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Holler Honda

2211 N. Semoran Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32807

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Reviews

2011 Honda Pilot Walk Around


Honda Pilot's styling was inspired by an ultra-rugged laptop computer. It's clean, with flat, plain body panels and a boxy shape that serves usefulness as well as it caters to a tough, utilitarian image. Surfaces that aren't sloped inward at the roof pay dividends in head space and big-box cargo loading.

With substantial chrome trim and eyebrows in the headlight housings, fog lights mounted relatively high in the bumper, and a hatch that tapers more to the sides than forward at the top, the Pilot looks wider it is. Viewed from dead astern the mid-size Pilot appears as bulky as the full-size Toyota Sequoia.

Panel crimps define the wheel openings, aiding the rugged look without adding width or bolt-on parts that might promote rust. The third-row side window are separated by a thick chunk of sheetmetal, to no apparent detriment in driver vision or third-row comfort. The rear wiper parks off the hatch glass, allowing it to open separately. The hatch has a hefty pull handle with touch-point releases and is powered on the Touring model, and the bumper has a good cover so sloppy loading won't mar the paint.

All Pilots come with a Class III tow hitch and coolers required for towing; only a wiring pigtail will be needed from the dealer. The top tow rating is 4500 pounds on 4WD and 3500 pounds on front-drive models. Roof rails are standard on higher trims and you'll probably be using the back bumper and door sills without a step stool or small ladder to load items six feet up.

In its most basic form the Pilot is derived from the same platform as the Acura MDX big crossover, yet the two do not share an engine, many features, or end-user purpose and philosophy. As a result, they differ dramatically in use.

Interior

Regardless of trim level, the Honda Pilot interior appears well thought out and assembled, with functional touches at every turn and a luxury factor that increases alongside price. In simple terms the base LX will do everything a Touring will do except reposition your seat and mirrors or open and close the power tailgate.

The cloth upholstery on LX and EX we found to be comfortable in temperature extremes. The cloth is a subdued design with just enough pattern to hide stains that become part and parcel of any eight-seat vehicle. One may desire more features from higher-priced models yet the basics are all here, including power windows and locks and air conditioning for front and rear. Just like the priciest Pilot, door armrests have soft cushioned elbow pads and there's no cheap feel in frequently felt surfaces. All trims offer three interior colors dependent on paint hue. Premium models are upgraded with nicely textured leather, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift lever, and more upscale door panel trim.

The front seats deliver good support for long-term comfort and bolsters on the seatbacks provide lateral support without imposing thigh cushions you'd have to climb over for every entry or exit. The power driver's seat on the EX adjusts in one more plane than the LX and is easier underway for minor improvements in finding the ideal position and height, yet we had no fatigue or wish for more after hours in an LX.

The middle-row seat provides essentially the same room as the front seats, including good toe space under the front seats. This seat split-folds 60/40 with the short cushion on the right side for easiest loading, both sides slide fore and aft for maximum flexibility or keeping that baby seat closer, the climate control is handy at the back of the console, and each door has two cupholders in the armrest and dual pockets below. Although it appears as merely a fixed cushion above the center armrest, the center headrest easily lifts and extends to a useful height.

The third row is easily accessible: One lift of the lever at kid's-eye height in the center row backrest tilts the seat and slides it forward for third-row access. As with all crossovers this is the restriction point as the rear seat offers good space and getting there is easy for limber kids and slender adults. Like the middle row, this seat splits to fold flat, has three usable headrests and offers storage on both sides. The optional rear-seat entertainment system is much the same as the top-ranked setups in the Odyssey and Acura MDX.

At least in LX and EX trims this is a jump-in-and-go kind of ride. No fumbling about looking for where to put the key (or a start button), a one-touch tilt-and-telescope function to put the wheel where you want it, and generally intuitive controls; for example, the intermittent wiper settings are defined by the number of raindrops to match precipitation to wiper speed. Stability system and park sensor (Touring) defeat switches are to the left of the driver so hooligans bent on embarrassing mom won't turn them off at an inconvenient moment.

Gauges appear as a clear overlay with black markings floating above a white background and red needles swinging between the layers. A foot-operated parking brake rides above a good dead pedal to rest your left foot on without pointing toes, and the shifter is next to the wheel on the left side of the central control area.

On most Pilots this area features an info display at the top for miscellaneous data, silver-trimmed audio controls, black-framed climate controls, a box-shaped bin at the bottom and an omnidirectional vent on either side. On models with navigation it gets busier and ventures beyond that jump-in-and-go realm that frequently accompanies audio-video store showrooms on wheels.

At the top is a shaded navigation screen for the system that operates with voice recognition and delivers electronic breadcrumbs to retrace your off-road route back to pavement. Below that are a slim display for temperature data, the audio and climate controls, seat heat switches, a much smaller MP3-player size bin, and the interface jog dial for the navigation system.

That controller works like many, with a central function knob that moves in almost any direction to work through menus and lists. It's neither as infuriating as some systems nor as easy as the best, and some of the six hard keys surrounding it were difficult to read in daylight with or without sunglasses, polarized or plain. Altogether there are about 50 buttons and switches in the center stack and another 13 (plus horn) on the steering wheel, so some familiarization is in order.

Above the glovebox is a segmented tray; the glovebox is deep but the door drops with surprising weight so keep knees clear; each door has two pockets in it as well, and it seems every bin/cubby/box has a rubberized floor to minimize noise and sliding contents. The center console could conceal an ultra-portable notebook or small purse if you configure it properly.

Pilot pilots will find the cowl line higher than usual for Honda vehicles but the view out remains good, the style lines in the hood somewhat helpful at defining the sides of the car in motion. With rear pillars too far away to be impediments, center rear shoulder belts and headrests stowed until needed, and good rear-wiper coverage, seeing out of a Pilot is a non-issue. The premium models have a wide-angle mirror above the rearview mirror for keeping an eye on the passengers, but some lighter-colored dashboard edges make a minor-nuisance reflection in the side window glass by the mirrors.

The cargo area has as assortment of tie-down points and bag hooks. The cargo floor can be flipped up and latched against the third-row seatback, and the net inside it attached at the side, for a carrying basket/shelf capable of holding 22 pounds. This net is a few inches below the hatch-glass windowline, and since that opens separately, small items can be loaded through the window opening without lifting the entire hatch. Below the cargo floor is more storage area but it is flat to be useful for carrying heavier objects when the net is deployed. There is also a compartment on the driver's side big enough to hold small service parts and a one-gallon jug for windshield washer refills or whatever.

There is perhaps no better demonstration of packaging efficiency than folding all the back seats flat and laying a 4x8-foot sheet of plywood, which is more than half as long as the whole car, flat on the floor, closing the hatch, and driving off with it completely out of the weather.