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2009 Honda Pilot

Rafay Ansar

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Pros:

* LOVE the white dials/background on the instrument panel
* Really decent acceleration
* Comfortable front seats and the lumbar support is really NICE
* XM® Satellite Radio
* Built-in Bluetooth®

Cons:

* Square shape is great for making more inside storage, but bad for aerodynamics
* Gas mileage is not stellar (made worse with the square-er shape)
* Voice recognition (I am starting to hate these) system
* 3rd row seats are only usable by children or very short people (at 5′6″, I wouldn’t be comfortable for any length of time sitting back there)

Fuel Economy:

Advertised: 16 in the city, and 22 highway (or 18 combined for the AWD Touring Edition).
Actual: 18.7 with my un-aggressive driving style. Sightly better than the combined estimate, but still worse than other 7-8 passenger SUVs on the market.

Introduction:

Wow, the Pilot is ginormous! Okay, I know that’s not really a word, but holy cow! There is a whole lotta vehicle with the re-designed Pilot. It seems that for 2009, the Honda Element got more rounded shapes, while the Pilot got the more square shape - they completely traded places! The new Pilot appears to be significantly larger than it’s older counterparts, and the frontal view is now markedly bolder-looking with its unique grill (bad to the bone). The day-time running lights prevent having to figure out how to turn on the headlights as daylight begins to disappear. I think this really adds to the safety factor, even in broad daylight.

Driving Impressions:

The Pilot accelerated really well. I didn’t try to blast through any corners, as I was having some issues with the aerodynamics of the car. It felt a bit top-heavy, and definitely took a bit of road to get it stopped. Other than that, it was pretty fun to drive. I had a bit of trouble parking, as it’s pretty large! Add to that, one of the other reviewers had put their trailer-hitch mounted bike-rack on the back, so not only was I fighting a larger vehicle than I’m used to, but I had about 3 extra feet behind me to deal with! I reverted to a 16-year old, trying to parallel park for the first time. But it was one of those things that you could get used to, if you spent more than 3 days in a car. Due to the size of the car, I could easily see well up the road. The Pilot weighs a good deal, so that, coupled with being able to see so far ahead (well, and Honda’s safety reputation), I felt pretty darned safe. A definite bonus in my book.



Build:

The Pilot felt super solid. You could take it off-road and not be concerned at all about how it would take the conditions. The doors were solid without being heavy. The interior felt solid enough that you could bang stuff around without damaging the vehicle. We had a couple of stationary trainers in the back, behind the 3rd row seats, that were banging around a few times during an hour drive to a bike race. There wasn’t a mark one on the tailgate area, and nothing fell out when we opened the hatchback. The seats fold forward and back into place without struggle and seem like they would last a very long time. The hidden compartments in the passenger cabin are all well-built and you’d not have to worry about them breaking easily.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics:

The good:

Tons of interior storage for people who like to carry around lots of stuff. Numerous bottle holders for those who need lots and lots of hydration. Even a little storage compartment in the 3rd row seats (sort of like a 3rd row glove-box). All compartments are tucked away out of sight, and easy to open when you need them. Have to love the the hidden sunglass holder, which doubles as a spy mirror for little, fighting passengers in the rear (possibly arguing over which DVD to watch in the rear-passenger DVD player). Okay, this spy mirror could work well for adults too!







Seats are really comfortable, although I spent very little time sitting in the 2nd and 3rd row seats. I cannot tell if they’d be comfortable for more than 5 or 10 minutes. The leather is nice, not too soft, and not too rough. Lots of adjustments for the driver (including an adjustable lumbar support, which was a really nice feature), and quite a few adjustments for the passenger. And all of the rear seats were easily folded flat, or back into the upright position. 3rd row entry was a breeze, with a quick tug of a lever from the 2nd row seat.

Cabin temperature was easy to control, and I actually got cold a couple of times with the A/C. Dual cabin controls are nice for someone like myself (who melts easily), whilst not freezing out my passenger.

Very easy to read the instrument panel in both broad daylight and approaching darkness (I really liked the white background for the instrument panel).







Given it’s size, I didn’t have any trouble seeing behind or beside me in traffic (when driving forward). I never once had a “oh crap!” moment in it (with the exception of parking). That actually surprised me. Hats off to Honda for making such a large vehicle with few, if any, blind spots!

And lest I forget to mention… I love the automatic lift gate. A push of the button, and up it goes. Another push of the button, and down it goes. In addition, the glass hatch can be opened and closed separately, just in case you only need to reach in. There’s a built-in netting to hold small items that are easily reachable via the glass hatch entry. You need to put larger things in the very back? Not an issue. The netting easily tucks away and allows larger objects behind the 3rd row seats.



There are so many other interior options that are great (rear passenger DVD player, wireless headphones, USB Audio interface, Bluetooth® Hands Free Link, XM® Satellite Radio, Premium Audio System, Navigation system…) that I could just go on and on and on. This vehicle is LOADED and with really NICE features.

The bad:

I really don’t like the gear-knob on the dashboard. There must be a lot of people who DO love it, because Honda keeps putting it there (CR-V and Pilot in my experience). It does clean up the center area a bit though. Honestly, this was the worst thing that I found wrong with the Pilot, and it’s minor.

Performance:


The 250-horsepower engine definitely got up and moved. And it had a lot of vehicle to move! At around 4,600 pounds, the Pilot is no flyweight vehicle. The weight explains its reluctance to stop on a dime, but it would be something you’d need to allow for in stop and go driving conditions.





Given the rising fuel costs, I was just a bit disappointed in the mileage. If the edges were slightly rounded, without sacrificing the added space, it would help with the vehicle aerodynamics and fuel usage. Also, because the vehicle was so new (we were among the first to drive it), it was still breaking in. I imagine that if it had a bit more mileage on it, I could have gotten better mileage, especially if I were to drive it over a longer period of time.

Given the above, I really have no other qualms about the Pilot’s performance. It was a steady drive. Accelerated easily. Got me from point A to point B quite comfortably. I felt like it was a solid vehicle that I could count on to get me up to speed and keep me safe, all while carrying a bundle of stuff and passengers, with room to spare.

Handling:

While I wasn’t crazy about how the Pilot handled in a cross-wind, everything else about it screamed: STABLE and SAFE. I should note that while I got blown about a bit in a strong crosswind, I never felt as though we were out of control. I just needed to hang on to the steering wheel and pay close attention. It behaved nicely in stop and go traffic conditions. It was equally at ease doing 75 mph on the open freeway. Uphill driving? Not a problem. It zoomed uphill and on the flats with ease. Curvy roads? Bring it on. Rolling around town looking for a parking place? It drove nicely in “parking space hunt mode”. While the Pilot certainly isn’t a sports car - the
turning radius was reasonable (as expected) given it’s size.







Value:


Overall, the Pilot is not a cheap vehicle. The Touring edition comes in at around $38k. Keep in mind, the Touring edition is also an entirely NEW model in the Pilot line, and it does not feel or perform like a cheap vehicle. It’s a very nice SUV in its price range. The features are NICE and the costs of those add up if you were to add them in separately. If you were looking to spend less for a Pilot, there are 2 lower trim lines in the family that would get you the same vehicle, but with slightly less bling.

Honda’s safety record is again evident in the Pilot. The NHTSA has given the Pilot 5 stars in both frontal and side impact safety ratings. Additionally, the Pilot is loaded with other safety features including: Vehicle Stability Assist (which helps sense over and under-steer,t hen brakes individual wheels and/or reduces throttle to help restore your intended travel path), 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist. The Pilot provides superior defense in the event of a crash with it’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) (the body structure helps absorb and disburse crash energy over a larger area in case of a frontal impact). ACE also makes the Pilot more crash compatible in the event of a frontal impact with vehicles of differing ride heights. There are also front and side impact airbags for the passenger side, and three-row side impact curtains for your passengers, as well as a rollover sensor. This should give you and your passengers peace of mind when riding in a Pilot.

All that being said, the experience I had with the Pilot Touring edition, it’s safety record, it’s ease of drivability and the Honda name: I think it’s worth it.

Conclusion:

The Pilot is a solid, well-performing SUV. The 2009 model has been re-designed, and while it’s squarer shaped than previous years, it looks a lot more bad-*ss. It’s comfortable, spacious, easy to see out of, and the features that came with it are very useful for drivers and passengers as well. It appeared truck-like, without actually driving like one, which is a pretty great accomplishment.
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