In its first-generation, the Honda Pilot earned a reputation for reliability, comfort and practicality. With seating for eight and ample room for stuff, this crossover echoed what people liked about SUVs without the heft or poor fuel economy as trade-offs. New-for-2009, the second generation Pilot offers even more spacious seating for eight, plenty of convenience-oriented features and respectable gas mileage. However, with the growth of the midsize crossover in the last few years, the Pilot faces more competition than ever, and now must stand out from the likes of the Mazda CX-9, Chevy Traverse, Toyota Highlander and the Ford Explorer.
YOU'LL LIKE THIS CAR IF...
If you're looking for a true eight-passenger vehicle that offers more on- and off-road capabilities than a minivan, the 2009 Honda Pilot belongs on your list. It can accommodate three child seats in the second row and actually fit adults in the third row.
YOU MAY NOT LIKE THIS CAR IF...
With the Pilot's limited stand-alone option choices, you will have to opt for a higher trim if you want a premium sound system, USB port, moon roof or heated front seats. Those looking for a base model with a few choice extras that won't break the bank may be more interested in the Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander or Ford Explorer.
WHAT'S SIGNIFICANT ABOUT THIS CAR
The all-new, second-generation 2009 Honda Pilot is bigger and more powerful than its predecessor. It also gets slightly better gas mileage, thanks to updated Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) technology, which allows its six-cylinder engine to run on four or even three cylinders. Other new available features include Hill Start Assist, tri-zone auto climate control and a rearview mirror camera display.
The 2009 Honda Pilot antiquates the previous generation in every way. The suspension is firm, but not bouncy, making the ride stable with minimal body roll considering its SUV stature. The steering is precise and well-isolated when going over bumpy roads at almost any speed. In-cabin noise is also greatly reduced from the previous generation and is noticeably quieter than that of the Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer. Another big difference between the Pilot and it competitors is its responsive engine. Although the Highlander moves along just as quickly when it comes to getting onto a freeway or traversing rocky terrain, the Pilot seems to accelerate more quickly than its American competitors and their respective V8 offerings.
OUR FAVORITE FEATURES
Rearview Mirror Camera Display
Available on the EX-L trim, this 2.5-inch LCD display – conveniently located in the rearview mirror – shows you what's behind the vehicle while in reverse.
Second Row Seating
A little bigger than in the previous generation, the 2009 Honda Pilot's second row offers more room for passengers and also provides LATCH systems for three child seats.
The 2009 Honda Pilot's interior is a large step up from the previous generation. Ergonomics and simplicity are the key themes, as the radio and climate controls are easier to reach and the column shifter has been replaced with an instrument-panel mounted one. Passenger legroom was increased in all three rows, adding an inch to the second row and almost two inches to the third. Cargo space is still abundant thanks to multiple storage spaces and an under-floor storage in the trunk area. And, for the occasional wider load, the vehicle is broad enough to accommodate four-foot wide items when the seats are folded flat.
The 2009 Honda Pilot has a rugged, boxy SUV look that gives no hint of its car-like driving dynamics. Body changes from the previous generation include a longer wheelbase, the use of Honda's high-strength Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure in the front to absorb energy and mitigate frontal impacts, a standard integrated tow hitch and a lift-up glass hatch on the tailgate. Aesthetically, the new front fascia stands out, especially the six-sided grille, and the larger 17-inch wheels fill out the wheel wells in style.
NOTABLE STANDARD EQUIPMENT
A base 2009 Honda Pilot comes with sport cloth seats, remote entry system, automatic headlights, power windows, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, 17-inch wheels, front and rear air conditioning, an integrated rear cargo net and under-floor storage, auxiliary input jack and an AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers and a subwoofer. The EX, EX-L and Touring Pilots add an eight-way power driver's seat, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, daytime running lights and heated side mirrors.
Most of the additional features for the 2009 Honda Pilot are tied to trim level and are not available as stand-alone extras. These options include a 512-watt AM/FM/six-disc CD premium audio system with ten speakers, leather seats, power moonroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, navigation system with voice recognition and rearview camera, 115-volt power outlet, a USB port and second-row integrated sun shades. A rear-seat DVD entertainment system is available only on the EX-L and Touring trims.
UNDER THE HOOD
The 2009 Honda Pilot's engine comes equipped with updated Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) technology, allowing for an uptick in horsepower and torque, as well as improved fuel economy. This VCM technology, similar to the system used in the current Honda Accord, allows the vehicle to seamlessly run on three, four, or six cylinders, depending on driving conditions and requirements. Previously, an earlier version of VCM had only been available on two-wheel-drive models of the Pilot.
250 horsepower @ 5700 rpm
253 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/23 (2WD), 16/22 (4WD)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2009 Honda Pilot LX starts just over $28,000 and goes up to about $41,000 for the loaded all-wheel-drive Touring trim with navigation and the DVD Rear Entertainment System. Its base price is on par (or lower) than the entry prices of the Toyota Highlander, GMC Acadia and Ford Explorer, but the Pilot's Touring trim level brings the vehicle to the higher side of the pricing spectrum in its segment. Be sure to take a look at the New Car Blue Book Value to see what consumers in your area are currently paying for their Pilot. As for residual values, the Honda Pilot is projected to hold values higher than those of the Chevy Traverse, Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander.