To illustrate, let me relate a personal lifestyle anecdote: On a gorgeous, though steamy recent July weekend, my wife and I had an opportunity to test the Pilot's carrying capacity. We had arranged to spend three days at a B&B on Pender Island, which is only about 20 miles from Vancouver, BC as the crow flies although by ferry it can take the better part of a half-day to get there. We decided to bring our bicycles. To reduce the hassle at boarding time, we decided to leave the car to the ferry dock and bicycle on the island.
With both the second and third rows of seats folded flat into the floor there was just enough room for our mountain bikes. There was no problem whatsoever folding the seats; Honda's got all those details wired. However, it was a chore wrestling the two heavy bikes up over the high rear bumper and into the cargo space. We each carried only a small backpack.
In the Driver's Seat
The Pilot features seating for eight souls. While the five occupying the two captain's chairs in the front and the second row of bench seats can be of normal size, the three on the rear bench should be either very short of stature (and slim of girth) or under 12 years-of-age. If you and your pals are more than four full-size adults who plan to use the vehicle for 50-mile roundtrip commutes to your rig in the oil patch, best get a van. The Pilot won't be near big enough.
In this its fifth year of existence, the Pilot is essentially unchanged since its introduction. Granted, there are now more toys and more standard safety and convenience features -- making it an even better value than the first Pilot. But I think it's fair to say Honda got this one spot on in the first place.
On the Road
The only engine available is the superb (and dead reliable) 3.5L VTEC V-6 producing 244 hp (242 lbs/ft of torque) and the only tranny the excellent 5-speed auto.
Last year the V-6 received VCM (variable cylinder management), which cuts out three cylinders to save gas in light load situations. The VCM feature is only available in 2WD versions, which, by the way, is all the convincing I'd need to choose the (4264lb) 2WD over the (4453lb) 4WD.
Thanks to the unit body construction and sophisticated suspension system (MacPherson struts and multi-link independent rear) handling is excellent for such a large and heavy vehicle.
Particularly impressive is the short (38') turning circle, which in combination with the high seating position makes the Pilot easy to maneuver in the city.
If you can live without the toys, you can save a bundle and still get a terrific base Pilot LX 2WD without roughing it. You'll still get air-conditioning and an 8-way adjustable driver's seat -- both with manual controls -- and an excellent sound system. You'll get virtually every convenience item that makes a Honda such a useful appliance, along with your fair share of the safety equipment (including six air bags and electronic stability control) that has given Honda its first-rate reputation. You'll also get better all around performance, captaining 200 fewer pounds of Pilot down the road.
Whichever Pilot you choose, you'll be getting one of my favorite SUVs. Congratulations on your good sense -- agreeing with my opinion.