The 2021 Honda Pilot is a trendy alternative to a minivan, but its third row isn’t as roomy and it’s hardly more stylish. Still, this SUV boasts an available all-wheel-drive system, lofty seating height, and a fair amount of ground clearance—traits that many crossover shoppers desire. This Honda also has a speedy and fuel-efficient V-6 powertrain that doesn’t disappoint. However, those looking for a gratifying driving experience may want to look elsewhere. The Pilot does provide a cavernous cabin, with ample cargo space and small-item storage, and its host of standard driver assists and popular infotainment features help it compete with rivals such as the Volkswagen Atlas and Toyota Highlander. Although the 2021 Pilot isn’t the snazziest mid-size crossover out there, it’s versatile and inoffensive enough to appeal to a wide range of people.
What’s New for 2021?
For the 2021 Pilot lineup, Honda added a new Special Edition model and made the nine-speed automatic transmission standard. Previously, the nine-speed was offered only on the Touring trim level and up. Lesser versions had a clunky six-speed automatic. The Special Edition slots between the EX and Touring trims and advertises black 20-inch wheels, a foot-activated power tailgate, and wireless charging. All 2021 models come standard with paddle shifters, dual-zone climate control, and an automatic stop-start system. To compensate for these many upgrades, Honda raised the Pilot’s base price by $600.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
- LX: $33,370
- EX: $36,050
- Special Edition: $40,080
- Touring: $44,040
- Elite: $49,540
- Black Edition: $51,040
We think the Pilot Special Edition represents the best combination of features and price. It includes black 20-inch wheels, a hands-free power tailgate, leather-trimmed upholstery, roof rails, second-row sunshades, a sunroof, and wireless charging. We’d also add all-wheel drive for $2000 because it increases the Pilot’s maximum tow rating from 3500 pounds to 5000.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Pilot’s V-6 has a sporty sound and plenty of power, and we like the unobtrusive behavior of the nine-speed automatic transmission. The Honda is not the most ponderous three-row crossover to drive, but its considerable size can make it feel heavy when cornering. The 20-inch wheels that come on the upper trims hurt ride quality a bit, but they enhance the Pilot’s otherwise dorky appearance. And the vehicle rides relatively smoothly when loaded with people and stuff. The Pilot’s lack of body control makes it seem disconnected from the road at times. And its light steering makes it easy to maneuver at parking-lot speeds, but it also contributes to the detached feel on the highway.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Fuel economy is strong within Honda’s showroom, and the Pilot is very efficient for such a large and practical vehicle, according to both the EPA and our real-world testing. The front-wheel-drive model will achieve 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Adding all-wheel drive knocks 1 mpg off both government ratings, for totals of 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. The all-wheel-drive-only Elite model we tested exceeded its highway rating, achieving 27 mpg on our 200-mile route.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Pilot’s interior is spacious and practical and can be had with family-friendly options such as an in-cabin PA system. Most trim levels offer a three-across second row, for those who need to seat eight. Pricier models forgo the bench for two captain’s chairs, reducing the passenger count to seven. However, the spacious third row’s low seat cushion means it’s really only practical for kids. The Pilot’s dashboard layout features easy-to-use climate controls and a clearly marked gauge cluster, and there are a whopping 16 cupholders throughout the cabin. This SUV’s high seating position gives the driver a commanding view of the road, and large windows and thin unobtrusive roof pillars award the Pilot best-in-class visibility. This Honda has a downright cavernous cargo area and loads of useful interior cubbies. It’s among the roomiest SUVs in its class, but the cargo capacity between the seven- and eight-seat configurations is different, as the Elite and seven-seat Touring trims have a second-row center console that can’t be removed. The adjustable cargo floor can be set up for maximum space or to create an underfloor storage compartment.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The frustrating central touchscreen is one of the Pilot’s weak points, although Honda did install a much-needed volume knob back in 2019. The base LX’s 5.0-inch display offers the basics, whereas EX-and-above trims get an 8.0-inch touchscreen with SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, voice command, and other app functions. Navigation is optional on the EX and standard on the Touring and Elite.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 Honda Pilot earned a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but it hasn’t been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Every Pilot has a host of standard driver-assistance technology. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Standard adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Honda’s warranty is entirely average for its class. Hyundai, for example, offers one that’s significantly longer, and Toyota provides the added bonus of complimentary scheduled maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
More Features and Specs
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