For many SUV/crossover buyers, compacts are a little too small and full-size rigs a tad on the large (and thirsty) size. Thankfully, the auto industry has the answer and several makers produce mid-size models that for most family needs, fit the bill exactly.
My most recent test drive in an SUV/crossover of this class was in a 2015 Honda Pilot - the variant with three rows of seats. I had a perfect opportunity to put this Honda to the ultimate test because my Island-dwelling son and daughter-in-law have recently welcomed a third child to the family and discovered that their compact SUV just isn’t big enough for them all, especially on a longish trip.
The Honda Pilot is exceptionally roomy, even by mid-size SUV standards. It has a nice boxy shape which really maximizes available space. We rounded up the three child seats and re-located them in the pilot - an operation the mysteries of which are known only to Mom. Even with all three seats in place, there was lots of room for three adults and even an additional one if the need arose. There was still a fair amount of stowage space in the back and since both rear rows of seats fold in 60/40 fashion, it’s possible to enhance cargo room by sacrificing just one seat. Both rear seat rows are suitable for adults, which is not always the case in this segment. With some three-row vehicles, the rear seats are very cramped, but not in this Honda. The third row of seats was very easy to climb into as the second row seats tilt and slide forward. We took off on a mini road trip in considerable comfort and the Pilot performed well with its six occupants and various travel gear.
The model I tested was an SE or Special Equipment and it’s an interim model for sale while an all-new Pilot is prepped for 2016. It’s fitted with various extras, including a drop-down roof-mounted video screen with two sets of headphones and all the controls in the back. There’s nothing like running a couple of Paw Patrol DVDs to keep youngsters happy on a longish trip. Honda calls the Pilot “The Ultimate Family Adventure Vehicle” and that pretty well sums it up. It’s a versatile product and with both rear rows of seats folded flat, it has a huge and unobstructed cargo area. You can turn a Pilot into something close to a commercial van in just a few minutes.
The Pilot is powered by a 3.5-litre V-6 developing 250-horsepower, so it’s easily capable of carrying heavy loads and towing smaller trailer types. The transmission is a 5-speed automatic which should please just about everybody. Although Pilots have always been available with 2WD on entry-level vehicles, my tester was equipped with 4WD, which would be a great safety feature for winter driving over the passes or for modest off-road jaunts.
The interior is very comfortable with well-shaped seats and a great driving position which places you fairly high for excellent all-round road visibility. I liked the location of the shift lever, which emerges from the central console in an elevated position, leaving the storage areas unobstructed. And while on the subject of storage areas, this Honda has lots, including a central bin system that will take really large objects and cover them up under a kind of “roller shutter” lid. You could probably stow an iPad or two in there, which is no bad thing given today’s level of car break-ins around cities.
The Pilot is fun to drive and reasonably economical and like all Hondas it’s beautifully finished inside and out. It’s bigger than most mid-size SUVs, or so it seemed to me, and is highly adaptable to various uses. And for my family on Vancouver Island, it’s moved right to the top of their “must have” list.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: Mid-size 8-seat SUV/crossover
ENGINE: 3.5-litre V-6
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic
TOWING CAPACITY: 3,500 lbs
FUEL ECONOMY: 11.8-litres/100 km city; 7.8-litres/100 km hwy.
PRICE: Base MSRP $35,100. As tested, $42,000