The Honda Pilot has evolved in its past generations, virtually growing up into the largest it’s ever been in the completely redesigned fourth generation for the 2023 model year. The newly redesigned 2023 Honda Pilot embarks on a competitive journey and rests on a new design that’s ultimately the new face for Honda SUVs, one that’s more chiseled and rugged looking but not to the point of offending anyone.
In the vast 3-row mainstream crossover segment, the Honda Pilot has fared well, and its redesign looks to do even better for a more agreeable formula with its larger size and a bit more power from a simplistic powertrain approach. The new look of the Pilot with a longer wheelbase and longer overall length opens the cabin making it more accommodating, along with a wide range of trim levels to offer a little something for everyone. Not only does the new Pilot gain a better foothold amongst the competition, but it also has a specialized TrailSport trim to put its ruggedness and capabilities in the forefront, which I was able to experience throughout this week.
There’s no doubt that the new 2023 Honda Pilot is improved in just about every conceivable area for a mainstream midsize 3-row SUV. However, slotting just below the two top trims of the Pilot Touring and Pilot Elite, the TrailSport trim is a respected level for receiving a good amount of equipment and bringing some real-world-usable off-roading chops to the table.
All new 2023 Honda Pilots are powered by a new 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 285 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque sending power to the front wheels or to all four through a new i-VTM4 all-wheel-drive system that’s optional in the LX, Sport, and EX-L trims but standard for the TrailSport, Touring, and Elite trims. Using a 10-speed automatic transmission, the Pilot has the advantage over some in making the best use of its V6 power, and in the TrailSport trim, the all-wheel-drive system has a unique trail torque logic control that can direct additional torque to the rear differential, and in those cases send up to 75% of available power to an individual wheel with the most traction. The system is interesting when it is enhanced in the Trail drive mode and detects when a wheel has left the surface and then sorts out power, which in some cases it may use brake vectoring to send more torque to a front wheel that has grip. The 20% more torque capacity is certainly a benefit for the TrailSport in conquering rough terrain over the other trim levels.
Honda seems to have gone the distance to make the Pilot TrailSport a rugged crossover for its class, adding in an extra inch of ground clearance for a total of 8.3 inches, added wheel travel for better off-road articulation, three underbody skid plats protecting the engine, fuel tank, and rear, unique 18-inch wheels wrapped with all-terrain tires, and TrailWatch camera system allowing you to view front and side views up to 15 mph. While the Pilot TrailSport is no Jeep, it tends to hold its own for a 3-row SUV with its somewhat soft suspension that adapts well on off-roading trails and tends to remain compliant on the road. The off-roading suspension system was a bit too soft for my tastes as there was some unwanted body bouncing going over road rises and undulations at speed. Otherwise, the Pilot TrailSport is mostly civilized and predictable in most road-going situations.
Acceleration is decent, but the grumbling sound from the V6 seems to take the front stage instead of feeling a matching punch to the soundtrack of the Pilot. That’s not to say the Pilot is a slouch, it just seems to have more sound than go. Zero to 60 mph takes place in 7 seconds, which I contribute to having the extra off-roading equipment on top of the somewhat knobby all-terrain tires and a welcoming matching full-size spare tire. I believe the Pilot could be quicker without the extra heft at just about 4,700 pounds, which is over 300 pounds heavier than the outgoing model. The new Pilot TrailSport can also tow up to 5,000 pounds, which just about on par for competitors.
Fuel economy figures for the new Pilot are mostly average for its segment, but the TrailSport trim lowers the ratings a bit from its off-roading stature and all-terrain tires. However, in the real world, I managed to match the EPA figures of 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 20 mpg combined using regular unleaded fuel in its 18.5-gallon tank.
The Honda Pilot TrailSport trim sets itself apart not only from a visual standpoint on the outside but follows up with some special touches throughout the interior, starting with front seat headrest embordering, a generous amount of orange accent stitching, and TrailSport logoed rubber floor mats. Overall, the cabin feels premium, with many welcomed soft-touch surfaces and seating for 7. Where the Pilot excels for the new generation is the added room, thanks to the increased wheelbase and length of the vehicle. I remember the outgoing generation Pilot suffered from a small third-row whereas the new Pilot massively increases space for three people, even those that are 6 feet tall. The second row’s captain’s chairs proved to be comfy and had a good amount of adjustments. The front seats, with only heating, are comfy as well but lack additional adjustments that you may find on some competitors.
In the area of technology, the new Honda Pilot seems to not take any leaps but continues to offer a straightforward infotainment unit through a 9-inch touchscreen that has a short learning curve. The integration of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also a seamless experience, but I feel that a bigger touchscreen would have enhanced things even more, considering many competitors offer up much larger screens. Still, having a physical volume knob where it should be, along with a good amount of physical control buttons and knobs for the three-zone automatic climate control, are welcomed aspects of the new Pilot’s interior.
There’s a bevy of advanced active safety features throughout the new Pilot, which include a standard traffic jam assist system that works with adaptive cruise control to keep the vehicle centered in its lane and at the proper speed behind following traffic. The expected features of lane keep assist/lane departure warning system, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic warning, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and driver attention warning are all included. A 360-degree surround-view camera system is also added for the TrailSport trim level, which also includes the TrailWatch camera system angles for off-roading.
At the as-tested price of $50,150, the new Honda Pilot TrailSport may be a bit much to chew off for some, considering the new Pilot in its base trim starts at just $37,090 before any fees with a seating capacity of 8. However, something like the comparable Ford Explorer Timberline comes in around $48,500 and can go up from there with added equipment, but it may lack some of the premium appeal that you find in the new Pilot.