If there’s one SUV from Honda we miss seeing on Philippine roads, it’s the Pilot. First launched in the mid-2000s, the full-size 8-seater SUV served as the brand’s flagship vehicle and proved to be a popular choice for those looking at something that’s bigger than the CR-V.
Unfortunately, the Philippine market only got to enjoy it until its third generation as Honda Cars Philippines Inc (HCPI) quietly axed the Pilot from the local lineup in late 2018. As a result, we didn’t get the chance to get our hands on the facelifted version that was also released in the same year.
Fast forward to late 2022, and Honda has just revealed the fourth-generation 2023 Pilot. Looking more muscular and rugged than ever, Honda claims the 2023 Pilot is now the largest and most powerful SUV from its lineup ever. They say it’s also the most capable off-road Honda ever thanks to the rugged-oriented Pilot Trailsport that comes with several upgrades.
Beginning with the most obvious, the 2023 Pilot features a tougher-looking exterior which was penned by Honda designers in California. With a large upright grille, a strong horizontal beltline, aggressive fender flares, and sloped A-pillars, the all-new Pilot looks like it was sculpted from one huge chunk of metal.
Depending on the variant, the Pilot can come with several unique exterior add-ons. The Sport version gets gloss black trim and grille bar, an exhaust garnish, black roof rails, and Shark Gray 20-inch alloy wheels. Meanwhile, the EX-L adds a bit of flair thanks to chrome trim and grille bar and machined 18-inch alloy wheels.
But for those who truly want to take advantage of the Pilot’s capability off the beaten path, there’s also the new TrailSport. It gets exclusive upgrades like an off-road-tuned suspension, a one-inch lift kit, unique stabilizer bars, specially-adjusted spring rates and dampers, front and rear skid plates, and 18-inch wheels wrapped in Continental TerrainContact A/T that measure 265/60/R18.
Open the doors and the 2023 Pilot greets occupants with a simpler and more ergonomic cabin. Borrowing inspiration from the all-new Civic and CR-V, the dashboard now features Honda’s “Simplicity and Something” design concept. This can be seen in the Pilot’s automatic climate control which does away with the touch-sensitive panel for more user-friendly buttons and knobs.
The Pilot also comes with the digital instrument cluster first seen in the all-new Civic, along with the three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel that’s becoming a common sight among new Honda vehicles. Other interior amenities and features include generous piano black trim, full-leather upholstery with contrast stitching, a panoramic sunroof, a 9-inch (or 7-inch) touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and ventilated front seats.
As before, the Pilot can seat a total of 8 people thanks to its three-row layout. But for those that want to treat the Pilot like a luxury SUV, the middle seat on the second row can be folded down which makes for a captain’s chair-style wide center armrest for the second-row passengers. Honda also said that the middle seat in the second row can be completely removed to allow for wide pass-through access to the third row.
Under the hood, the 2023 Pilot gets an all-new 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V6 engine. It makes 289 PS along with 355 Nm of torque and is connected to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
While it has the same displacement as the previous-generation V6, Honda says the new engine makes 5 PS more and has a unique all-aluminum block. In addition, the V6 comes with low-profile headers with high-tumble ports and a narrow 35-degree valve angle for improved combustion.
To ensure grip over any terrain, the 2023 Pilot is fitted with the second-generation torque vectoring i-VTM4 all-wheel drive system. Not only does it feature a stronger rear differential that can handle 40% more torque, but it also delivers a 30% faster response which optimizes available traction across all driving scenarios. It also gets 5 selectable drive modes for various road conditions; Normal, Econ, Snow, Sport, and Tow modes.
Production of the all-new Honda Pilot will begin later this year at the company’s Alabama plant. There is no word yet if HCPI plans to bring back the Pilot for the local market. But given the weak Philippine peso and fluctuating exchange rates, those who want to get one might have to inquire at private dealers instead.