The Honda Pilot has grown a bit stale over the years and overshadowed by newer entries, like the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade and countless other family friendly three-row SUVs. Now Honda has fixed most of the things that were wrong with the last Pilot, with the introduction of the 2023 Pilot. The fourth-generation Pilot now looks more rugged and ditches that minivan-like styling of the last generation, plus it gets a vastly improved interior and an updated powertrain.
On the outside, the 2023 Pilot looks more masculine with its squared off face, longer hood and sculpted body. This new more rugged look is elevated with the introduction of the Pilot TrailSport, which fills the need for buyers that want to take the family on a light off-roading adventure. The Pilot has also grown with its length being stretched 3.4-inches with a longer wheelbase and wider tracks to give it a more commanding presence.
The 2023 Pilot is based on Honda’s new light truck platform, which is shared with the Acura MDX. The new platform is stiffer and the steering and suspension have also been updated to improve the Pilot’s driving dynamics. It should also be more fun to drive thanks to a revised variable steering ratio, bigger brakes and a new multilink rear suspension.
Under the hood the 2023 Pilot is powered by a new DOHC 3.5-liter V6, which replaces the SOHC 3.5-liter V6. The new engine only brings slightly more power with 285 horsepower and 262 pound-feet, up from 280 hp and 262 lb-ft. The V6 is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The new Pilot also gets the second-generation of Honda’s i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system, which is standard on the TrailSport and Elite and optional on the other trims. The updated all-wheel system has a stronger rear differential that can 40% more torque and provides 30% faster response. Up to 70 percent of the torque can be sent to the rear wheels and 100 percent of that power can be transmitted to either wheel.
For buyers that want a slightly more rugged version, there’s the new Pilot TrailSport, which gets a 1-inch lift, an off-road tuned suspension with increased approach, departure, and break-over angles. The TrailSport also gets unique stabilizer bars, spring rates and damper valve tuning. The other additions include Continental TerrainContact AT (265/60R18) tires and thick steel skid plates to protect the Pilot TrailSport’s oil pan, transmission and gas tank that can support the entire weight of the Pilot crashing down on a rock. The Pilot TrailSport is also available in an exclusive Diffused Sky Blue paint color.
The TrailSport also gets a new Trail mode, in addition to the Normal, Econ, Snow, Sand, Sport and Tow modes. The Trail mode uses the front brakes to apply brake vectoring and “trail torque logic” capability to i-VTM4 system. Trail torque logic controls the amount of power going to the rear axle in certain situations, like climbing a tough off-road trail, by sending as much as 75% of available power is routed to the individual rear tire with the most traction, while the remaining 25% torque potential is sent to the low-to-no traction wheel so that it has immediate power once its tire contacts the ground.
To help you better navigate the trails, a new TrailWatch camera system uses four exterior cameras and four camera views to help drivers navigate obstacles outside their natural line of sight by slope or proximity such as blind crests, deep ruts and the trail’s edge. When driving In Trail mode at speeds below 15 mph, the forward view camera automatically turns on and then deactivates when speeds rise above 15 mph. The TrailWatch system automatically reactivates at speeds below 12 mph.
Inside the new Pilot is even more family friendly with ample space for passengers in both the second and third rows. The third row can actually fit adults, since it’s legroom has increased 2.5-inches, which is something that is always an issue in this class. Honda has also added a unique trick for the second row with a removable center seat that can be stowed under the cargo floor. This makes it much easier to use on the go or stow when not needed, instead of having to leave it in your garage. Buyers are able to choose either seven- or eight-passenger versions. There’s also an additional 6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row.
Honda has also improved the tech features in the 2023 Pilot. Starting with a much better infotainment system that comes in either 7- or 9-inch sizes. The larger screen also gets wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. In front of the driver there’s also an available 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster, while a smaller 7-inch display is standard on all the trims except the top Elite version.
Overall the design of the cabin is a big improvement over the last Pilot, which felt too minivan-like. The design looks more appealing and upscale and there are higher quality materials. There’s also an available panoramic sunroof, which makes the Pilot the only 8-passenger model in its class with the large sunroof.
Honda has not announced the pricing for the 2023 Pilot, which will be available in Sport, EX-L, TrailSport, Touring and Elite trim levels. You’ll notice that a base LX is gone, just like on the 2023 CR-V.
Overall Honda has made the necessary upgrades to the Pilot to keep it competitive in a highly competitive segment. Its styling now aligns more with the rugged look that buyers have gravitated to, while its interior is now even more family friendly than before. We’ll have to wait until we get behind the wheel to see if the improvements under the skin are noteworthy as well.