Move over, CR-V, there"s a new, bigger bird in town. Ready for takeoff at Honda West, the Pilot denotes the mark"s first family-size SUV. A roomy interior sufficient to comfortably seat even the big and tall up front provides the capacity to board eight passengers. No one has to fly stand-by.
Third-row theater seating should be reserved for children, pets or checked luggage, however, because the obviously temporary seating provides less cush and less legroom. The 60/40 split second- and third-row seats can be configured to suit your carrying needs - with the last row of seats folding completely flat. When both rows are folded, the all-new Pilot provides more than 90 cubic feet of cargo space (more than competitors Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander). Another storage area is hidden in the rear, in case you"ve brought too much carry-on and need to stow something in the overhead compartment - which, in the Pilot, is tucked away in the floor. Control panels in the cockpit are easily accessible, well-placed for visibility and will be familiar to Honda drivers, since the automaker maintains a similar, ergonomic layout in all models. Radio knobs are placed high on the dash in the driver"s line of sight. The thermostat is precise, allowing the driver to select specific temperatures, instead of merely a high-medium-low, and a dual control knob allows passengers to make their own adjustments, in case the blanket and pillow supply runs low. Power seat adjustment complements power windows, mirrors and remote keyless lock, making life easier on the driver. Tilt steering and wheel-mounted cruise control keep the driver"s focus on the road. The center console provides added storage space, cupholders and a fold-out cell phone holder with power outlet - which, ironically, cannot be used at the same time as the cupholders. No tray tables. High-tech options include the DVD entertainment system, which doesn"t interfere when not in use, but is easily viewed by the last two rows, and a navigator: the satellite-linked navigation system. Sharing a platform with the Odyssey minivan and the Acura MDX sport-utility, all Pilots feature Honda"s patented VTM-4 electronically controlled full-time all-wheel-drive system, a 240-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission, with a low first gear for extra towing power. Keeping it in the family, the Pilot borrows styling cues from the smaller CR-V. The grille and headlights are a careful enlargement of the smaller SUV"s fluid wraparound face. The Pilot adopts a refined, upscale look with body-color moldings, while at the same time maintaining an aggressive look with assertive wheel arches. The front-wheel-drive SUV provides crisp, predictable handling. Its maneuverability in tight spaces is impressive, due in part to its compact size. Because of its overall length, the EPA designated the Pilot as a compact SUV, although it competes with full-size counterparts. Acceleration is quick and smooth. Because the transmission"s computer control holds lower gears longer than normal, the shifts are smooth even under hard acceleration. The Pilot, which feels solid and secure almost to the point of heavy, is stable at highway speeds. Whether accelerating into traffic or cruising down the runway - er, highway - the Pilot"s smooth takeoff is matched only by its equally smooth landing, with well-behaved suspension and ABS brakes. The Pilot"s nose doesn"t dive under heavy braking. Not only does it handle rough roads and other turbulence with little discomfort to passengers, ample insulation muffles road noise, preventing bumps from being transmitted to the ear or to the rear. Nimble in parking lots, light-footed under tough road conditions, at ease on the highway, the Pilot is a reasonably-priced, good-looking and practical sport-utility that offers exceptional interior space, power and comfort for the money. All it needs now is a co-pilot.
2003 Honda Pilot EX
Base Price: $30,980 Fuel mileage: 17/22 240-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine Cruise control Seven-speaker stereo AM/FM stereo with in-dash CD player Driver and front passenger front and side airbags Power windows, mirrors and door locks 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels Leather interior trim Synchronized front and rear automatic climate control