inspect the driver's airbag module and replace it if necessary, free of charge. The recall began on March 14, 2013. Owners may contact Honda at 1-800-999-1009.
Potential Units Affected
Honda (American Honda Motor Co.)

Recall Date
Honda is recalling certain model year 2013 Pilot 2WD and 4WD vehicles and certain model year 2013 Odyssey vehicles. During manufacturing of the engine piston, it is possible that the heat treatment process was not properly applied, resulting in the piston having an insufficient hardness level, making it more susceptible to premature wear.
A worn piston may suddenly fail, causing the engine to stall, increasing the risk of a crash.
Honda will notify owners, and dealers will replace the engine short block free of charge. The recall began on September 16, 2013. Owners may contact Honda at 1-800-999-1009. Honda's recall numbers are JB4 (Honda Odyssey) and JB5 (Honda Pilot).
Potential Units Affected
Honda (American Honda Motor Co.)

NHTSA Rating Front Driver
NHTSA Rating Front Passenger
NHTSA Rating Front Side
NHTSA Rating Rear Side
NHTSA Rating Overall
NHTSA Rating Rollover
IIHS Front Moderate Overlap
IIHS Overall Side Crash
IIHS Best Pick
IIHS Rear Crash
IIHS Roof Strength
IIHS Front Small Overlap

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5-Year Total Cost to Own For The 2013 Honda Pilot

Loss in Value + Expenses
= 5 Year Cost to Own
Fuel Cost
Repair Costs
State Fees
Five Year Cost of Ownership: $34,544 What's This?
Value Rating: Above Average