Honda Pilot

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This article is about the Honda SUV model. For the Honda ATV model, see Honda Pilot (ATV).
Honda Pilot
Post-Facelift 2012 Honda Pilot Touring.jpg
Manufacturer Honda
Also called Honda MR-V (Middle East)
Production 2002–present
Model years 2003–present
Body and chassis
Class Mid-size crossover SUV
Body style 5-door SUV
Layout Front-engine, four-wheel drive (2003–present)
Front-engine, front-wheel drive (2006–present)
Engine 3.5 L V6 Honda J engine
Predecessor Honda Passport

The Honda Pilot is a mid-size crossover SUV manufactured by Honda and introduced in 2002.[1]

Primarily aimed at the North American market, the Pilot is the largest SUV available from Honda and features three-row seating. Pilots are currently manufactured in Lincoln, Alabama, and the Pilot was produced in Alliston, Ontario, Canada until April 2007. The first generation Pilot was released in the June of 2002 as a 2003 model.[2]

The Pilot shares underpinnings and the powertrain with the Acura MDX luxury SUV, and their platforms are shared with the Odyssey minivan and the Accord sedan. The Pilot’s unibody construction and independent suspension is designed to provide handling similar to that of a car; however, it is also fortified with integrated perimeter frame rails, which helps it withstand towing and light off-road use.

Prior to the introduction of the Pilot, Honda only had the compact crossover SUV CR-V, and the Honda Passport (a rebadged Isuzu Rodeo) which is truck-based. The Pilot is Honda's largest and only three-row SUV, although the 2010 Crosstour surpassed the Pilot in length.[3]

The Pilot is sold in North America, while Japan and Australia, for several years, got its relative, the Honda MDX (first generation Acura MDX) instead. In the Middle East, the Pilot is sold as the Honda MR-V. The second generation Pilot is also available in Russia and Ukraine. Also in the Caribbean, the Honda Pilot is available in Dominican Republic. The Pilot has been a critical and commercial success for Honda, selling over 100,000 vehicles in 2004, an increase of almost 20% over 2003. The Pilot is also sold in the Philippines [4]

First generation (2003–2008)[edit]

First generation
2003-2005 Honda Pilot -- 10-19-2011.jpg
Production April 2002—March 2008
Model years 2003–2008
Assembly Alliston, Ontario, Canada (HCM) (2003-07)
Lincoln, Alabama, USA (HMA)
Designer Ricky Hsu (1999)
Body and chassis
Related Acura MDX
Honda Odyssey
Honda Ridgeline
Honda Accord
Acura TL
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Wheelbase 106.3 in (2,700 mm)
Length 188.0 in (4,775 mm)
Width 2003–05: 77.3 in (1,963 mm)
2003–05 LX: 76.3 in (1,938 mm)
2006–08: 77.5 in (1,968 mm)
Height 2003–05: 71.7 in (1,821 mm)
2003–05: 70.6 in (1,793 mm)
2006–08 2WD LX: 70.1 in (1,781 mm)
2006–08 4WD LX: 70.4 in (1,788 mm)
2006–08 2WD EX/EX-L: 71.3 in (1,811 mm)
2006–08 4WD EX/EX-L: 71.7 in (1,821 mm)


Like the first-generation MDX, the Pilot is propelled by an aluminum alloy 3.5 L SOHC, 24-valve VTEC V6 engine with timing belt driven camshafts.[5] The engine is rated at 240 hp (179 kW) SAE @5400 rpm and 242 lb·ft (328 N·m) of torque @4500 rpm. It is mated to a five-speed automatic, which, as tested in a 2004 Pilot, results in a 0-60 mph time of 7.6 seconds and 1/4 mile sprint of 15.9 seconds. For the 2006 model, the power was 244 hp (182 kW) SAE @5600 rpm(4WD), 240 lb·ft (325 N·m) of torque @4500 rpm. Models from 2005 include a drive-by-wire throttle. The Pilot weighs in at a little over 4,400 lb (1,996 kg), with a United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated gas mileage for 2007 of 16 mpg-US (15 L/100 km; 19 mpg-imp) city and 22 mpg-US (11 L/100 km; 26 mpg-imp) highway for the two wheel drive model, and 15 mpg-US (16 L/100 km; 18 mpg-imp) city and 20 mpg-US (12 L/100 km; 24 mpg-imp) highway for the four wheel drive model. Also, like the MDX, the Pilot rides on struts up front with a coil-spring, multilink arrangement at the rear designed to allow a flat load floor. It also has the MDX’s wide track — 66.3 in (1,684 mm) at the front and 66.5 in (1,689 mm) at the rear. The Pilot has a 4,500 lb (2,041 kg) boat/3,500 lb (1,588 kg) trailer towing capability with the optional dealer provided towing package. The FWD Pilot models feature the latest generation of Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management (VCM), which is designed to help improve fuel economy* without sacrificing power. The system achieves this by automatically deactivating and reactivating multiple cylinders, depending on the engine’s needs.


Design of the Pilot was done by Honda designer Ricky Hsu through 1999, when styling was approved. The Pilot is capable of transporting up to eight passengers. The third row seats 3 but legroom is limited, allowing transportation of small children or adults on short trips. Similar to the Honda Odyssey, the rear seats are capable of folding into completely flat surfaces to allow larger cargo inside if necessary. Seats are configured as stadium seating. Optional amenities that can also be included are a powered moonroof, DVD entertainment system, and a navigation system.[6][7][8]

The Pilot employs a four-wheel drive system called Variable Torque Management 4WD (VTM-4). The VTM-4 system delivers power to all four wheels under acceleration and when wheel slippage is detected. The VTM-4 system has a dashboard switch that locks both rear half-shafts to get the driver unstuck, but it operates in just first, second, and reverse gears, and unlocks at 18 mph (29 km/h). Otherwise, the system operates primarily in front-wheel drive and sends torque to the rear wheels when spin is detected up front. Two wheel drive models have been available since 2005.

The Pilot's safety mechanisms are the VTM-4 system, ABS-equipped four-wheel disc brakes, rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel independent suspension and 282° of outward visibility. The foundation for the Pilot is a highly rigid unibody with reinforcing structures and energy absorbing crush zones. The Pilot's structure is designed to deform progressively in front, side and rear end collisions.

2006 Facelift[edit]

Honda revised the Pilot for the 2006 model year. Changes to the exterior included a new fascia with a different grille insert and halogen projector headlights, and taillights with clear lenses. The EX trim level received redesigned wheels, and the original EX wheels were now found on the LX trim. On the inside, side airbags were provided in the C pillar protecting rear passengers (in addition to those for the front seat passengers), the gauge cluster was updated and the center console featured chrome trim and redesigned storage compartments and cup holders.

Second generation (2009–2015)[edit]

Second generation
09 Honda Pilot.jpg
Production April 2008–2015
Model years 2009–2015
Assembly Lincoln, Alabama, USA (HMA)
Body and chassis
Related Acura MDX
Acura ZDX
Acura TL
Honda Odyssey
Honda Ridgeline
Honda Accord
Honda Crosstour
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Wheelbase 109.2 in (2,774 mm)
Length 2009-11: 190.9 in (4,849 mm)
2012-15: 191.4 in (4,862 mm)
Width 78.5 in (1,994 mm)
Height 72.7 in (1,847 mm)
2012-: 71.0 in (1,803 mm)

The new, larger Pilot is available in four trims; LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring. It is assembled at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln, Alabama. It receives a new 3.5-liter V6 VTEC engine producing 250 horsepower (190 kW) SAE net at 5700 rpm and 253 pound-feet (343 N·m) of torque at 4800 rpm.[9] EPA fuel economy is 17 mpg city /23 mpg highway for the front wheel drive and 16 mpg city / 22 mpg highway for the all wheel drive transmission.

Both transmissions are five-speed automatics. The new wheelbase is 109.2 in, with a length of 190.9 in, a width of 78.5 in, a height of 71.0 in. It has a new grill shape. Headlights lose the previous generation's halogen projectors and return to standard halogen reflectors. Much of the interior has changed, receiving a tri-zone automatic climate control system, new two-position memory settings for the driver's seat, a new power tailgate, and moved the gear shift from the steering column to the center console between the front captain's chairs. The Touring trim offers a new 120-volt power outlet and a Satellite-Linked Honda Navigation System.

2012 facelift[edit]

2012 Honda Pilot EX

For the 2012 model year, the Pilot received a redesigned front fascia, new alloy wheels and updates to the interior along with changes to the bumper. For the 2013 model year, a rearview back up camera, i-MID central dashboard 8-inch WQVGA (480x320) LCD screen, USB connector, Bluetooth hands-free calling and wireless audio streaming, and tri-zone climate control are standard on all Pilots.[1]


The Pilot uses Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering front bracket. For the 2013 model year a back-up camera was made standard. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found the Pilot a driver death rate of 2 deaths per million registered years among the ten lowest released in their report[10][11]

IIHS crash test scores:[12]
Moderate overlap frontal offset Good
Small overlap frontal offset Poor*
Side impact Good
Roof strength Marginal (2009-11 models)
Roof strength Good (2012 models)

*vehicle structure also rated "Poor"

The 2014 Pilot received an NHTSA rating of 4 stars overall, with the frontal driver and side driver categories receiving 5 stars.[13] (Because of more stringent tests, 2011 and newer model ratings are not comparable to pre–2011 ratings.)

  • Frontal Driver (male): 5/5 stars
  • Frontal Passenger (female): 4/5 stars
  • Side Driver (male): 5/5 stars
  • Side Rear Passenger (female): 4/5 stars
  • Rollover: 4/5 stars

Third generation (2016–present)[edit]

Third generation
Production 2015–
Model years 2016–
Assembly Lincoln, Alabama, USA (HMA)
Transmission 6-speed automatic
9-speed ZF 9HP automatic (optional)

The third-generation 2016 Pilot debuted at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2015, it is scheduled to go on sale the following summer.[14]

Added to the exterior are optional LED headlamps with automatic high-low beam switching, LED daytime running lights (DRLs), and LED brake tail lights. Overall dimensions are larger, while weight is down approximately 300 pounds with noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) reduced. The exterior is more sleek and modern in appearance compared to its boxier predecessor. Honda's LaneWatch passenger side mirror camera is available, as well as Blind Spot Indicators, Lane Departure Warning (LDW), with Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM). Additional options include Forward Collision Warning (FCW) with Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control and standard multi-angle backup camera. New features also include heated rear seats and ventilated front seats.

The revised engine adds direct-injection and start-stop technology, a 6-speed automatic is standard while a ZF 9-speed automatic is optional.

Off-road capability[edit]

The Honda Pilot has a capable off-road system which comprises three individual systems: the Variable Torque Management all-wheel drive system with locking differential, Hill Start Assist Control system and Grade Logic Control system.

The 4WD utilizes a unique Variable Torque Management all-wheel-drive system which automatically engages when the system senses loss of traction. The system has a manually locking rear differential which can also be engaged by the driver (when vehicle is in first, second, or reverse gears) and will stay engaged up to 18 MPH, or is shifted from aforementioned gears, then unlocks and reverts to the automatic engaging.

The Pilot also has a Hill Start Assist system which maintains brake pressure when the brake pedal is released, giving the driver time to engage the accelerator. The Pilot also uses a Grade Logic System which holds the engine in a lower gear when on steep inclines for better hill-climbing torque and increased engine braking when going down steep inclines.

The second-generation Pilot's all-wheel drive system enables it to wade through 19 inches of water.[4]


  • Car and Driver magazine's Best Large SUV for 2003 through 2008
  • Intellichoice "Best Value of the Year"
  • "Most Wanted SUV"
  • AMI Auto World "World Family Vehicle of the Year"
  • MotorWeek's 2009 "Driver's Choice Awards" - Best Large Utility


Calendar year US sales
2002 52,062[15]
2003 106,917
2004 128,158
2005 143,353
2006 152,154
2007 117,146
2008 96,746
2009 83,901
2010 102,323
2011 116,297
2012 114,848
2013 126,678[16]
2014 108,857


External links[edit]