If we’re being honest with ourselves and everyone else, it is true that Honda is not known for their trucks. The idea of Honda elicits small commuter cars that are good on gas mileage, or perhaps tuned up Civic hot rods that have exhaust tips the size of a howitzer. But, that was the old image. Honda has done a lot in recent years to try and expand its economically-minded reach into other realms, specifically the truck world. In fact, since a little after the turn of the century, the Honda Pilot has slowly but surely helped usher in an image of a company that can not only make some of the most reliable cars on the planet, it can also make some very capable, and reliable trucks too.
New for 2019, the Honda Pilot makes some small, but very impactful tweaks inside and out of its massive frame. The most obvious are the somewhat subtle design changes that include a new front and rear bumper as well as a new front grille that is very Acura in nature, and a new taillight design that we aren’t thrilled with, but will admit that it’s very non offensive. Both front and rear bumpers get skid plates that won’t actually stop much more than an occasional tree branch from scratching things, but we applaud the effort nonetheless. Overall the Pilot looks worlds better than its early predecessors — the new version being cleaner and undoubtedly more streamlined than the box-on-wheels original.
Things you may not notice right away are what Honda is most excited to show you. Torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, highlighted by the very techy electronically controlled, hydraulic-activated rear differential, is the centerpiece of the Pilot, which plays in perfect concerto with the truck’s Intelligent Traction Management system. Up to 70 percent of the engines torque, which is a 3.5-liter direct-injected aluminum V6 that makes 280-horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque by the way, can be channeled to the rear wheels. Of that torque, up to 100 percent can be then channeled to either rear wheels. Not bad if you’re stuck in the mud, or snow, or on a curb at the grocery store.
Backing up that engine is one of two transmissions. The base six-speed automatic gets hitched to the lower end trims: LX, EX, and EX-L, while the much smoother and silkier ZF 9-speed automatic graces the higher end Touring and Elite trim lines. Fun fact, the Pilot has a super low first gear, so for most around town driving, the Pilot actually starts off in second gear to avoid any unintentionally drag racing moments that might startled (or thrill) young ones in the back seats. That low end grunt also helps the Pilot’s ability to tow 3,500 pounds or up to 5,000 pounds if you check off the additional transmission cooler.
Inside the Pilot is still Honda through and through. Three rows of seating provide ample room for even the most angst-ridden teenage family, while the 8-inch touchscreen handles all the infotainment controls, but has been slightly reconfigured to make it a bit more intuitive than previous generations. There is also a 4G Wi-Fi, and larger rear entertainment screens to keep the little ones happy, while the CabinTalk intercom, borrowed from the Odyssey, will more than likely aggravate those once content children. All the basic and expected modern safety features are standard in the Pilot. These include things like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and forward-collision alert with automated emergency braking.
The Pilot, as you might imagine, is no lightweight, weighing in at just over 4,000 pounds, but with the 9-speed trans, can hit a respectable 0-60 mph mark of 6.5 seconds. Depending on whether you get the front-wheel or all-wheel drive model, the Pilot can also net a very impressive 20/27/23 city/highway/combined for the front driver or 19/26/22 mpg for all-wheel drive. The Pilot has a base price of $32,445 for the base LX and climbs as fast as the truck itself can up a mountain to a Everest-ian $49,015 for the Elite.
The 2019 Pilot isn’t a groundbreaking new model, but what it is, is exactly Honda. A very understated, yet subtly effective reminder than the new Honda brand isn’t just Type-R’s and S2000’s running around. No, the modern day Honda, can be a truck, and a very efficient and effective one at that.