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2007 Honda Pilot

Captaining the Pilot

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

By Colin Hefferon

2007 Honda Pilot

Pilot's basic shape hasn't changed since 2003 -- why mess with success?

photo © Colin Hefferon
The Honda Pilot has been around since 2003 and has changed very little since then. It shares its engine and drivetrain with the pricier and much glitzier Acura MDX. The two are similar in size and weight. Like the MDX, the Pilot features three rows of seating. Quality, fit and finish are nothing short of superb. The no-nonsense Pilot is my choice (Car & Driver's, too) for best bang for the buck in a mid-size SUV. MSRP: $27K - $31K; Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; EPA: 18/24 (2WD), 17/22 (4WD).

First Glance

What's to say here? Like all SUVs from the A-pillar aft, the Pilot is basically a big box. Actually the Pilot's about six inches longer and wider than the Honda CR-V, which translates into greater passenger volume and cargo carrying capacity. But this doesn't necessarily mean more useful space.

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

Honda dashboards are always simple and functional, and Pilot's follows the trend.

photo © Colin Hefferon
If this trip had involved more than two people, we could not have carried both the extra bodies and bikes. Something, or someone, would have had to stay behind. My point is you shouldn't fool yourself about how much these "large" SUVs can carry. They may have immense volume measured in cubic feet, but a lot of things just won't fit. I could have carried more people and bikes with a compact Honda Civic sedan and my old $28 bike rack.

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

Even though the Pilot's available with VTM-4 four-wheel-drive system, most people will never use it. So why buy 4WD? It's heavy and complex and it raises heck with mpg. Truth is you don't really need it unless you live way, way off the beaten track. The 2WD version is more than adequate for the uses most people will ever put this 'ute to. Even if you live in the snowbelt all you need is a decent set of four winter tires.

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.

Journey's End

Sharing basic mechanical underpinnings with Acura's MDX, Pilot delivers great bang for the buck.

photo © Colin Hefferon
The 2007 Honda Pilot is available in three trim levels: the base LX, the EX and the EX-L. The EX-L features many of the so-called luxury items we always think we're going to need -- automatic climate control, leather-trimmed power-adjustable seats, 7-speaker (plus subwoofer) sound system with MP3, satellite-based NAVI and DVD entertainment system. Know what? You don't need any of those options. Hey, you probably won't even use most of them.

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.

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