Inside, this ground-bound space ship offers better accommodations across the board. Its well-formed front buckets gain an extra 20 mm of seat travel, and the driver's perch power-adjusts on all but the LX. The Pilot's pilot also benefits from a steering column that now tilts and telescopes, a shift lever repositioned from column to dash for easier use, and highly legible LED-illuminated 3D-look analog gauges. We did find the Pilot's new center stack layout a trifle busy, especially in Touring trim, which also includes the new hands-free navigation system. No such issues with the superbly redesigned center console that provides twice the capacity of any competitor's, multiple bins, supersize cupholders, 12V powerpoints-even an iPod-friendly USB port and 115V outlet in the Touring. The upgraded climate-control system also merits kudos. Dual-zone in LX but tri-zone in all others, it delivers 25-percent-quicker rear cool-downs and adds an automatic cabin humidity control that prevents window fogging.

Back in second- and third-tier land, the Pilot's 60/40 split/folding bench seats gain 1.1 and 1.9 inches of legroom, respectively. While row two retains 3.0 inches of basic fore/aft adjustability, the subtle stretching program expanded its "walkthrough" spec, which eases access to the wayback spot. Still best for a trio of younger folk, the innermost sanctum now truly is capable of carrying two average adults in reasonable comfort.

Even with eight up, Honda's new hauler boasts a class-leading 20.8 cubic feet of rear stow room, including a 2.8-cubic-foot concealed underfloor bin. Those figures rise to 47.7/87.0 cubic feet with one or both back rows flopped. Loading chores are simplified by a redesigned tailgate that includes a flip-up glass element and raises/lowers at the touch of a button on the Touring. Need to tote a posse of preschoolers? The new Pilot has upper/lower LATCH points in all three second-row seating spots plus an extra kid-parker hold-down in row three. Also in the house are front, front-side, and side-curtain airbags.

One engine now fits all Pilot variants: a purpose-tuned version of the 3.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC V-6 introduced in the 2008 Accord. Besides meeting more stringent ULEV-II emissions standards, the latest tri-mode version of Honda's Variable Cylinder Management system permits it to operate on three, four, or all six cylinders, depending on load. As with original two-stage V-6 previously used only on front-drive Pilots, it's packaged with a vibration-damping Active Control Engine Mount and delivers seamless intermodal transitions. Pony count is 250 compared with 244 in 2008 and its 253 pound-feet of torque tops last year's count by 13 twist units. While that latter commodity now peaks at a somewhat heady 4800 rpm, a dual-stage intake manifold and variable valve timing and lift keeps over 90 percent of it on call from 2000-6000 rpm. Equally critical, this slick V-6 thrives on regular unleaded gas.