2019 Honda Pilot Review: What’s New And What’s Not?

Honda sent us the brand-new 2019 Honda Pilot for a week. Andre had the chance to get a first drive back in August. But, now that we have had the car at our home office, we can do a more complete review. Of course, there are a good number of changes that Honda has made to the Pilot for 2019.

2019 Honda Pilot Elite

Styling

This is one of the most noticeable areas where Honda have tweaked the Pilot for 2019. Take a look up front and you are met with a completely new front fascia. The grill has been tweaked to more closely resemble the Civic and Accord. Honda has also given the Pilot new headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED low-beam bulbs. The last major styling update to the front end is the bumper itself. There is now a piece of silver trim that resembles a skid plate. Don’t be fooled, this is just painted plastic trim. The other change to the bumper is the addition of some black plastic surrounds for the fog lights.

Around the back there are a couple minor changes as well. The taillights now feature clear plastic over the indicators and reverse lights. On the previous model, the whole taillight was red. Those taillights in question are LED, by the way. Additionally, the rear bumper has been tweaked slightly to match the silver trim on the front bumper.

2019 Honda Pilot Elite

Performance

One of the things that Honda have kept the same is the engine under the hood. Regardless of your chosen trim level, the Pilot comes with a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 that makes 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Power can be sent to the front, or all four wheels through your choice of two automatic transmissions. The LX, EX and EX-L trims all have a 6-speed automatic. However, the Touring and Elite trims come with a 9-speed automatic.

Honda did some work on that 9-speed transmission after hearing complaints that it wasn’t very smooth. To fix this, the transmission will now default to starting in 2nd gear, unless you select sport mode. Additionally, Honda have adjusted the programming on the auto start/stop system to work more smoothly.

Did it work?

Yes. The transmission now feels very smooth, and while I still don’t like auto stop/start, it felt much more functional in the 2019 Pilot.

The V6 is a solid engine. It provides plenty of power, even up here at a mile above sea-level. However, I find it strange that Honda hasn’t attempted to use their 2.0-liter turbo in the Pilot. We know, thanks to the Civic Type-R that Honda’s 2.0-liter can make well over 300 horsepower reliably. Presumably, a smaller displacement turbo engine could help improve fuel economy as well. But for now, we get the V6. It has i-VTEC, so I can’t complain too much.

Speaking of fuel economy. Well, that is entirely dependent on what engine and transmission you get. This table lays it out:

Transmission FWD (City/Hwy/Comb) AWD (City/Hwy/Comb)
6-Speed Auto 19/27/22 18/26/21
9-Speed Auto 20/27/23 19/26/21

 

Logically, the 9-speed auto with front-wheel drive gets the best mileage. However, all of the Pilots average better than 21 MPG combined. Not too shabby for a vehicle that weighs between 4,000 (FWD) and 4,300 (AWD) pounds.

2019 Honda Pilot

Ride & Handling

Honda have not fiddled with the chassis or suspension tuning for 2019. So, it drives largely the same as last year’s model. The Pilot has a really smooth ride. Butter smooth, I dare say. Large bumps do little to upset the suspension and somehow the cabin remains quiet on almost any road surface. As a result, the ’19 Pilot feels like it could eat a 2,000 mile road trip for breakfast. This is a very pleasant SUV to drive, on the highway at least.

A 4,000+ lb. SUV is not something to be driven hard in a canyon or on a racetrack. However, the Pilot does remain relatively composed even on some more curvy pieces of pavement.

The steering feel is by far the worst part of the driving experience, though. Steering is assisted by a power assisted unit. So, there is almost no steering feel, which is a bummer. Unfortunately, there is no way to adjust the steering weight either. So, you are constantly stuck with a very light steering wheel that provides almost no feedback. Not my favorite, but it makes sense for a three-row SUV. I can’t be too mad about it.

Utility

This is a crucial category for a family SUV. Fortunately, I have some great things to say about the Pilot in this aspect. First let’s talk cargo space. Behind the (standard) third row, there is 16.5 cu-ft of storage space, thanks to a removable, and reversible cover for a small cubby in the trunk area. On one side of this clever lid is carpet, when you want a soft finish. Flip it over and there is a hard plastic if you don’t want to dirty your carpet. Fold the 3rd row and cargo space increases to 46.0 cubic feet. Finally, fold the second row and you are left with a remarkable 82 cu-ft of cargo space.

These numbers are all competitive for the class, and you will not run short of space for your stuff. The Pilot is still able to tow a maximum of 5,000 lbs., same as last year, as long as you get the AWD model.

Passenger Space

Fortunately, you will also not run out of space for people, either. Using all 6-feet and two-inches of my self as a measuring stick, I tested out all three rows to see how much space there is for passengers. The front row is, as you would hope, plenty spacious. There is loads of shoulder and headroom. Plus, I was particularly pleased by the cavernous center console storage. You could easily fit a 13-inch laptop computer in there.

The second row was equally impressive. Even sat behind a driver’s seat adjusted to my tall-person position, the Pilot’s second row was still very comfortable. Thankfully, Honda have managed to keep the floor in the second row completely flat. Loading in and out of the second and third rows is made easier for it.

What about the third row?

As for the third row. Usually, I fully expect to be wildly uncomfortable when sitting in the third row of anything shorter than a school bus. However, much to my pleasant surprise, the third row in the Pilot was just as comfortable for me as the second row. Color me surprised… and thankful! Would I like to sit back there for 6 hours? No. Absolutely not. But I will confidently say you can put most adults back there for an hour or two and expect them to be pretty comfy.

2019 Honda Pilot

Technology

We use tech in our cars on a daily basis. So, a car’s infotainment and informational displays have to be up to par. This was an area where the 2018 Pilot struggled. However, Honda have made some significant changes that fix all of the problems I had with the old model. First, and most importantly, Honda have updated the infotainment system. The new unit allows for Apple Car Play and Android Auto integration. This screen is, of course, home to your backup camera. Plus, there is a cool feature called Cabin-Talk. This is a PA system for your Pilot. It uses a microphone in the front seat and amplifies your voice to the rear passengers. Honda have even made it easy to yell at your kids. I love it.

I can’t forget to mention the other hugely important addition made to the infotainment system, a real, working, tactile, non-touchscreen volume knob. Sweet Jesus is it nice to have a real volume knob. Honda clearly realized their mistake in trying to mess with that feature.

Honda have also improved the digital gauge cluster. The new screen is slightly larger, and features different graphics than last year. It isn’t a huge change, but I think the overall look is cleaner.

The 2019 Pilot has one other really compelling piece of tech for new buyers. Honda Sensing, their suite of driver safety features, is now standard in every trim of the Pilot. This includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, lane keep assist and run-off road mitigation.

Competition 

The Honda Pilot exists in one of the most competitive segments you could possibly imagine. To be competitive here, you need to bring it. The Pilot competes a wide range of crossovers like the Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia/Buick Enclave, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, Hyundai Santa Fe XL, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander and the Volkswagen Atlas.

Yeah, that is a lot of competition. How does the Pilot stack up? In my book very well. I would easily put it in my top 3 for the segment. The other two being the Dodge Durango, because of the available Hemi V8 and the VW Atlas because of it’s German feel and good tech. If my opinion isn’t enough, you should know that the Pilot is consistently in the running for best-seller in this class.

Value

Last, but not least, we need to talk about pricing. Compared to last year, Honda have increased the price slightly:

Model Transmission Starting MSRP (w/ $995 dest. charge)
LX (FWD) 6-speed auto $32,445
LX (AWD) 6-speed auto $34,345
EX (FWD) 6-speed auto $35,325
EX (AWD) 6-speed auto $37,225
EX-L (FWD) 6-speed auto $38,755
EX-L (AWD) 6-speed auto $40,655
Touring (FWD) 9-speed auto $43,515
Touring (AWD) 9-speed auto $45,415
Elite (AWD) 9-speed auto $49,015

 

Pricing has not increased very drastically. On the EX and EX-L trims, base MSRP has gone up $1,000. The other trims have only gone up by $550. For the record, AWD is a $1,900 option on every trim except Elite, which has AWD standard.

Worth it?

Is the Pilot a good value? It depends on the trim, if you ask me. Our tester was an Elite model. While it came with a lovely leather interior, heated and ventilated front seats, and some great tech features, that is a lot of money for a Honda Pilot. For that price, you can get yourself into brands with much higher luxury feel and in some cases more equipment. Even the Pilot’s Acura counterpart, the MDX, can be had for that kind of money.

Though, the lower trim levels do offer a pretty compelling package. You will have to make up your own mind on what trim to buy. I think you will be just as happy with the lower trims, despite having less features.

2019 Honda Pilot elite awd
2019 Honda Pilot Elite AWD.

Overall

I have really enjoyed my time in the 2019 Honda Pilot. The car is easy, and comfortable to drive. Honda have packed it with technology, and fixed many of the issues that diminished the previous model year (looking at you, volume knob). Honda consistently sells more than 10,000 Pilots every month, not because they got lucky, but because they make one of the best 3-row SUVs in the segment. If you are shopping in this segment, take a look at the Pilot, it is worth your time.

Michael Curtis
Michael has always had a passion for things with four wheels and an engine. His parents often joked that his first word was "Porsche." He currently works for TFL full time as an editor, videographer, presenter & writer. In his spare time, he stays plugged into the car community through meets and other events.