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2016 Honda Pilot

2016 Honda Pilot Elite

Base Price: $29,995
Price as Tested: $46,420

For a Japanese brand you can’t get much more American than the totally redesigned Honda Pilot. With lines penned at Honda R&D in California and Ohio, and assembly in Alabama, the 2016 Pilot is measurably “red, white and blue.”

This, the third-generation Pilot, is even more family friendly than the 2015 model. There’s more legroom in the third-row seat2016 Honda Pilot Elite that is also more than two inches wider. Honda stretched Pilot’s overall length by 3.5 inches, making space for an 82-quart cooler behind the third-row seat. Moreover, Honda ratcheted up performance while improving fuel economy. And, in this day in age, a carmaker can’t launch a new or redesigned vehicle without all the latest in connectivity gizmos and apps. The new Pilot boasts that as well as some leading-edge safety technologies.

Sadly, I didn’t have the opportunity to road trip in this three-row crossover that seems ideally suited for carting up to eight people and all their stuff cross-country. But I did manage to log nearly 150 miles around South Carolina’s Upstate. I am impressed with this large CUV’s comfort, easy operation and impeccable road manners. This is a family hauler in every sense of the term. I didn’t exactly rattle around in its vast expanses, but, as with some other large SUVs, I felt a little silly commanding all that space by myself. But, what the hell, let them eat cake!

2016 Honda PilotHonda adheres to a no-option pricing strategy. Basically it means, adding features requires stepping up a trim grade. Several dealer-installed add-ons, such as a ski rack, bicycle rack and running boards, are available; but there are no factory options beyond all-wheel drive for an $1,800 premium.

Honda offers Pilot in five core models: LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite. There is also a sub model of the EX and EX-L that includes the buffet of safety technologies called Honda Sensing. Additionally, the EX-L has two other sub models; one with navigation and another with rear-seat entertainment. Honda delivered a $46,420 Pilot Elite for this evaluation. It has all the goodies Pilot offers, including panoramic moonroof, navigation system and rear-seat entertainment system.

In re-imagining Pilot, Honda not only made the exterior less boxy and revamped the chassis for more athletic performance, but it developed an all-new powertrain and drivetrain. Much of Honda’s effort in this area focused on the AWD system with the new Intelligent Variable Torque Management and Intelligent Traction Management systems.

A new 280-horsepower (30 hp more than the previous V6) 3.5-liter V6 with selective cylinder deactivation delivers Pilot’s 2016 Honda Pilot Eliteget-up-and-go. Pilot’s two new automatic transmissions are linked to specific trim levels. The two top grades use the nine-speed automatic tranny to turn the wheels; while the three lower trim levels use a new six-speed. No matter which transmission, the government-estimated fuel economy is up over the previous Pilot by 1 mpg in combined city/highway driving with the six-speed and 2 mpg with the nine-speed. This improvement stands for the FWD and AWD versions alike. The actual 2WD estimated-mileage numbers are 19 mpg city, 27 highway and 22 combined with the 6AT. They come in at 18/26/21 for the 6AT with AWD. Moving up to the nine-speed increases fuel efficiency to 20/27/23 for 2WD and 19/26/22 for AWD. That the redesigned Pilot is 300 pounds leaner than its predecessor also contributes to the improved fuel numbers.

More than anything else, shoppers for “family” vehicles are concerned about the cabin. How many does it comfortably seat? How much cargo can it haul when the seating is maxed out? How many cup holders? How many and what size are the storage cubbies? How many USB ports? And, so forth and so on. The answer to all of these questions is, plenty. Sure, even with the extra legroom, the third-row seat is still a bit tight for adults, but it’s still manageable. Seating is for seven or eight depending on how the second row is furnished: bench seat or captain’s chairs. The only feature missing that would make Pilot even more versatile is a fold-flat front passenger seat.

2016 Honda Pilot EliteOne reason there is so much storage in the center console area, Pilot employs push buttons for its automatic trannys. I’m not crazy about this feature in the Pilot or other vehicles in which it is turning up in one form or another, but I might change my mind after spending more time with it.

All but the entry-level LX come with an eight-inch touchscreen that responds to swipes and pinches like a smart phone to command the audio and other key systems. While the LX gets a seven-speaker audio system with iPod interface, Pandora and a five-inch display screen, the EX and EX-L trims have the same audio system with satellite-radio capability and the larger touchscreen. Touring and Elite grades get a 10-speaker audio system.

All Pilots offer Bluetooth connectivity and a rearview camera. All but the LX also have HondaLink Assist through which driver can summon emergency assistance. The upper four grades also provide Apple’s Siri Eyes Free Mode through which drivers can send text messages, read incoming messages, check the weather and get other information.

Among the eight features included in my test Pilot’s Honda Sensing were Collision Braking Mitigation, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning.

Honda has always earmarked Pilot as a family hauler. Now more than ever before, it fulfills that mission.