Under a smothering Kentucky sun, our Honda heads West; smooth, glittering, reeking of turtle urine. But perhaps I should back up a little.
Meet the new 2016 Honda Pilot, a vehicle that may be best thought of as an unboxing video of the previous model. Among the usual marketing-speak at the product presentation, a slide is shown demonstrating what folks thought of the old car, and what the new one should evoke: for the former, a picture of a tank and a tortoise; for the latter, an eagle, a horse and the open road.
Or, alternatively, a bigger CR-V. This is a bigger CR-V: it’s the same thing as a CR-V, except there’s more of it. The new Pilot is 25 mm lower than the old version, 90 mm longer, and basically looks like it’s been attacked by a belt-sander.
Honda’s latest crossover cuts quite a likeable figure in its new flight suit. The LED accented headlights and taillights are standard, the three-bar front grille isn’t gawp-mouthed or overwrought, and the side-profile of the greenhouse is simple and clean.
Eighteen-inch alloys are standard, but the car was clearly designed to wear the 20-inch alloys that come as part of the top-level Touring trim. Still, I’d rather have the 18s when it comes time to buy snow tires or replace the low-rolling-resistance three-seasons.
On the inside, the most has been made of that extra 90 mm to improve cabin space for all passengers. An Odyssey would still better suit a family of five with three kids in their teens, but the third row seat is actually manageable. The better news here is Honda’s approach to making the Pilot friendly for younger offspring.
To fold and slide the middle-row seats, simply push a clearly marked (it also lights up at night) button on the seat bottom; after the briefest pause, the seat tilts forward and slides. The ingress/egress gap isn’t as good as in the Pathfinder’s double-folding seat, but should be fine for tweens.
What about stuff? As with many three-rowers, deploy all the seats and cargo space drops to sub-hatchback levels. However, the Pilot comes with a repositionable rear floor that creates a little extra space – it’s a two-sided affair, so you can flip it to carpet so stuff doesn’t slide around as much, or to hard plastic for soccer cleats and whatnot. Cargo area is 524 L with all seats up, 1,583 L with the third-row folded, and 3,092 L with all seats down in finally-the-kids-are-off-to-college mode.
Up front, the Pilot does its best to please those who actually paid for the damn thing. It does so relatively well, although the initial impression is of typically cautious Honda design. For instance, while the centre console has a flat sliding lid on a bin that’s large enough to sublet to help make the finance payments, there’s no clever storage shelf like you find in the Highlander. Nor, it has to be said, is the Pilot’s interior immediately as upscale in appearance as the Toyota’s. The seats feel harder, and there are no daring details.