Under the hood is the 3.5-liter V-6 that also sees duty in the Odyssey minivan, the Ridgeline pickup, and, strangely, the Saturn Vue. This engine got a boost from 240 to 255 horsepower for 2005. For 2006, Honda left the power output alone, but boosted the fuel economy by including a cylinder-deactivation feature. Under light-load conditions, such as cruising at a steady speed on the highway, the engine shuts down half its cylinders and runs as a three-cylinder engine. Perhaps more important than the horsepower number in this application is the torque: 250 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm. That rather high torque peak indicates the Pilot's acceleration traits--the engine launches softly and then really comes on in the mid-range rev zone. This torque curve is good for passing, when the five-speed automatic transmission kicks down a gear or two, but not so good for ultimate towing power, though the Pilot's 4,500-lb towing maximum is certainly respectable.
Behind the Wheel
The ride from the four-wheel independent suspension is superb, and the Pilot gets around corners like an overgrown Accord. The VTM-4 all-wheel-drive system's default torque bias is to the front wheels, although as soon as traction is lost, up to 70 percent of the power is automatically shifted to the rear wheels. This means that, even on models without stability control, skids are very rare--even on snow and ice. Last year, the Pilot got a new power steering pump for improved on-center feel, and the fact that Honda is even worrying about steering feel in an SUV is another indication that on-road driving is a priority. If you find yourself on an on-ramp devoid of cars in a Pilot devoid of kids, there's more fun to be had than in a truck-based SUV like a Chevy TrailBlazer. The Pilot is quieter than truck-based SUVs, too. Transitioning to the Pilot from a sedan or minivan is easy, with the command seating position and physical size being the most notable changes. Move to the Honda from a tradition body-on-frame SUV, and it'll exceed expectations, steering, handling, braking, and even accelerating with more responsiveness and refinement than you'd grown accustomed to.
In the Pilot, Honda has a sophisticated, roomy, and reasonably quick way to get eight people to their destination no matter what Mother Nature throws down on the roads. As an added bonus, the fuel economy's even decent. The Pilot's IntelliChoice Cost of Ownership Value Rating is Excellent across the board, owing to its class-leading resale value and Honda reliability. The Pilot is one of the largest unibody SUVs (as opposed to trucklike body-on-frame vehicles like the Nissan Pathfinder), and as such, it occupies a unique place in the market, with carlike refinement and accommodations larger than those of rivals such as the Ford Explorer. True to its mission, the Pilot is a jack-of-all-trades vehicle, ready to adapt from weekday kid shuttle to weekend adventure machine and DYI project hauler. Ultimately, this versatility is the vehicle's key attraction. Those who want hardcore off-roading or heavy-duty towing should look to a more specialized vehicle; the other 80-plus percentage of us would be well served by the Pilot.