When it comes to Hondas, the highest compliment is that a Honda does what it is supposed to do. The Honda Pilot achieves just that. It isn't flashy or ostentatious, but it does a lot of things quite well.

Visually, the 2011 Honda Pilot we recently tested manages to stand out from the crowd. It's the winner of the Miss Isuzu Trooper contest in a sea of aerodynamic blobs that look as if they've melted a bit in the sun. In the crossover world, the Pilot is one of the few current offerings that still resembles a sport/utility vehicle. The styling advantage of flat sides: They improve interior volume for passengers and cargo, and can increase headroom at the outboard seats. The disadvantage: Air doesn't flow over, under, and around the vehicle as well as with the aforementioned blobs, so it can take more work to get fuel economy comparable with its peers.

The Pilot's 3.5-liter, 250-horsepower engine uses Variable Cylinder Management, Honda's cylinder shutoff technology, providing fuel economy of 16 mpg city/22 highway. Although the Trooper would've given one of its doors for numbers like that, several current offerings have slightly better numbers.

The interior provides plenty of room with a decent-sized third row. At first glance, the center stack is attractive, but as has been the case with Hondas and Acuras of late, it's too cluttered and button-heavy. It would take a while to learn to use all the controls without taking your eyes off the road. Our Pilot tester came with the company's topline Technology group, and the cabin had features such as nav, rear DVD system, full leather interior, and the company's best AM/FM/CD/XM audio system. All of these features brought the price to $41,175. That may sound steep, but it's about right for this segment.

On the road, the Pilot does a fine job, and there is no noticeable lack of power. The cabin has lots of cubbies for drinks, maps, iPods, and the stuff that always seems to accumulate during an extended drive. Seats are comfortable, but the ride was a bit noisy.

At the track, the Pilot motored to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds and ran through the quarter mile in 16.6 seconds at 83.6 mph. Braking from 60 mph took a longish 142 feet. Those aren't bad numbers, but they certainly aren't class-leading.

But overall, the Pilot acquits itself well as a daily driver, with a comfortable cabin filled with cool amenities -- at least when all the option boxes are checked. Hondas are known for their safety features, and the Pilot is no exception. Included are front, side, and three-row side curtain airbags, stability control, ABS, and ACE body structure. It has some towing capacity (3500 pounds max for 2WD and 4500 pounds for 4WD) and adults can actually sit in the third row.

For those who want the convenience and room of a sport/utility vehicle, but don't need strong off-road capability or higher towing capacity, the Honda fits the bill. Like many of the larger crossovers on the market, it has many of the positive attributes of a traditional SUV, but with a nicer ride and slightly better fuel economy. The Pilot is a vehicle that simply goes about doing its job, and does it well.


2011 Honda Pilot Touring 4x4
BASE PRICE $41,175
PRICE AS TESTED $41,175
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.5L/250-hp/253-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 5-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4562 lb (55/45%)
WHEELBASE 109.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 190.9 x 78.5 x 72.7 in
0-60 MPH 8.5 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.6 sec @ 83.6 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 142 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.75 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 29.3 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 16/22 mpg
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 211/153 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 1.06 lb/mile
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