REVIEW: 2016 Honda Pilot Elite AWD – Aiming for the Top

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The Honda Pilot was redesigned for 2016, and the result is an SUV that’s thoroughly modern in features and design.

What is it? 

The Pilot is Honda’s family-sized crossover SUV, with seating for seven or eight and a 280-horsepower V6 under the hood.

If you’re a parent, then there’s probably a Pilot in your carpool, if not in your driveway.


Pricing and trims

Honda Pilots range from $30,145 for the base LX 2WD to $46,570 for the top Elite AWD.


The test car was the Elite AWD, and since it’s the top of the heap, everything you could get on Pilot from the factory is included.

That means it’s thick with luxuries, particularly in the second row, which boasts a panoramic glass roof panel and heated captain’s chairs…


…a Blu-ray player with a flip-down, high-resolution WVGA nine-inch screen…


…and shades for the side glass.


The Elite’s front-row seats are heated and cooled…


…and the tailgate powers up and down.


Total for this Elite AWD, with the $900 destination charge, was $47,470.


Crash test results from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) are as good as they get, as is the Pilot’s availability of front crash prevention features, so it gets a Top Safety Pick+.


To get the collision mitigation equipment, you’d skip the base LX and get the $32,580 EX, and then you’d add the $1,000 Honda Sensing option.

So the minimum you’d pay for a Pilot to get one that qualifies for the Top Safety Pick+ rating would be $34,480, including destination.


The 280-horsepower V6 that’s under the hood of all Pilots feels strong.


Acceleration is quick and passing is assertive, and V6 feels up to the task of hauling three rows of passengers and some gear.


The Elite’s transmission is a nine-speeder with actual gears, it’s not a CVT. It has the accompanying firm response you’d expect as a result, but D’s shift pattern felt a touch logy, while S was snappier.

The push-button shifter isn’t perfect, but it is nice that Honda incorporated D and S in the same button, so if you want S, which I did every time I drove this Pilot, it’s just another tap on the same button to get you there.

The flipper shifters behind the steering-wheel spokes ran the transmission through its gears with pleasing directness.


Ride and handing

If you’ve driven an older-generation Pilot, then you likely think of it as an SUV with relatively sharp handling. That’s true of the 2016, though the involvement felt in older Pilots is more muted in the newest one.

Still, this Pilot Elite AWD exhibited the hallmarks of a Honda, with an exceedingly even temper and a wide berth of traction before the front overshoots its path with understeer. The ride is firm but settled.

For more challenging road surfaces, the Pilot’s Intelligent Traction Management system lets you choose from four programs of power dispersion to the wheels. It’s available on all trims except for the base LX.



Seat comfort is a Pilot strong point, with front seats on the Elite that are heated and cooled. These seats have wide cushions for those who are broad of beam, and the side cushions and fold-down armrests support slender occupants.


The driver’s bottom cushion tips up nicely for thigh support.


The Elite’s heated second-row captain’s chairs feel a little low to the floor for taller passengers, but there’s plenty of room all around.


A powered release on the side releases the rear of the seat, which folds it forward for access to the third row.


There are three seat belts in the third row, and the seat is accommodating enough for two six-footers and one extremely skinny middle rider.

One nice touch is big side windows, so that passengers back there have a clear view out.


The Elite’s standard 800 x 480 WVGA screen comes with a detachable remote.


The Elite also includes second-row climate controls, along with a household plug outlet and HDMI port.



With all seats up, the Pilot still holds 16.4 cubic feet of stuff, which compares to the volume of a mid-sized sedan’s trunk.


To maximize the rear cargo hold’s height, the Pilot allows you to drop the floor down a step.


Infotainment and controls

The Pilot avoids the stimulative approach of the 2016 Civic‘s instrument panel to favor a broad panel with an uncomplicated look.


Only the least-expensive Pilot LX comes with a five-inch screen; all others sport this eight-incher, which a passenger remarked had a notably brighter screen and quicker response than the one in her new Honda Fit. It does look and feel up-to-date.

The Elite is the only Pilot with HD radio, but none yet have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

We do wish the screen had more – heck, any – physical buttons…


…but the redundant controls on the steering wheel are apt pinch-hitters.


All Pilots have this 4.2-inch information screen between the gauges.


Climate controls are well-organized.


Below them is the Blu-ray disc slot, which sits above the roomy rubberized phone tray and ports for power and USB.


The front row has a second power port and a third USB under the center armrest.



The Pilot’s 2016 redesign makes it one of the most desirable SUVs on the market.


The Pilot is on the forefront of safety, and its range of useful features do much to keep both driver and passengers happy.

It’s a responsive performer, and the ripply styling updates the Pilot from the box it once was.


The minuses relate to its Pilot’s purpose and size. We do miss some of the verve the Pilot once had; that’s a casualty of the 2016’s quieter and more isolated attitude.

The Pilot’s 78.9-inch width came close to the edges of my city garage while backing out; it’s a big truck. Not really a negative, just something to be aware of. The lack of Apple or Android connectivity will likely be fixed soon.

Honda aimed the 2016 Pilot at the top of the SUV market, and it’s a direct hit.

Check out Pilots near you with a search through’s comprehensive listings.

2016 Honda Pilot Elite AWD

Price as tested, including $900 destination charge:  $47,470



Snappy performance in S mode

Top safety ratings


Less-distinct driving verve

No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity

No Honda Sensing availability on base LX trim