2008 Honda Pilot SE-L
2008 Honda Pilot SE-L. Click image to enlarge

More Honda Pilot reviews on Autos.ca

Manufacturer’s web site
Honda Canada

Review and photos by Chris Chase

Honda surprised no one in 2002 when it announced that it would begin selling a mid-sized crossover SUV called the Pilot: Acura’s high-end MDX mid-sized crossover had been on the market for more than a year, and it only made sense that Honda would get its own version to compete against popular sellers like the Ford Explorer, Toyota 4Runner and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Like the MDX, the Pilot used Honda’s 3.5-litre V6 engine. While its horsepower output, 240, was the same as the MDX, the Pilot got by just fine on Regular gas, where the MDX required Premium. Also shared with the MDX was its five-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive system. In 2007, a front-wheel drive version of the base model was added to the Pilot line-up.

According to Natural Resources Canada’s EnerGuide, the Pilot’s fuel consumption was rated at about 14 L/100 km (city) and 9.5 L/100 km (highway).

2008 Honda Pilot SE-L
2008 Honda Pilot SE-L. Click image to enlarge

The Pilot appears to have escaped the problems related to the five-speed automatic transmissions that affected many other Honda models like the Acura MDX (a near mechanical twin of the Pilot) and Honda Odyssey minivan. The plausible explanation is that the Pilot, which came along at least a couple of years after its MDX and Odyssey siblings, didn’t get the first generation of that particular transmission; it would have benefited from the same redesigned unit that helped boost reliability ratings in newer versions of the other two models. Nevertheless, there is a Transport Canada recall that applies to 2003 and 2004 Pilots to address this transmission fault.

A flashing gear indicator in the instrument cluster seems to be caused either by a failed electronic sensor in the transmission, or a bad circuit board in the gauge cluster. Either way, the “flashing D,” as posters at Piloteers.org call it, doesn’t seem to affect driveability. Check this thread to read other owners’ experiences.

2008 Honda Pilot SE-L
2008 Honda Pilot SE-L. Click image to enlarge

Here’s a trouble spot that’s new to me, as far as Honda’s 3.5-litre V6 is concerned: spark plugs that “blow up” and take the threads in the cylinder head with them, effectively wrecking that, too. Sometimes, broken pieces of spark plug fall into the combustion chamber, where they can cause serious engine damage. Here are three threads, from a Honda Odyssey (the Odyssey and Pilot use the same engine) forum called OdyClub.com (one, two and three), and here are two threads in a similar vein from Piloteers.org (one and one.

In my experience, if there are this many discussions happening about one problem, then it’s worth knowing about for a used vehicle shopper. Consumer Reports doesn’t mention this one.

Connect with Autos.ca