2017 Honda Pilot Touring Road Test

It’s déjà vu all over again. Truly, Honda could’ve given me the exact same Pilot Touring to test for the 2017 model year as it
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
Classy Steel Sapphire Metallic paint looks as good on the 2017 Honda Pilot Touring as it did on the 2016 Honda Pilot Touring we tested last year. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
did for 2016 and I wouldn’t have known. Could this be a new money saving strategy? Hardly. It’s probably as simple as the person in charge of ordering really liking the grey-blue Steel Sapphire Metallic paint and black leather combination. I can understand, as it looks plenty classy suited up like this.

Then again with so many other colours available, such as darker and bolder Obsidian Blue Pearl, dark green Black Forest Pearl, Dark Cherry Pearl, and all the usual shades from White Diamond Pearl, Lunar Silver Metallic, and medium grey Modern Steel Metallic, to Crystal Black Pearl, something different would’ve benefited our 2017 photo gallery.

What’s more, choosing the latter would’ve allowed perforated Beige leather upholstery instead of the same black hides. On that note I find it strange you can’t get
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
Unique LED taillights stand out on Honda’s largest model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
the lighter beige cabin with some of the complementary colours just noted, such as dark green or cherry red. I’m sure it’s difficult to select colour combinations knowing ahead they won’t appeal to everyone, but one reason top sellers perform well is the variety they bring to market. Limiting the beige interior to those wanting a black exterior seems self-defeating.

Interestingly, Honda’s U.S. division forces those who purchase black painted Pilots into black or grey interiors (grey not available here), with beige totally off the menu, while those opting for the green or cherry red exteriors are mandated into beige. Either blue exterior paint removes black and beige from the equation entirely, leaving just grey, but at least more options are on the table. Such is life with a ten-times larger market,
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
These LED headlights with auto high beams are standard in top-line Touring trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
but as noted a little more colour variety wouldn’t hurt the Pilot’s potential sales, the model’s current status not exactly on fire.

To be fair, if you pare the segment down to car-based crossover SUVs from its 21 overall contestants it registers 10th, although the category shrinks to 18 models. We can remove a couple of tall wagons that don’t really compete directly as well, which pulls the Pilot up a notch to ninth yet removes another from the total tally resulting in 17 direct rivals, and if we’re going to get so granular in our competitive analysis we really should clump models with five and seven passenger variants together, like the Santa Fe Sport and XL, which places the Pilot in 8th and reduces the overall list down to 16. Still, it’s hardly reasonable to include the new VW
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
LED DRLs and fog lamps help illuminate the road ahead. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Atlas on the big list, as it’s only been available for two months, while the same brand’s Touareg is a $50k luxury SUV that competes in an entirely different class. This makes the Pilot eighth most popular out of 14 direct competitors (and no we can’t divide things up into five- and seven-seat challengers because Honda doesn’t offer a five-seat variant).

I feel as if I should add “Inconceivable!” to the latter run-on-and-on paragraph in respect to someone else overwhelmed with his own verbiage, but I’m guessing much of my readership is too young to be acquainted with Rob Reiner’s “The Princess Bride” and in particular, Patton Oswalt’s wonderfully humorous performance of Vizzini, but as it is Honda could really use a dedicated five-passenger crossover SUV to compete with the class-dominating Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, while Ford’s five-seat Edge wasn’t far off the
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
These 20-inch alloys are exclusive to Touring trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
mark over the first half of 2017. The word on the street says a short-wheelbase five-occupant Pilot is on the way, so stay tuned.

Still, things don’t even out much more when comparing seven-seat SUVs. Ford’s Explorer sold more than twice as many units as Honda, while Toyota’s Highlander, Dodge’s Journey, and Kia’s Sorento came close to doubling Pilot sales. Grinding salt into the wound, this is ramping up to be a particularly good year for Honda’s largest SUV, with 4,079 units already down the road compared to 7,279 for all of 2016. Then again, Honda sold 8,230 in 2015 when the new model was introduced (in May), which while a massive bump over the 6,113 units sold in 2014 when the old model was winding down, and much stronger than the scant 4,328 sold during the model’s emotional low of 2007, is still a big hill to scale in comparison to rivals.
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
The new Pilot’s curvaceous lines are completely different than the boxy profile of previous generations. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
In other words, the Pilot significantly underperforms on the sales charts for such a powerful brand.

It’s not like it’s suffering from new kid syndrome either. The Pilot has been around for a long time, 15 years to be exact, but the rather bland looking first-generation wasn’t exactly a homerun, and Honda’s second kick at the can, a boxy, upright, traditionally styled SUV was only moderately more successful. At least the new model’s styling should be more agreeable to most modern-day SUV fans, although it won’t appeal to those wanting a rugged, truck-like design.

At least it’s soft, curvaceous styling leads into a refined, premium car-like cabin, right? I won’t use the word austere to describe the Pilot’s interior, but even when Honda
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
LED taillight detailing is eye-catching at close range and even more noticeable at night. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
tries to bling up this top-line Touring trim line it uses yet more of this inky shade to do so, this time in the form of piano black lacquered plastic. There are no warm wood tones, sophisticated satin-finished metals, or anything near as avant-garde as the Nissan Murano’s radical mother of pearl-like inlays. Clearly, I’m not decrying Honda goes that far to wow (or turn off) would-be buyers, but something a bit more daring might be in order. Additional reasons not to install this overused embellishment, piano black plastic is near impossible to keep free of dust, scratches easily, and looks passé in anything but a Rolls-Royce Ghost. In the Pilot Touring it’s also way too much of a “good” thing, the interior designers could have restrained its application a little.

More is better when it comes to seating, however, and the Pilot comes standard with
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
The new Pilot has made big gains in interior quality and refinement compared to the old model, but there’s still room to improve. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
room for eight, although the second-row captain’s chairs in our tester resulted in the usual count of seven seats from its three rows. The first two rows are as sizeable as SUVs get, with the 10-way power-adjustable two up front allowing almost any body type to fit in and get comfortable. They’re three-way heated and cooled in Touring trim too, whereas the second-row seats are heatable, which will no doubt cause arguments as smaller ones are forced into the very back, but such is merely one challenge in raising a family needful of such a large SUV. At least accessing the third row is almost effortless. Just press one of the buttons on the side or rear of the second row buckets and voila, they’ll automatically slide forward for wide, easy entry to a third row that’s more accommodating than most in this class.

If you want to fold the second-row seats down completely, just pull up on the lever below the cushion. The rearmost seats fold by pulling on a strap that also flips down the headrest automatically, an easy process that doesn’t take much effort to execute. Then again it’s a much simpler and less sophisticated system than
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
There’s no shortage of piano black lacquered plastic in this top-line Touring model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
offered in the CR-V, which boasts handy levers on the sidewalls to automatically lay the two-row SUV’s rear seats flat, so those moving up from the compact model might not be as enthralled with this more rudimentary process despite the Pilot’s more significant asking price.

Of course, folks will likely move up to the Pilot for its accommodating capacity, the big ute capable of 524 litres (18.5 cubic feet) of available cargo space behind the 60/40 split-folding third row in all but Touring trim, which gets a slight reduction to 510 litres (18.0 cubic feet). I’m not counting the tiny storage compartment under the load floor either, which is handy for stowing dirty gloves, rags, or alternatively valuables that might be best hidden away, while lowering that third row opens the Pilot’s cargo capacity up to 1,583 litres (55.9 cubic feet) in lower trims and 1,557 litres (55.0 cubic feet) for the Touring, while dropping both rear rows results in 3,092 litres (109.2 cubic feet)
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
Creatively styled analogue gauges join a large colour TFT multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
of available cargo space in the former and 3,072 litres (108.5 cubic feet) in the latter. Either way, that’s a lot of available cargo space.

As far as soft touch surfaces and other premium details go, 2018 CR-V Touring owners will be similarly dismayed, as the Pilot not only comes up a bit short when compared to the lesser Honda’s top trim level, but a number of its peers too. Looking to the latter, the Pilot Touring’s A-pillars aren’t wrapped in fabric like some others, while pliable plastics can only be found on the dash top and upper portion of the instrument panel, as well as the door uppers and inserts, and they’re not as upscale looking or feeling as those used with the CR-V Touring; although I consider the new 2018 CR-V Touring’s interior far
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
The centre stack is well laid out and fully featured. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
and away the best in its class. Much of the Pilot Touring’s door panels, including the upper section wrapping around the door pull, is formed from less appealing hard shell plastic, as are all surfaces below the piano black lacquer trim on the instrument panel, and that includes the sides of the centre stack and all of the lower console, plus the glove box lid. This makes it feel a bit more pickup truck-like than some others in the class, but I suppose that’s fitting as it shares a lot of its componentry with the mid-size Ridgeline.

On the positive, while the Pilot’s mostly analogue primary instrument cluster gets outshone by the CR-V’s mostly digital TFT display, the larger SUV’s 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is very nicely done. Instead of older style analogue knobs and buttons on one side or both it gets an easy-to-use row of touch-sensitive
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot’s advanced infotainment touchscreen is one of its best features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
quick-access controls on the blackened out left portion, including a volume slider. This said the new CR-V added back a rotating volume knob from this all-digital design due to negative customer feedback, so maybe we’ll see the volume slider gone for the Pilot’s mid-cycle upgrade. I certainly didn’t have any problem using it and like the sophisticated look of the purely touch-sensitive interface. Likewise, the display graphics are big and easy to figure out, the colours rich and contrast deep, resulting in a premium-level experience.

The best part is it’s standard Pilot kit, the infotainment system’s list of functions including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, a multi-angle backup camera with dynamic guidelines, SMS text message and email functionality, wireless smartphone connectivity with audio streaming, Wi-Fi, Siri Eyes Free,
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot Touring offers multiple ways to get connected. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
and control of a 225-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with seven speakers including a sub, speed-sensitive volume control, satellite radio, three USB ports, an aux input, and active noise cancellation. Touring trim adds accurate navigation with nicely detailed mapping, while the audio is upgraded to a superb sounding 540-watt system with 5.1 surround sound, 10 speakers plus a sub, HD radio, and five USB ports, four of which have 2.5-amp capacity for charging tablets. Lastly, a Blu-ray rear entertainment system with a 9.0-inch ceiling-mounted display, two wireless headphones, an HDMI input, and a 115-volt household-style power outlet gets added for the folks in back.

Now that I’m talking features, some additional Touring items include standard 20-inch alloys, full LED headlamps with auto-leveling and auto high beams, chromed exterior
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
This is the 9-speed automatic’s gear selector… really. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
door handles, acoustic front door glass, ambient interior lighting, rain-sensing wipers, driver’s side memory including the seats and side mirrors, the latter also power-folding and incorporating reverse tilt-down, while the Touring list continues with upgraded perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, second-row captain’s chairs, a double-pane panoramic glass sunroof, second-row sunshades, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, etcetera.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a shortlist of features pulled up from lesser trims, which are fewer now than last year thanks to the elimination of the base LX FWD, the new base LX AWD model’s inclusion of the Honda Sensing active safety suite as standard, and EX-L trim now including standard navigation or a rear-seat entertainment system. Back to that base LX AWD model, the standard menu remains
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
in a word the Pilot Touring’s front seats are fabulous! (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
impressive with auto on/off headlamps, LED daytime running lights, fog lights, turn signals integrated into the side mirror housings, LED taillights, a windshield wiper de-icer, an acoustic windshield, roof rails, heatable power-actuated side mirrors, remote start, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel, a colour TFT multi-information display, a sunglasses holder that doubles as a conversation mirror, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, dynamic cruise control, tri-zone auto climate control with second-row controls, heatable front seats, a 10-way powered driver’s seat, a powered front passenger seat, heated second-row outboard seats, one-touch folding second-row seats, front and rear parking sensors, a powered tailgate, and much more.

2017 Honda Pilot Touring
Dual sunroofs add plenty of daylight as well as upscale appeal. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
of the features just mentioned are standard Pilot gear, but probably most impressive are all of the passive and active safety systems integrated into the base model and therefore standard across the entire Pilot line, which along with the usual ABS-enhanced four-wheel discs, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, traction and stability control, hill start assist, trailer stability assist, tire pressure monitoring, and emergency response telematics include the aforementioned Honda Sensing advanced driver-assistance system, which incorporates forward collision warning, collision mitigating autonomous braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, and more. Honda’s superb LaneWatch blindspot display system, which uses a rearward facing camera on the passenger-side mirror to project live video of the blindspot when activating the right turn signal, isn’t standard or available when blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic assist is chosen,
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
Retractable sunshades shield second-row passengers. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
which comes as part of the Touring model I drove, so alas one of the coolest features offered in any vehicle wasn’t included. As you may have guessed all of this safety gear earned the 2017 Pilot a best-possible IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating, whereas the NHTSA honoured it with an equally impressive five stars for safety.

While the Pilot’s standard safety kit is brilliantly good, you’ll need to move up to Touring trim in order to take advantage of its top-line drivetrain. To be clear, Honda’s well-proven direct-injection 3.5-litre V6 is the same through the line. It’s capable of a hearty 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque for reasonably good response off the line and commendable highway passing power, but then again I can only speak for the Touring model, as I haven’t driven the others. Touring trim gets
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
Video anyone? This Blu-ray entertainment system is standard on Touring trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
upgraded to Honda’s new nine-speed automatic transmission with pushbutton gear selection and sporty steering wheel paddle shifters, while all trims below get a reliable albeit hardly state-of-the-art six-speed autobox. The engine gets Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management system either way, which shuts down three of its six cylinders to save fuel when coasting, while all trims also receive the brand’s Eco Assist system to further reduce consumption, but only the nine-speed benefits from an auto start/stop system that temporarily turns off the engine when it would otherwise be idling and instantly restarts it upon take-off.

This technology along with its extra three gears gives the Pilot Touring an edge in fuel economy, the pricier model capable of an estimated 12.4 L/100km in the city and 11.0 combined compared to 13.0 and 11.3 for standard six-speed trims, while they
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
Touring trim increases second-row comfort with large captain’s chairs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
both consume a claimed 9.3 L/100km on the highway. Just the same, moving up to $51,490 Touring trim just to save money at the pump wouldn’t make much sense, the jump from the third-rung $45,890 EX-L a heady $5,600, but all of the previously noted features as well as what I can only guess are improvements in driving dynamics make this the optimal Pilot to own.

The nine-speed shifts quickly and smoothly, really making the most of the power available, while it doesn’t waste any time slotting into a higher gear in order to save fuel. Auto start-stop shuts off at stoplights and the like, reducing noise and improving localized air quality, some of which I (or my family and friends) could end up breathing in, so I’m a big proponent and always kept it turned on unless sport mode automatically shut it off, this possible when pressing the electronic gearshift
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
The third row provides more room than most 7- or 8-passenger SUVs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
selector’s “D/S” button, the “S” actually standing for sequential mode to benefit those who want to shift manually, but it heightens the Pilot’s sporting nature as well.

This said athleticism doesn’t come naturally to the big Honda SUV. It’s capable of taking sharp corners at relatively high speeds, much thanks to standard Agile Handling Assist that adds brake pressure to the inside wheels during high-speed cornering to limit understeer and therefore improve control, but it still seems to do so unwillingly, never eager about the task at hand. I know I’m personifying a machine and this isn’t “Cars” or either of the Disney animation film’s sequels (although they’d be good choices for the aforementioned rear entertainment system, as would A Princess Bride), so let me be clearer by saying the Pilot was designed with a leaning toward comfort over performance and leave it at that. I’m personally
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
Cargo carrying capacity is one of the Pilot’s strong points. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
very ok with that, being that seven-passenger SUVs should at the very least be comfortable, especially when loaded up as nicely as the Pilot Touring, and honestly I would never bother trying to drive one like a sports car unless I’m doing so for testing purposes. It’s just not their forte, at least this side of the premium sector. I was just happy to leave the Pilot in Active Eco Assist mode while tooling around town and country, fully enjoying its comfortable ride and impressive amenities.

To get you through the winter months or away to the cottage on a rainy spring weekend, Honda provides standard Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) AWD that boasts dynamic torque vectoring and Intelligent Traction Management with Normal, Snow, Mud, and Sand modes. The Pilot tows fairly well too, with a max trailering weight of 2,268 kilos (5,000 lbs).

2017 Honda Pilot Touring
Trip to the hardware store for building supplies? No problem with any new Pilot model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
in the end does the Pilot represent good value for money? I’d have to say yes when factoring in all its standard features, although there aren’t as many patrons for a $40,090 SUV, the entry price for the base LX, as there are for a $27,995 Sorento, or a $32,199 Santa Fe XL, or $32,598 Nissan Pathfinder, $33,499 Explorer, or $35,500 Highlander, all seven-passenger SUVs that outsell the Pilot. Slower sales aren’t always associated with a lack of interest, mind you, an inability to produce as many as needed sometimes being the cause, which in turn is reason enough to make sure the units available are nicely loaded up in order to maximize profits. I know my local Honda dealer doesn’t have a single Pilot in stock, so even if you wanted one you’d be forced to wait until autumn for a 2018.

I can certainly understand why many feel it’s worth the wait. I’ve spoken at length about its shortcomings, but overall I really like the Pilot and thoroughly enjoyed its comfortable, quiet, capable versatility. If you need a seven-passenger crossover SUV it’s certainly worthy of investigation, but if you only require seating for five I’d have to recommend the CR-V instead, not only over the Pilot, but over every other compact SUV as well. The new CR-V is a best-in-class act, whereas the Pilot is merely very good in most respects and not quite up to snuff in others. I’d love to see Honda raise this larger SUV’s game, and fully expect it to do so in coming years.
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