2023 Honda Pilot First Drive: Still A Family Favorite, Now More Adventurous (2023)

2023 Honda Pilot First Drive: Still A Family Favorite, Now More Adventurous (1)

When an expected winter snowfall paints the red rock landscape of Northern Arizona white, residents and tourists quickly head to off-road parks for the cold, crisp air and a rare snowy adventure. As soon as the sun rises, muddy trails, hilly climbs and slick rock faces and are filled with Pink Jeeps, ATVs and … Honda Pilots? The automaker’s big-selling family favorite SUV does many things very well, but conquering trails hasn’t historically been high on the list.

Nevertheless, that’s where we found ourselves as we took the 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport ($48,350) to Broken Arrow Trail near Sedona, Arizona, to test drive the off-road version of the redesigned classic 3-row SUV. The surprise winter storm put to test the rugged TrailSport model, an SUV that Honda boasts is capable of taking on more than half of the public off-road trails in the United States.

To do this, Honda equipped it with a more sophisticated all-wheel drive (AWD) system with new drive modes, factory-installed skid plates (which we put to good use), a one-inch lift over the standard model, all-terrain tires, a 360-degree camera system (appropriately named TrailWatch) and a full-size spare tire. On our test drive the TrailSport easily passed the test (and we greatly appreciated the TrailWatch cameras).

We were on a course that was rated moderate, so the challenges were more Instagram weekend than King of the Hammers, but they convinced us that a surprise Nor’Easter would be a cinch, and that’s all that really matters to many Honda Pilot buyers, who’ll get to meet the Pilot in person this month at dealerships.

Before we hit the trails, however, Honda also gave us the low-down on some of its design choices for the new Pilot.

2023 Honda Pilot First Drive: Still A Family Favorite, Now More Adventurous (2)

2023 Honda Pilot: Trail Inspired

During the design process, Honda’s research showed people spending more time outdoors and targeting adventure-focused activities, with 77% more households and 58% more families spending time camping since 2015. The pandemic put this trend into hyperdrive, and the automaker is keen to capitalize on this lifestyle trend.

(Video) 2023 Honda Pilot | First Drive

The more rugged TrailSport trim was introduced in the previous-generation Pilot and Passport in 2022 and accounted for more than 1 in 5 models sold.

For this 2023 redesign, Honda’s Ohio engineers and California designers were charged to modernize the Pilot with more customer-friendly features as well as more adventure capability—in all models, not just the TrailSport. At the heart of the SUV is a redesigned 285 HP V6 engine with 262 pound-feet of torque, a more capable AWD system ($2,100 on most Pilots but standard on the TrailSport and top-trim Elite) and a stiffer body structure. That helps off-road capability and on-road comfort while boosting crash resistance.

Honda has draped the new Pilot in a sharper suit that both looks cleaner and more rugged without looking gimmicky. There is a noticeable increase in the use of body color. Gone are the chrome accents framing the windows and black pillars between the center and rear windows, and this sporty, elegant look adds up to a more 4Runner-like visage.

2023 Honda Pilot First Drive: Still A Family Favorite, Now More Adventurous (3)

They’ve also crafted interiors that are both premium and resilient, though Honda decided to forego features like rear seat entertainment systems that added cost and complexity.

Families have long loved the Honda Pilot, and for good reason: the large accessible third row, good cargo space, slide-and-tilt center row seats and Cabin Talk, which allows front seat passengers to easily communicate with third-row occupants.

Many of these features were first developed on Honda’s Odyssey minivan, and for 2023 one feature that will surely be a top selling point is one we first saw in the 2018 Odyssey: a removable center-row middle seat. The center seat can be taken out and stowed under the rear cargo floor—a deep cargo floor behind the third row, another favored feature in minivans. It can also be folded flat for an armrest and cupholders, as well as a better view of the third row.

(Video) 2023 Honda Pilot First Drive | Bigger, Tougher, Better? | TrailSport, Interior, Tech & More!

Honda calls this “On Demand” seating, which allows owners to seat 7 or 8 as needed, and is available in the Touring ($47,795) and Elite ($53,375) trims. That’s a little more than the Hyundai Palisade, but the Pilot has a bigger third row, and the pricing is about even with Volkswagen’s Atlas. At the low end, buyers can pick up a base Pilot Sport for $40,495. (All prices include a $1,295 destination fee).

2023 Honda Pilot First Drive: Still A Family Favorite, Now More Adventurous (4)

Bigger on the Inside, Too

Even with the “on demand” seat in place, families will find more center and third-row leg room better wayback access, more headroom, more storage and more cargo room inside the new Pilot. 3.5 inches longer on the outside than before the larger size translates to 2.5 more inches of middle-row legrom, 0.6 inches of additional third-row legroom and 4 more cubic-feet of cargo space behind the third row.

Honda also made sure the space is flexible. All models feature second-row seats that slide forward and back, recline, and slide and tilt forward. All this accessibility makes installing kids car seats even easier, as do the now easier-to-reach lower anchors and tether anchors.

All seats, with the exception of the removable middle seat, have tether anchors on the seat backs. The slide and tilt feature works even with a child passenger car seat installed, as long as it’s installed using the LATCH system. Overall, configuring kids’ car seats, installing them and getting everyone in and out of the Pilot is easier than ever.

2023 Honda Pilot First Drive: Still A Family Favorite, Now More Adventurous (5)

Also adding to the upgrades are more comfortable seats and a quieter ride. Passengers — especially in back—will really appreciate the new seats with more lower body support and more cushioning for less jostle on the off-road trail.

After a few hours of driving up a mountain and then back down again, it was a comfort to relax in the rear seat, stretch out my legs in the expanded rear seat and chat with my companions without the intrusion of road noise. Now, about hitting that trail…

(Video) 2023 Honda Pilot First Drive: Boxy, Rugged, and … Actually Cool?

Tackling the Broken Arrow

To test out the Pilot TrailSport we headed to Broken Arrow Trail. While this trail is rated “moderate” it’s not a challenge for just any AWD SUV. I was grateful for the skid plates, which scraped more than a few rocks along the route, and the torque vectoring traction that powered us through uneven ditches.

Once at the trailhead, we put the system into Trail mode to engage the Honda Pilot’s new AWD system. Last year’s Pilot offered a selection of Normal, Snow, Sand and Mud modes (the first two also available on the front-drive Pilots), but the redesigned Pilots now offer more options. Front-drive models get Normal, Econ, Sport, Snow and Tow (front-drive pilots can pull 3,500 pounds, AWD ones 5,000) while AWD version also gets Sand and Trail modes. The redesigned computers gauge traction and, like Subaru’s X-Mode system, distribute power to where it’s best used.

2023 Honda Pilot First Drive: Still A Family Favorite, Now More Adventurous (6)

Trail mode kept us moving confidently across slippery snow-covered rocks and through icy creek beds. On uphill climbs the Pilot TrailSport delivered constant, even power, allowing me to keep my momentum through the climb.

I thought that we might need the downhill descent control to manage a few steep downhill climbs, but we didn’t; the more powerful braking system did the job. Still, I tried out the hill descent control and it worked as its supposed to, regulating the Pilot’s speed as it makes its way down the hill.

I greatly appreciated the TrailWatch camera system on the off-road course.

Once you engage Trail mode, the system comes on automatically and it stays on until the vehicle picks up speed; when the vehicle slows, the camera view is again displayed on the center screen. Honda also added a quick access on-off button on the end of the windshield wiper stalk for the TrailWatch camera system, which is also available in the Elite model. While designed for the trail, such systems are also really helpful in tight urban areas.

(Video) 2023 Honda Pilot First Drive Review, The Rugged Family Hauler

2023 Honda Pilot First Drive: Still A Family Favorite, Now More Adventurous (7)
2023 Honda Pilot First Drive: Still A Family Favorite, Now More Adventurous (8)

Once we left the trail we took a ride through the highways and backroads of Northern Arizona. In Normal mode the Pilot is easy and comfortable, accelerating nicely. The engine speed picks up a bit in Sport mode (again new for 2023), and indicators on the driver information screen are highlighted in red to accent the mode. Econ mode, also new, lowers the engine speed to save fuel.

Traveling through a variety of roads, both city and highway, Normal mode gave us all the acceleration and power we needed for a confident and comfortable ride. The new Pilot might be more rugged in TrailSport form, but it hasn’t lost any of its smooth on-pavement moves.

When we arrived back at our hotel, we hopped out feeling all the exhilaration of the day but none of the fatigue of spending hours in the car. Which gives a true sense of elegance to an adventure on the road.

(Video) 2023 Honda Pilot | Test Drive

Honda provided lodging and meals to enable Forbes Wheels to bring you this first-person drive report. Although Forbes Wheels sometimes participates in manufacturer-hosted events, our coverage is independent, unbiased and aimed at offering consumers an objective view of every vehicle we test.


What are the changes to the 2023 Honda Pilot? ›

The 2023 Honda Pilot is entering the new model year as a fully redesigned SUV. The SUV receives an updated exterior design with a boxier look, a revised V6 engine, a new 10-speed automatic transmission, an off-road-ready TrailSport trim, and a refreshed interior design.

How much will the 2023 Honda Pilot cost? ›

The 2023 Honda Pilot starts at $39,150. The rugged TrailSport starts at $48,350, while the top-of-the-line Elite kicks off at $52,030.

Is Honda updating the pilot? ›

Overview. An all-new generation of Honda's three-row Pilot SUV has launched for the 2023 model year and it's been improved from grille to tailgate. The new Pilot's styling is boxier and more truck-like this time around, which gives it a more rugged overall appearance.

Will 2023 Pilot have a hybrid option? ›

This three-row Pilot is the largest, most powerful Honda SUV in history, with a 285-hp V6 engine. There is no hybrid version.

What is the major problem of Honda Pilot? ›

The most common problems owners of the 2022 Honda Pilot complain about relate to forward collision avoidance and the vehicle's brakes and braking system. Drivers report that the SUV frequently flashes BRAKE when there is no reason to brake. There are also major issues with auto braking.

What is the average life of a Honda Pilot? ›

A Honda Pilot can last upwards of 200,000 miles if properly cared for by Lexington drivers. However, there are many factors that can affect the lifespan of a Honda Pilot from climate to regular maintenance.

Is Honda Pilot a luxury? ›

2022 Pilot Touring

You'll enjoy luxury amenities, an upgraded audio system, and an advanced rear entertainment system your second- and third-row passengers will surely appreciate.

Is Honda Pilot a good car to buy? ›

Yes, the Honda Pilot is a good midsize SUV . It delivers on nearly all fronts, with three rows of welcoming seats, a huge cargo hold, and a pleasing interior quality. Driving it is no bore, either, thanks to a potent standard V6 engine and a nice blend of handling prowess and ride comfort.

Is Honda getting rid of the Pilot? ›

Honda is launching a new version of its popular Pilot SUV for 2023, and it can't come soon enough; the current-generation Pilot placed last in Cars.com's 2020 comparison testing of three-row SUVs.

Do new Honda Pilots have transmission problems? ›

However, Honda Pilot and other Honda vehicles have been included in class action lawsuits alleging that its transmissions experience recurring defects, such as violent shaking, acceleration problems, stalling, lurching, gear shifting issues and transmission failure.

Where is the 2023 Honda Pilot made? ›

Described as the largest and most powerful SUV Honda has ever built, the fourth-generation model challenged the Alabama Auto Plant's 1,500 associates with the most changes of any Pilot since the first model was introduced in 2003, the automaker says.

What is the gas mileage for Honda Pilot hybrid 2023? ›

EPA Fuel-Economy Ratings
AWD (City/Highway/Combined)19 / 25 / 2118 / 23 / 20
Fuel (gal)18.518.5
Required FuelRegular UnleadedRegular Unleaded
1 more row

When can i buy a 2023 Honda Pilot? ›

When will the 2023 Honda Pilot be available? The 2023 Honda Pilot release date has been announced for December 2022. This all-new Honda midsize three-row SUV is coming to our Honda dealership near Chicago, IL, in a choice of five trim levels, all powered by a new 3.5-liter V-6 engine.

Is Honda Pilot or Passport bigger? ›

The Pilot is bigger than the Passport. The Passport offers five seats, while the Pilot can seat up to eight. The two-row Honda Passport gives you up to 100.8 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the first row and 114.9 cubic feet of total passenger volume.

Which Toyota is comparable to Honda Pilot? ›

The Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander are two of the most trusted names in family SUVs. These midsize SUVs have three rows of seats and family-friendly features, making them appealing minivan alternatives.

Which Honda Pilot model is the best? ›

The most popular 2022 Honda Pilot SE trim is actually the best, according to the experts. It's recommended because of its fair price point and great features. Higher trims are too expensive, and lower trim levels don't offer enough equipment for the cash.

What year Honda Pilot has bad transmission? ›

They were part of the huge recall in 2004. Sadly, many of the Honda Pilot's that were repaired as part of the recall had their transmissions fail a second or even a third time. The 2004 Honda recall covered about 1.1 million of Honda's most popular models. Cars covered in the recall included 2003, 2003, and 2004 Pilot.

What model Pilot has captain chairs? ›

You will find captains seats on Honda Pilot models such as the Honda Pilot Touring, Honda Pilot Black Edition, and the Honda Pilot Elite.

Why is the Honda Pilot so popular? ›

As a three-row SUV with a solid engine and quality mechanical components, the 2022 Honda Pilot has the space and capability that many buyers are looking for. For many years, the Pilot has remained popular, not necessarily because of its style but more so because of its practicality and reliability.

Is touring better than ex l? ›

2022 Honda Accord Touring

For starters, the EX-L is powered by a 1.5L four-cylinder engine, whereas the Touring is powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder engine that produces higher horsepower and torque. Both trims have heated front seats, but only the Touring offers ventilated front seats as well as heated rear seats.

Do Hondas last longer than Toyotas? ›

The Toyota vehicles also consistently last longer than any Honda. According to statistics based on consumer reports, Toyota is the second most reliable automaker after Mazda, and Corolla is the most reliable model. Honda didn't even make it to the top 10 for average reliability.

Does Pilot hold its value? ›

Hondas have always had excellent resale value, mostly due to their outstanding reliability ratings. The Honda Pilot is no exception in this right. Receiving top picks from accredited raters the Pilot has proven itself to be an outstanding, practical third-row SUV.

How many miles can a Honda Pilot go on a full tank? ›

The 2022 Pilot has a max range of over 520 miles on a full tank. For any SUV this large, this range is incredible and the envy of many, non-Honda, SUV drivers. The EPA estimates the 2022 Pilot gets 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 highway mpg, creating an estimated 23 miles per gallon on all models using AWD.

Is Honda Pilot a true SUV? ›

The Honda Pilot is space-efficient and smooth-riding, and it provides ample power along with decent fuel economy. You also get plentiful features, a useful cargo area and smart interior storage. This Honda is one of the most well-rounded three-row SUVs you can get.

What is Honda's top of the line? ›

Depending on how familiar you are with the automotive world, you may not have known that Acura is Honda's luxury brand.

Does Honda Pilot require premium gas? ›

Use of unleaded gasoline of 87 octane or higher is recommended. Honda recommends TOP TIER Detergent Gasoline where available. Do NOT use gasoline containing more than 15% ethanol.

Can you sleep in the back of a Honda Pilot? ›

Two adults can comfortably sleep in the back of Pilot. If you decide to go camping in a Pilot, you won't need a tent. But you might want to bring along some other camping luxuries and necessities.

What year is the most dependable for a Honda Pilot? ›

According to CarComplaints data, four models stand out as the best years: 2007, 2008, 2014, and 2015. The 2007 Honda Pilot was part of the first generation, and it's one of the best. Only 66 total complaints were noted.

Which 3 row SUV is the most reliable? ›

The most reliable three-row SUV is the Toyota Land Cruiser with a 9.8 out of 10 reliability score. The Toyota Sequoia is the second most reliable three-row SUV with a rating of 9.4 out of 10. The average reliability score for the three-row SUV category is 8.3, with 14 models scoring above average for reliability.

Is Honda on the decline? ›

American Honda finished 2022 with U.S. sales of 983,507, a decrease of 33 percent from 2021. In the fourth quarter, the automaker's combined sales dropped 11 percent to 255,250, compared with the same period in 2021.

Will pilots ever be replaced? ›

This occupation has been voted '43%' by our users to be fully automated within the next two decades. Our visitors have voted that it's unclear if this occupation will be replaced by robots/AI. This is further validated by the automation risk level we have generated, which suggests a 54% chance of automation.

Will the 2023 Pilot be redesigned? ›

That's really the big news for the 2023 Honda Pilot, which gets a thorough redesign for the new model year. It rides on a new, dedicated light-truck chassis and features more length, more wheelbase, more track width, more interior space, more power, more technology and even more off-road capability than ever before.

Why does my Honda Pilot jerk? ›

When a fuel pump begins to fail, it may struggle to consistently deliver the correct amount of the fuel to the engine. The fuel pump may dramatically increase pressure while failing, creating a jerking or surging sensation. Your vehicle may also be sluggish and struggle while driving uphill or towing.

Why do Honda transmissions fail? ›

The most common cause of failure in a Honda automatic transmission is a malfunctioning torque converter, which can cause shifting problems in automatic transmissions. The torque converter in an automatic transmission serves the same purpose as the clutch in a manual transmission.

Why does my Honda Pilot shake when I accelerate? ›

It may be that the engine is being starved for fuel, air or it does not have enough spark to run as smoothly as it should. Some of the symptoms of an engine problem: Shudder upon acceleration. Shaking when you reach a specific speed.

Can a Honda Pilot Go 300000 miles? ›

So there you have it the Honda brand is built to last! On average, you can expect your Honda to last around 200,000 miles, but when maintained properly, these cars can hit over 300,000 miles.

Do Honda pilots last a long time? ›

But what they've come to love and appreciate more than anything is the longevity associated with Honda Pilots. It's not uncommon at all for Honda Pilots to last for upwards of 200,000 miles.

Do Honda pilots have good mileage? ›

2022 Honda Pilot Driving Range

Available 2022 Honda Pilot AWD trims get an EPA-estimated 19 city and 26 highway mpg for a range of around 370.5 city miles and around 507 highway miles per tank. *Based on 2022 EPA mileage ratings. Use for comparison purposes only.

How much gas do you really save with a hybrid? ›

Not everyone purchases a hybrid car to save money. Hybrids are 20 to 35% more fuel efficient than your typical gas guzzling car.

Why is my Honda Pilot not getting good gas mileage? ›

A bad fuel pump can lead to a rough running engine because it is not getting enough fuel. This will lead to a decline in gas mileage. If this issue is not addressed it will lead to a rough, idle, sputtering and stalling. Clogged Fuel Filter: A clogged fuel filter will also cause problems with gas mileage.

How much gas will a hybrid save me? ›

Fuel Economy

A regular car averaging at 25 mpg will accumulate an expense of $1,600 in fuel costs per year while the annual fuel costs of a hybrid alternative at 42 mpg would be $975.

Where is Honda Pilot made? ›

Primarily aimed at the North American market, the Pilot is the largest SUV produced by Honda. Pilots are currently manufactured in Lincoln, Alabama, and the Pilot was produced in Alliston, Ontario until April 2007.

Is Kia Telluride bigger than Honda Pilot? ›

Is a Kia Telluride as big as a Honda Pilot? The Kia Telluride and the Honda Pilot are pretty similar when it comes to their sizes. The Kia Telluride is 196.9 inches long and 78.3 inches wide. The Honda Pilot, for its part, is 199.9 inches long and 78.5 inches wide.

Which is bigger Chevy Traverse or Honda Pilot? ›

The 2021 Chevrolet Traverse obviously bests the 2021 Honda Pilot as far as freight space. It offers 23 cubic feet of room behind the third column, which is significantly more than 16.5 cubic feet for the Pilot. As such, bigger families are probably going to be more agreeable in the Chevy.

Which is bigger Honda Odyssey or Pilot? ›

Overall, the 2021 Odyssey is 205.2 inches long with a wheelbase of 118.1 inches. The 2021 Pilot is a bit smaller, measuring in at 196.5 inches long, with a wheelbase of 111 inches. It also offers 7.3 inches of ground clearance for your next family adventure.

Is the 2023 Honda Pilot out yet? ›

When will the 2023 Honda Pilot be available? The 2023 Honda Pilot release date has been announced for December 2022. This all-new Honda midsize three-row SUV is coming to our Honda dealership near Chicago, IL, in a choice of five trim levels, all powered by a new 3.5-liter V-6 engine.

Are the new Honda Pilots smaller? ›

Its wheelbase and overall length both grow almost 3 inches versus the previous Pilot, while its track widens by up to 1.5 inches. The end result, Honda says, is that the new Pilot is more stable and fun for the driver, and both roomier and more comfortable for occupants.

When can I buy 2023 Honda? ›

The all-new 2023 Honda CR-V will begin arriving in Honda dealerships this month, starting with turbocharged models on Sept. 22, followed by hybrid models in October.

Is Honda Pilot a luxury car? ›

This Honda is one of the most expensive SUVs in the class. You'd do well to consider other top contenders in the segment, like the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade .

Is there a Honda bigger than the Pilot? ›

The Passport is 1 inch taller than the Pilot, and 6 inches shorter length wise. The width and wheelbases are the same for both models, as for cargo space, the Pilot offers nearly double the volume!! 83.9 cubic feet to be exact, yet the Passport only offers 41.2 cubic feet.

Which is bigger Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot? ›

Spacious interior: The Honda Pilot has more interior space than the Toyota Highlander. The Honda has an extra 4.2 inches of third-row legroom and 2 more cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row than the Toyota.

Is a Chevy Tahoe bigger than a Honda Pilot? ›

The Tahoe has 25.5 cubic feet of cargo space with all seating upright compared to 16.5 cubic feet in the Pilot. The Tahoe's cargo volume expands to 122.9 cubic feet with the second- and third-row seating folded, while the Pilot has 109 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume.

Which SUV is bigger Honda Pilot or passport? ›

Is the Honda Pilot bigger than the Passport? Yes, the new 2022 Honda Pilot SUV for sale is bigger than the new 2022 Honda Passport SUV. The Honda Pilot has three rows of seating for seven or eight total occupants. The Honda Passport SUV has two rows and five seats.

Will 2023 be a better time to buy a new car? ›

Key points. If your car is reaching the end of its lifespan, you may consider buying a new vehicle in 2023. Chip shortages, less inventory, and rising interest rates have resulted in drivers spending more money on new cars.

Are car prices expected to go down in 2023? ›

As new-car production improves, demand for used cars will ease up and prices will continue to fall in the new year. The firm estimates that used-car prices will drop 10%-20% in 2023; new cars, on the other hand, are predicted to see a modest decrease of just 2.5%-5%.

Will car prices continue to rise in 2023? ›

Expert Advice: With Rates So High, Is a High-Yield Savings Account a Better Bet Than the Stock Market? There is good news on the horizon in 2023, however. J.P. Morgan estimates that prices for both new and used vehicles are set to decrease as supply chain issues abate and inflation is poised to keep easing.


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