If you didn’t already know it, most automotive reviews are based on week-long tests of a subject vehicle as it’s put to work handling day-to-day tasks, in the ways most drivers would use it.
A write-up may hypothesize about how the vehicle would handle a storm or a moving-your-kid-into-their-dorm-room day, but at Autofocus we like to cut out the guesswork as much as we can.
That’s why we decided to find out firsthand how the 2016 Honda Pilot Touring would handle the not-hypothetical trip to the summer cottage thousands of Canadians make during the Labour Day long weekend every year, while putting every seatbelt in the thing to use at the same time.
Honda styling never really struck me as particularly, well, stylish – perhaps in part because the boxy, upright previous-gen Pilot still comes to mind first, for me – but I have to admit the face of the 2016 Pilot really started to grow on me over the weekend, and by the end I thought it quite handsome.
The back end sees the taillights cut several different ways, and it didn’t grow on me like the front, though I wouldn’t knock it.
The SUV stood tall on standard-for-Touring-trim 20-inch wheels and cut a nicely contoured, muscle-y profile; if ticking the option boxes myself, though, I wouldn’t opt for the glossy black paint on the rims, which were darker than the tires—never a good look.
My six passengers, all 20-somethings who wouldn’t look twice at most vehicles, dug the look, too, though they all agreed from the outside the impression they got was not of a cottage-bound SUV but a seared-into-their-brains image of a soccer mom. I could sympathize—as handsome as it was, the Pilot seemed to disappear in parking lots by blending right in.
We’d be spending a good five hours or more round-trip inside the Pilot, a lot of time to nit-pick. From the driver’s seat I didn’t have a whole lot to complain about, though, with a heated-and-cooled leather seat (the second row got the same) with 10-way adjustment, including lumbar support. I was surrounded by a well-laid-out dash and console where most controls fell easily to hand.
My other passengers couldn’t say the same. Yes, pluses included storage nooks and crannies all over the car – plus more than enough cupholders – and close to a dozen USB ports and AC outlets for chargers, which came in use. They also liked the panoramic moonroof over the rear seats (standard, but only on Touring) though they wished they could reach the controls for the cover back there like they could their climate ones.
The top-level Touring trim comes with seven seatbelts – two second row and three in back – while lower-trim Pilots seat eight. We filled all available spaces with butts, making it a tough squeeze back there, and several passengers complained about awkward seatbelt placement, though in the end it wasn’t unbearable. Pilot’s apparently got more space in the very back, especially for heads and knees, than rivals, but no matter what you’re in, no one wants to be there for as long as we were.
Cargo space was, like my passengers, also not as generous as it could’ve been. When you’ve gear for seven people in tow, 524 litres disappears quickly, and some luggage had to ride up front with us. Thank goodness for that knee room.
The instrument panel up front included a small screen between the gauges with some important information right where I needed it, and a central touchscreen supplied the rest. The touchscreen’s response was quick and precise, and worked pinch-and-zoom-style like a tablet, but the GPS’ map seemed to be out-of-date or just plain wrong on a few occasions.
Bluetooth connected phones seamlessly and quickly, and the audio system all-around got thumbs up, not to mention the nine-inch BluRay screen with remote control for the second and third rows.
Adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection and other active safety features all worked flawlessly and made the highway and back-road cruise to the cottage a lot easier. The power rear liftgate was another convenience we got used to quickly, though its being the home for the backup camera meant reversing with it open wasn’t possible.
The Pilot sees motivation from a 3.5-litre 280-horsepower V6, which may not sound like a lot. Mounted to a nine-speed transmission, it made acceleration quick enough, though, and passing power was ample.
The Intelligent-Variable Torque Management AWD leant us some sure-footedness on the small stretches of dirt road leading up to the island cottage. So-equipped Pilots are rated at a combined-city-highway 11 L/100 km, which roughly matched what we saw in real-world mostly-highway driving.
The Touring trim Pilot comes in at about $52,600, which is a big number in this segment. However, basically every available amenity is included in that price, including some trim-specific features like the not-cheap panoramic moonroof.
Throw in the fact we’re talking about a V6 where rivals sometimes make do with four cylinders, and while a little high, it’s not a crazy price tag.
Can you make a cottage run in a Honda Pilot after all? Yes. Can you do it comfortably with seven passengers and baggage? Well—. If you’re going to be moving that much stuff regularly, you might want to move up a segment and look at a full-sized SUV.
But if you’re moving six friends out into the forest with you for the Labour Day Weekend, the Pilot’ll definitely do.
(photos by Rauwshan Mahanaim)