The 2021 Honda Pilot is now one of the oldest vehicles in the three-row crossover segment, but although its design dates back five years, it’s still a good rival to newer arrivals, like the Ford Explorer, Kia Telluride and Toyota Highlander. While the Pilot is showing its age in some areas, it’s still a great, sensible choice for the family.
The three-row crossover segment has really taken off over the last few years with some great arrivals, like the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade and Mazda CX-9. While many of its rivals have added a big dose of style to the segment, the Pilot is a bit more conservative with a design that places an emphasis on function over style. From a style perspective, the Telluride and Palisade stand out, while the Pilot seems to fade into the background.
Honda did give the Pilot a small refresh for the 2020 model year, which included some styling updates to its front and rear fascias. For the 2021 model year there aren’t any styling updates. If you’re wondering what Honda has planned for the next-generation Pilot, it recently revealed that it will look a bit more rugged.
For the 2021 model year, the Pilot doesn’t get any big changes, but the nine-speed automatic transmission is now standard. A new Special Edition trim level has been added and a Black Edition model sits at the top of the lineup.
Inside the Pilot’s interior looks more simple than you’ll get in the CX-9, Telluride or Highlander. Although there isn’t a lot of style, the Pilot’s interior is spacious and more functional than you’ll find in some of its rivals. This is great news for families that want the space and functionality of a minivan, without actually having to drive one. Everywhere you look there are storage areas.
The biggest area where the Pilot is showing its age is on the technology front. The digital gauge cluster looks a bit dated and the infotainment system is not the best. The infotainment screen is on the smaller side and feels a bit clunky to use, but it does feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Plus to charge your cell phone there’s a wireless charging pad. We do wish a head-up display was on the options list.
The Pilot offers room for seven or eight passengers and although the Pilot’s footprint is smaller than many of its rivals, its interior is on the roomier side. The second row is very roomy and comfortable and the third row has enough headroom and legroom to fit adults, which is something many three-row crossovers fail at.
The 2021 Pilot comes standard with the Honda Sensing suite of safety features, which includes automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning and lane departure warning. The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) gave the Pilot a five-star crash-test rating.
Under the hood the 2021 Pilot is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 with 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, while the torque-vectoring i-VTM4 all-wheel-drive system is optional. The all-wheel drive system is standard on the Elite and Black Edition trim levels. The V6 is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The front-wheel drive Pilot is rated at 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined, while the AWD version is rated at 19/26/22 mpg.
On the road, the Pilot is a confident big SUV that is comfortable without being too boring to drive. The suspension limits body roll and the steering has pretty good feedback. The V6 has a nice punch and the torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system amps up the performance even on dry roads. With that being said, the Pilot is not as fun to drive as the Mazda CX-9.
Although the current generation Honda Pilot has been around for a while, the good news is that it’s still one of the best three-row SUVs you can buy today. The interior can easily fit adults in the third row, which is something many of its rivals struggle with. There’s also several storage areas for all your gear and the suspension does a good job of providing a comfortable ride that isn’t too soft.
The 2021 Honda Pilot is available in several trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L, Special Edition, Touring, Elite and Black Edition. The pricing starts at $35,275 for the base Pilot LX and tops out at $51,395 for the the Pilot Black Edition.