2016 Honda Pilot Elite: Restyled With New Additions

January 3, 2016 Updated: January 17, 2016
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The new, more stylish, 6/7 passenger, 3-row seating 2016 Pilot has a nearly complete new makeover. Outside, the relatively short hood isn’t as blunt as in the past, offering viewers a little more pizzazz. But the Pilot is still identifiable by the familiar 3-bar grille.

The 2016 Pilot trimmed 200 to 250 pounds off last year’s model, yet it still tippy-toes to nearly 70-inches tall. Yes, it’s big (4,200 lbs), fast (0-60 in 6.2 seconds), and downright handsome with all the extra “curves and chrome.”

The muscular 3.5 L 24-valve Direct Injection SOHC i-VTEC engine is a member of Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology portfolio, delivering 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. The 9-speed auto transmission with paddle shifters gives you the option to be more involved with the drive, or simply let Pilot shift for you, breezing through the gear processor.

Honda engineers got something right with the new Pilot. Watch out Toyota and Nissan, Honda is in the hunt.

Enjoy using the 8-inch Display Audio touch screen in the middle of the dash, flanked by air conditioning vents trimmed in silver on both sides. However, too many instructional icons clutter the screen, taking away valuable viewing area and ability to identify exact vehicle location.

Fuel economy was very good for such a large vehicle.

Yet the absolute worst and most distracting feature near the screen was the touch pads to control the audio system’s volume and channel selection. How about some nice large knobs? The standard multi-angle rear view camera and available Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation are also housed in the same display system.

The dash was flat with much needed space on top extending to the front windshield. The instrument panel was easily read, with a large covered storage box in the central stack between the front seats.

Shifting took a bit of getting used to. Instead of the conventional shift lever, it’s done using a stack of up-facing buttons labelled “P”,” “R”, “N”, and “D/S” (“S” for sports mode) located just beside the driver’s right knee.

Fuel economy was very good for such a large vehicle. I averaged 26.6 mpg on our drive to the Texas Coast. Even with some small town driving and slow, crowded city thoroughfares my mpg never fell below 23 mpg.

The 20-inch x 8-inch alloy wheels are snugly fitted against subtle LED headlamps, and together with the power moonroof with tilt feature they keep you rolling, lighted with a grand view of the freckled stars and expansive sky.

Push-button start, power tailgate, fog lights, smart entry system, and security add to the convenience and splendor of the Pilot.

Heated power door mirrors with turn indicators were nice, but I never could get them to permanently set. There must have been some default settings as nothing could keep them from moving from where I wanted them to several other settings.

Elite is a premium trim for the Honda Pilot and comes only in AWD. Lesser trims can be purchased starting for around $34,000. The Elite had a MSRP of $46,420.

Historically, Pilot may have been thought of primarily as a kid hauler— associated with tennis shoe smells and empty boxes under foot. The Pilot is still a candidate for such chores, but the SUV is also a splendid, luxury driving vehicle ready for long travels.

At the epic period of recent Dallas storms, Honda’s Pilot Elite was out and about wading across unexpected high water crossings and holding a steady passage, through traffic and weather warning aided by HD Traffic Report. Pilot clearly helped us through troubled, stormy terrain.

Driving the new Pilot gave me a feeling of confidence and comfort along dark roads, surrounding me with a leather-trimmed interior and nicely spaced seating in all rows, and kept me company with premium radio with 10-speakers. Pilot is still good for kid hauling, but also excellent for all-folks hauling.

Durhl Caussey writes a car column for newspapers around the world. He may be reached at this paper or dcaussy@sbcglobal.net