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The Pilot is Honda's mid-size crossover utility vehicle, offering a rugged look combined with a very passenger-friendly package and surprisingly good on-the-road performance.
Honda appears to be running in the opposite direction, style-wise, than the rest of the industry—which could be a good or bad thing, depending on your taste. The evidence: Honda gave the Pilot a complete redesign for 2009, but while other models have become softer and more carlike, the Pilot became even more macho, creased, and imposing, with a chunky look and an almost incredibly garish framed chrome grille that's either a macho masterpiece or a little embarrassing (we go with the latter). Interior themes are also a bit gimmicky and overwrought in a chunky, macho aesthetic..
The 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 that powers the 2011 Honda Pilot isn't exceptionally fast with the smooth-shifting five-speed automatic, but it has a pleasant, responsive, and refined feel and is sweet-sounding. A cylinder-deactivation system is there to help cut fuel consumption while coasting or cruising, yet the Pilot is quite thirsty, with EPA ratings of just 16 mpg city, 22 highway with four-wheel drive. Handling is much better than the tall silhouette suggests, and once you get past the initial surprise of the tall driving position, you'll find handling to be reasonably crisp, with good maneuverability.
The 2011 Honda Pilot has a carlike unibody design, bolstered structurally with some of the benefits of an SUV, so it's able to draw from the best of both worlds. Ride quality is a little firm, but with the optional four-wheel-drive (actually all-wheel drive) system, which has a Lock mode, the Pilot is great for getting through deep snow, mud, and the like. Four-wheel-drive models can tow up to 4,500 pounds.
Inside, the Pilot is as roomy and functional as ever; it's one of few vehicles this size to have a third row that's spacious enough for adults (though headroom is tight in the far back). Front seats are generously sized and excellent for long road trips, while the second-row seats slide fore and aft for easy access to the third row or to get just the right balance of legroom between rows. The second and third rows split 60/40 and fold forward.
From a practicality standpoint, the interior of the 2011 Honda Pilot interior brims with cubbies, holders, and bins for accoutrements of all sorts. Oddly, the chunky, oversized aesthetic doesn't carry over to instrument-panel controls, which come across as cluttered, and the hard-plastic surfaces used throughout the dash are disappointing.The Pilot is available in four different trim levels—LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring—each of which is offered in 2WD or 4WD. The EX-L and Touring get upgraded leather upholstery. Base 2011 Honda Pilot LX models come with rear air conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control, and a seven-speaker sound system, while the top-of-the-line Touring includes a host of tech features, such as a nav system, a rearview camera, a Bluetooth hands-free interface, a USB audio plug, backup sensors, and available rear DVD entertainment. The availability of the navigation system has been expanded to EX-L models for 2011.