2012 Honda Pilot Touring Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Before we delve into this review together, let me just get one thing straight. I really liked the styling of the old 2009 to 2011 Honda Pilot. Not the really old 2003 to 2008 model that looked like an overgrown CRV, but the one Honda only recently decommissioned for this lightly refreshed 2012 model. Are we clear now?

Why does it matter? Because a lot of my colleagues complained about it's styling. I loved its bold in-your-face grille, larger than life headlamps, stylish hindquarters and overall boxiness. It looked like a traditional SUV. It was formed from the same mindset as a Land Rover Discovery or Isuzu Trooper; ironically a model that was transmuted into the terribly unsuccessful Acura SLX back before a midsize crossover SUV segment even existed. Oh how far Honda has come in the SUV business since then!

Enter the 2012 Honda Pilot, a vehicle that outpaces that original Acura SUV by such long loping strides that the latter is reduced to a tiny dot in the rearview mirror of time, only remembered because annoying auto journalists bring it up when everyone in Minato (let alone Markham) would rather just forget. But they like it when we talk about their new products, like the Pilot. Especially when we say nice things, and I've got nothing negative to say about its styling. It gets a new horizontally ribbed chrome grille that should be more appealing to both genders, while overall its once-chiseled body has had its edges filed and sanded smoother, for a sleeker more aerodynamic look.

Likewise it gets a new instrument cluster inside, a less complicated centre stack and overall nicer quality surfaces, while Honda has given it new infotainment systems with all the latest gizmos. How about that for technical detail? Just know that you can climb inside any new Pilot and your phone will automatically connect, your temperature will automatically find its way to a preset position, the front windows will automatically power up and down via one-touch actuation, those same fingers will be able to scroll through radio stations as well as your Bluetooth audio streamed smart phone playlist, or set the cruise control via backlit steering wheel buttons, and when you park it your headlights will automatically turn off.

To have them turn on automatically when the sun sets (or you're in a tunnel) you'll need to step up from a base LX to an EX, at which point you'll also get a 10-way powered driver's seat, heated front seats, an 8-inch colour infotainment display with a rearview camera, a USB plug for your peripheral device, a security system, and more. The even glitzier EX-L adds leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, conversation mirror, 4-way powered passenger seat, satellite radio, powered moonroof, and a powered tailgate, while the trim level Honda gave me, Touring, ups the ante with navigation, a multi-view rear camera, multi-information display, 650-watt audio with 10 speakers and a sub, 5.1 surround and 15-gigs of music storage, plus a rear DVD entertainment system with a 9-inch monitor, heated second-row seats, a 110-volt power outlet (I could really use that now for my new iPhone 5), upgraded side mirrors with integrated turn signals, front and rear parking sensors, second-row sunshades, etc.

Of course, such pleasantries come with a price, and in the case of the Pilot Touring it's a hair over $50k at $50,160 including freight and PDI. Compared to many in this class the full-load Pilot Touring represents pretty good value. Truly, a Chevy Traverse with the same level of features will cost you $56,755, although some of the Pilot Touring's competitors are priced a bit lower.

It's never only about price, of course. After styling, how a vehicle drives usually plays a big part. To this end I think you'll be pleased with the Pilot, as you sit up nice and high the way most SUV owners like, giving a fabulous view of all angles, while it takes to the corners with very un-SUV-like agility. The ride is smooth, and the cabin fairly silent for a big open drum, thanks to good insulation and Honda's well proven, highly refined 3.5-litre V6.

I've long been a fan of Honda powertrains, and while some might knock this one for not being up with some of the latest technologies, like direct injection or quick spooling twin-turbocharging, it offers a pretty trick fuel-saving feature that no rival puts to use in its V6 engine. Variable Cylinder management (VCM) shuts down up to three of its six cylinders to save on fuel during periods of light engine load. Like it was with variable-valve timing, Honda was an early adaptor into cylinder deactivation technology and the Pilot continues to achieve competitive fuel economy because of it and other advancements.

The Pilot was also one of the first in the crossover class to move from a 4-speed automatic transmission to a 5-speed unit, and while others have migrated to six-speed gearboxes or CVTs since then, the new 2012 Pilot never made me wish for more cogs. The engine makes ample thrust at 253 lb-ft of torque while passing performance benefits from 250 horsepower, and again while every rival offers higher standard engine output the Pilot balances performance and economy quite nicely, achieving a claimed 12.3 L/100km city and 8.2 highway. That's better than the Chevy Traverse, Dodge Durango, and Mazda CX-9, while pretty close to the others.

The Pilot also finds a nice balance for cargo capacity, not as large as some but bigger than most with 589 litres behind the third row and 2,464 litres when all the seats are folded flat.

Honda certainly gives a person a lot of reasons to like its Pilot over the numerous competitors that have come along since it helped to establish the midsize crossover SUV segment. With a starting price of just $36,410 including destination and a fully-loaded Touring model priced thousands less than some of its closest competitors, not to mention an enviable reputation for reliability, the Honda Pilot is a worthy contender.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, SUV, Honda, 2012, Pilot, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999, Midsize,

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