Honda's automotive operations in the Philippines has, for the last few years, ventured into a great expansion of their model range.
Before, Honda's core models were the Jazz, City, Civic, Accord and CR-V, but that couldn't be further from the truth now. The Brio and Brio Amaze are reaching out to a very discerning entry level market. The Mobilio and upcoming BR-V are aimed squarely at young Filipino families who need seven seats. The new HR-V appeals to those who need a compact crossover, and they even have a CR-Z for those who crave the open road. And there's also a new range of luxury and executive vehicles that cater to those who desire more comfort like the Odyssey (the previous one was the family-oriented U.S. version), the flagship Legend all-wheel drive hybrid, and of course, this new generation Pilot crossover SUV.
The Pilot has been offered in our market before, competing against the likes of the Mitsubishi Pajero, the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, and the Ford Explorer. The first generation model in the mid-2000s had modest sales, but was successful in introducing a model was once confined to the gray market or personal imports from the States. The second generation Pilot was definitely interesting, winning customers over with its looks, long list of features, the smart cylinder deactivation system on the i-VTEC V6, and a very comfortable ride. Now we've got the third generation model, and yes, it's quite impressive.
One thing that's remarkable about the new Pilot is its form. The previous two generations were almost literally two-box SUVs; upright and angular like the SUVs of old, even if it they were technically crossovers. This new one is more like a larger CR-V in terms of design; the Pilot is more aerodynamic in appearance with a more tapered front end and a grill/headlight arrangement that seamlessly integrates to form Honda's new family look. The windshield is more raked, and the greenhouse is somewhat more continuous, doing away with the fully framed window that we saw in the first and second generation Pilots. Overall, the new Pilot looks far more modern and straightforward, and that's almost always a good thing.
The dimensions were also stretched over the predecessor, albeit is now shorter in height. Now the Pilot measures 4941mm long (previous: 4862mm), 1996mm wide (previous: 1994mm), and 1773mm tall (previous: 1803mm). The wheelbase has likewise been stretched from 2774mm to 2820mm, and that should make for a more stable ride, especially on our growing network of expressways.
Inside, the new Pilot is definitely more upscale than the second gen. The dashboard has been thoroughly redesigned, evoking a far more premium look than before. The leather also seems more supple and more luxurious. But what truly sets the Pilot apart is the cabin's air of impeccable quality; no undue panel gaps or inconsistencies, just a very keen attention to detail and quality.
What I truly liked was the new cockpit for the driver. The wheel looks great, and there is a new set of very nice gauges up front; tach on the left and the dual needles for the fuel and engine temperature flanking the large multi-info display and digital speedometer. The T-bar shifter which used to be on the center stack is now on the console that rises from the floor, flanked by dual cupholders.
The integrated audio system with touch screen controls dominates the center of the dash with the climate control and the DVD player for the drop-down DVD screen for the rear occupants. The large bin with the sliding roll up cover is still there for whatever you desire to store in it, though its a bit further back than the one in the previous model.
There are seats for 8 people inside: 2 in front, 3 for the middle row and another 3 in the third row. Honda fitted the Pilot with a rather clever one touch button to quickly fold and slide the second row, granting third row passengers more convenient access to the back. Also, with a touch of a button, you can open the tailgate for easier access to the cargo space, and both the second and third rows fold flat for maximum luggage space.
Providing propulsion is a 3.5-liter V6 with i-VTEC and their cylinder deactivation system for improved economy. It sounds like it's exactly the same as the previous one, but it has much more horsepower at 284 PS (previous: 250 PS) and 353 Nm of torque (previous: 350 Nm). Honda also matched their V6 with their notable Earth Dreams 6-speed automatic with dynamic torque-vectoring capabilities and a traction control system that can be set to handle mud, sand and snow, though I don't think we'll be able to use that last one here.
Driving the Pilot in town is a treat. Yes it's the automotive equivalent of upsizing everything at your nearest fastfood chain, but it's maneuverable and definitely lighter on its feet than its predecessor. In the city you'll be able to appreciate features like the cross traffic alert (monitors traffic travelling perpendicular to you if you're backing out of a slot) and a system of cameras that allow you to easily maneuver it even in the tightest of urban streets. When you take it to more enjoyable roads,
As expected, the fuel economy in the city isn't something to write home about. At an average speed of 20 km/h, the Pilot was doing 5.4 kilometers to a liter. Traffic really isn't the Pilot's strong suit, but if you take it on the expressway, the Pilot realistically achieves 12.5 km/l if driven smartly. No hypermiling, just a casual but sensible use of the accelerator pedal.
Where the Pilot shines is in the sheer level of features it has as standard. Really, the guys over at Honda's plant in Alabama (where the Pilot is made) threw everything they can into their large crossover to make life easier for their customers. The integrated touchscreen multimedia system, the DVD player, the drop down screen, the smart keyfob and the triple zone climate control systems are the most obvious, but the feather in the Pilot's cap is Honda's all around safety system: Sensing.
Honda Sensing is a full-spectrum and high tech approach to safety, integrating several key systems to achieve a far more secure and much safe vehicle than before. Apart from the standard acronyms like ABS, EBD, VSA (stability), HSA (hill start assist), CTM (cross traffic monitor), BSI (blind spot information), so on and so forth, Sensing adds LKAS (lane keeping assist system), ACC (adaptive cruise control), RDM (road departure mitigation), LDW (lane departure warning), CMBS (collision mitigation braking system), and FCW (forward collision warning). FTW, right?
Of course, all this comes at a price: as it stands, the 2016 Honda Pilot EX-L is priced at PhP 3,380,000. The shade of white pearl also adds another PhP 20,000, bringing the total to PhP 3,400,000. And there's the rub.
At that SRP, the Pilot is half a million pesos more than the top-of-the-line, twin-turbo Ford Explorer; that in itself is a big challenge already as the Explorer is currently the best seller in the mid to large crossover SUV segment. But Honda wasn't going for affordable with the Pilot anyway.
If you've noticed, most of Honda's current models are priced higher than the competitors in their respective segments. It's a clever strategy on Honda Cars Philippines' part, as it helps make their brand of drive more coveted, more exclusive, and ultimately, more valuable. If that's what you want, then perhaps the Pilot is the perfect large crossover for you.