Honda Dishes Details on Powertrain, Features for 2016 Pilot
Traction-Management System, Nine-Speed Auto on Offer
The 2016 Honda Pilot is coming at a crucial time for the company. Now entering its third generation, the three-row crossover will be getting a slightly overdue redesign in the face of tough competition from GM's aging but hot-selling Lambda triplets, Ford’s facelifted Explorer, and the all-new Kia Sorento. Today, Honda let slip a few details about the Pilot, some of which are expected and some of which come as a pleasant surprise.
First, the Pilot will be making the switch to Honda’s Earth Dreams powerplant architecture. The 3.5L V-6 will come with single overhead cams, intelligent variable valve timing, and direct injection, all of which increase power while improving fuel efficiency. Honda says the new motor will produce 280 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, which is up 30 hp and 7 lb-ft over the previous Pilot’s V-6 of similar displacement. Variable Cylinder Management further improves fuel economy. On the Pilot LX, EX, and EX-L, the engine will be matched with a six-speed automatic (a first for the Pilot), while the Pilot Touring and Pilot Elite will get a nine-speed auto (a first for Honda).
It’s likely that the engine and nine-speed transmission are donated from the 2016 Acura MDX, which produces incrementally more power and torque. If that’s the case, then Sixth through Ninth gears will be overdrive gears, helping with highway fuel efficiency. We haven’t driven Honda’s nine-speed, but other similarly outfitted transmissions we’ve experienced were prone to gear-hunting. We hope the Honda unit will be smoother.
What might be most important for most buyers is the extra equipment they’ll have to choose from. A rearview camera comes standard the base LX, as does emergency brake assistance, LED brake lights, Bluetooth audio and hands-free device connectivity, and pushbutton start, among other notable features. From there, owners can option a midlevel EX or EX-L (which adds leather and other luxury features to the EX). Also available are the luxurious Pilot Touring, which adds in-dash navigation and a premium audio system, as well as the aforementioned nine-speed cogswapper and other niceties, and the top-spec Pilot Elite, which includes a panoramic moonroof, LED headlights, HD Radio, and heated and ventilated front seats, plus more.
Optional on the EX-L and standard on the Touring and Elite is Honda Sensing, a comprehensive suite of driver-assistance features. Collision-mitigation braking, forward collision monitoring, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control, and Honda’s Road Departure Mitigation System all come bundled with Honda Sensing, helping drivers remain aware and alert to their surroundings while helping prevent accidents.
Interestingly, the Pilot’s Intelligent Traction Management (ITM) system was tested all over the world, including in Glamis, California; Moscow, Russia; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. ITM allows the driver to select between driving modes (normal and snow for front-drive models, normal/mud/sand/snow for all-wheel-drivers) for optimal performance in those conditions. As on similar systems from Ford, Land Rover, and Jeep, ITM adjusts throttle response, torque distribution, transmission shifting, and stability-control intervention to keep traction high and wheelspin low. We’d love to give that system a shakedown; the Pilot has always been a decidedly on-road–oriented crossover, but maybe this new system will help it handle the occasional fire road or sand dune.
The new Pilot will go on sale in the third quarter of 2015. Honda still hasn't released pricing information for the Pilot, but we expect it to cost slightly more than the outgoing model, which starts at $29,870 and maxes out at $41,620. Although efficiency numbers haven’t been revealed either, they’ll likely mirror those of the 2016 Acura MDX, which gets 22 mpg in the EPA’s combined cycle.