As General Motors and Ford begin closing their full-size SUV plants in response to sagging sales, it becomes more and more clear that in the coming years, archaeologist's renderings will be all that’s left of full-size SUVs. Quick to grasp the attention of consumers with cargo-hauling/trailer-pulling needs are the big three from Japan: Honda, Toyota, and Nissan. For the past decade, the three popular Japanese automakers have wisely invested most of their R&D dollars into their more fuel-efficient mid-size crossovers. To lure stranded consumers into its corner, Toyota has developed a trailer towing package capable of increasing the Toyota Highlander’s towing capacity from 2,000 lbs to 5,000 lbs. Not being one to rest on its laurels, Honda has decided to focus its attention on passenger transporting capabilities. With the 2009 Honda Pilot, Honda has upped the ante with one of the most accommodating family vehicles on the market.
With approximately six additional cubic feet of passenger volume compared to last year’s model, and eight cubic feet more than a Toyota Highlander, the 2009 Honda Pilot is indeed piloting the way to a new era of fuel-efficient highway cruising comfort with a whopping 153.7 cubic feet of breathing room for a family of up to eight. Ingress and egress for third row passengers has also been made easier with the addition of sliding fold-forward second row seats on both sides. As for amenities, our EX tester came standard with Tri-Zone automatic climate control and split fold second and third row seats to enable a wide range of cargo/passenger/climate configurations.
Compared to its competitors, the Pilot can safely be considered a conservatively designed crossover. While its boxy rear end is designed to be more functional than fun, the Pilot’s front fascia has just enough Tonka Truck character infused into its grill and headlight treatment to keep its potential owners feeling like kids at heart. Helping the hind quarters of the Pilot from becoming completely uninteresting, however, is a new tailgate featuring a separately opening glass hatch for easy loading of small grocery bags.
Inside, the conservative theme is cut short. A center stack mounted gear selector, two-tone dash design, and elegantly styled instrument gages keep the Pilot's cockpit feeling fresh and forward-thinking. Materials as well as fit and finish are all up to Honda’s class-leading standards. With a completely flat cargo floor when second and third row seats are folded forward, the Pilot’s cabin becomes a foul weather alternative to a camper's traditional dome tent. Throw an air mattress in the back and feel free to explore any of America’s national parks without worrying about being dragged into the woods by a hungry Grizzly Bear in the middle of the night.
On the road, the new Pilot redefines the word “smooth.” Thanks to Active Control Engine Mount System (ACM) and Active Noise Cancellationâ„¢ (ANC), the unbalanced engine vibration and noise induced by Honda’s new Variable Cylinder Managementâ„¢ (VCMÂ®) fuel saving technology is virtually undetectable aside from its benefits to your pocket book. While running on four or even three of its six cylinders, the Honda Pilot’s 3.5 liter 24-Valve SOHC i-VTECÂ® engine will demonstrate why Honda has always been a leader in engine technology and refinement.
With a base MSRP of $31,995 the 2009 Honda Pilot EX comes well-equipped with few stand-alone options, as do most Hondas. It may not be as pretty as a Nissan Murano, or offer an optional Hybrid drive train like the Toyota Highlander, but when you consider the skyrocketing insurance rates on Hybrids and Nissan’s above-average maintenance needs, the Honda Pilot can definitely be considered Top Gun.
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