2014 Honda Pilot Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 13, 2014

Despite the 2014 Honda Pilot's truck-like exterior, it's one of more practical and family-friendly models on of the market today.

The 2014 Honda Pilot offers up great space, good handling, available all-wheel drive, and overall. Overall, it's a great multitasker for the family, and that's part of the reason it's been a best-seller for many years.

The current Pilot isn't quite our favorite three-row crossover. It still has a thoughtfully executed interior, an excellent drivetrain, and all-weather capability--but the trucklike look and cheaply finished interior are drawbacks to what used to be a leaner, more elegant package.

If you're a family who needs a minivan yet can't live with the idea of owning one, the the 2014 Pilot remains one of the best crossover choices available with a third row of seats. Its boxy design creates extra headroom and cargo space, yet its car-like driving dynamics–paired with a few SUV structural benefits–create a happy happy compromise that's good for most duties.

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The Pilot has been rated as one of safest cars on the road for years now, and includes side-curtain airbags for all three rows, as well as the expected list of security features. A rearview camera is also standard, which is especially helpful in overcoming visibility issues in the tall, blocky crossover.

The Honda Pilot goes unchanged for 2014, and it's offered in four different trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring. All four are offered in 2WD or 4WD, but beyond that you need to ante up to one of the top two trims in order to get a lot of the more desirable options and convenience features.

We think the LX and EX models offer more bang for the buck, as the more expensive EX-L, Touring and Limited trims begin to overlap with some of the true luxury crossovers on the market. They include rear air conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control, and a seven-speaker sound system. Leather upholstery, a Bluetooth hands-free interface, USB/iPod connectivity, a power tailgate, and a navigation system all remain only available on the EX-L and Touring--a serious impediment to broader sales success.

A five-speed automatic transmission is paired with the familiar 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 in the Pilot, and it altogether keeps with Honda's smooth, responsive, and sweet-sounding reputation for these powertrains. EPA highway ratings are now up to 25 mpg, making it one of the most fuel-efficient three-row vehicles.

Once you get past the initial surprise of the tall driving position, you'll find handling to be reasonably crisp, with good maneuverability. Ride quality is on the firm side, but the optional four-wheel-drive (actually an all-wheel-drive) system has a Lock mode and is a champ in deep snow or mud. Four-wheel-drive models can tow up to 4,500 pounds.

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2014 Honda Pilot

Styling

The Pilot has some SUV pretensions in its boxy shape; the cockpit is rendered in plasticky plastics.

While the rest of the industry pushes its crossovers in the direction of curves and smoother lines, the boxy and brash 2014 Honda Pilot continues in the opposite direction. That makes the Pilot look refreshingly different than the rest of the options on today's market, and its simple, rectangular design almost feels comparatively ageless–as if it'll outdate itself less quickly than the competition.

We don't necessarily love some of the added chrome bits on the current Pilot, as they may feel a little overwrought to shoppers looking for a more conservatively-styled vehicle. Last year, Honda tried to tone down some of that in a mid-cycle refresh--especially the oddly framed grille, subbing in a more tasteful grille that we see fitting in much better with the look that Honda's been giving its passenger cars in front.

Inside the Pilot, the look is different, for sure, but it's anything but traditional and simple. The very upright instrument panel can feel cluttered, and it feels a bit gimmicky--either overwrought or busy. That said, the interior trim and instrument-panel design do continue the chunky, somewhat macho look of the exterior, though the dash is rendered in lots of hard plastic.

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2014 Honda Pilot

Performance

Ride and handling are still a Pilot strong point, and its big V-6 is strong and smooth.

There's only one powertrain available in the 2014 Pilot: a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 250 horsepower, paired with a five-speed automatic. Both front- and four-wheel-drive models are available.

The V-6 is one of the smoothest, sweetest-sounding, most pleasant powertrains in its segment, even if it's not the standout for power and torque that it once was. The transmission can feel a little unsure of itself under lighter loads, but it's smoother and quicker if you decide that you need to move rapidly.

The Pilot does have quite a bit more durability built in than the typical car, though, and it is a good choice for those looking to get to a trailhead on the weekends. The four-wheel-drive system (actually all-wheel drive) does include a Lock mode for mud or deep snow. Structurally, the Pilot's structure borrows some of the benefits of a body-on-frame SUV but has a modern unibody design. And that contributes to its good ride quality and crisp response.

With a rather tall driving position, you might expect the Pilot to be a little clumsy compared to those lower, more wagon-like utility vehicles. But it's not at all; handling is quite responsive, and the straightforward exterior is easy to maneuver in parking garages or on tighter city streets.

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2014 Honda Pilot

Comfort & Quality

Controls could be laid out more simply, but the Honda Pilot has a nicely sized third-row seat.

The Pilot looks big from the outside, and that translates inside, too. There seating for up to eight passengers, though getting in and out of the third row can be challenging if you're not as small or nimble as your kids.

The Pilot's front seats are generously sized and supportive for long highway hauls, and the second-row seats do slide fore and aft to help get the right balance of legroom between the second and third rows; they also aid access to the rearmost row--a bit. Both the second and third rows fold forward and are split 60/40.

Practicality remains one of the standpoints from which the Pilot excels; it's brimming with cubbies, holders, and bins for smaller items. The only issue we have is that the hard-plastic surfaces and trims that you'll find throughout the dash and door trim and center console, while they might be easy for families to wipe clean, also can feel a bit low-rent.

With an upright theme that carries through to most of the interior, the cabin is roomy and functional, and it's one of few vehicles this size to have a third row that's spacious enough for adults. About the only thing that keeps the third row from being able to accommodate all adults--getting in and out aside--is headroom, which is tighter at the far back.

Sound refinement in the Pilot is really top-notch, with engine and road noise well-damped and surprisingly little wind noise.

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2014 Honda Pilot

Safety

The Pilot earns good crash-test scores, but some cutting-edge safety options are missing.

The 2014 Honda Pilot is one of the safer choices in the segment, following in the footsteps of past Pilot models. It doesn't quite have straight-A grades with all of the crash test agencies, though.

Despite its boxy body, tall seating, and rather low beltline, the Honda Pilot doesn't offer great outward visibility--mainly because of the thick rear pillars, which may make it hard for some shorter drivers to see when changing lanes or backing up.

A rearview camera is standard on all trims in 2014. Front side airbags, side-curtain bags that cover all three rows, and active head restraints all remain included, plus electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes.

Last year's version of the Pilot was given top 'good' ratings by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in all categories--even in the crucial (for tall utility vehicles) roof-strength category--and it was named a Top Safety Pick. But in the tighter federal NCAP crash-test program, the Pilot earns a four-star score (out of five) overall, with four stars for frontal impact and five stars for the new side pole test. 

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2014 Honda Pilot

Features

Honda puts some of the more desirable infotainment features on only its most expensive Pilots.

There are four trims–LX, EX, EX-L and Touring–available on the 2014 Honda Pilot. You can have front- or four-wheel drive on each trim, but all of the most desirable features and options are reserved for the top two trims.

The EX-L and Touring models have offer leather, USB/iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, navigation and a power lift gate that you can't have on the LX and EX models. And, you have to opt for the navigation system if you want the option to plug in your USB stick, too. That's going to leave you with limited choices on the lot, all of which will be some of the most expensive Pilot models available.

If you can do without some of those extras, the base Honda Pilot LX models are well-enough equipped to make comfortable family vehicles for most; they include rear air conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control, and a seven-speaker sound system. At the top of the lineup, the Pilot 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. There's 15 GB of media storage included with the navigation system.

In 2012, Honda brought to the Pilot the i-MID, which includes a color LCD screen at the top of the instrument panel, showing trip computer and audio functions. A set of enhanced steering-wheel controls were also included, and a rear-view camera system is also included, as of last year.

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2014 Honda Pilot

Fuel Economy

Among the three-row, V-6 utes, the Pilot is one of the more efficient crossovers.

The 2014 Honda Pilot could be considered relatively green, depending on how you use it. With a EPA highway rating of 25 mpg, it's one the most fuel-efficient vehicles with three rows on the market. However, if you only need room for five, there are several vehicles on the road with better fuel economy numbers. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid offers a third row, for example.

But we have found that the Pilot is quite fuel-efficient in real-world driving, and a cylinder-deactivation system helps the V-6 cut fuel consumption while coasting or cruising. We've managed to easily meet those ratings in previous drives, which certainly isn't the case across many models.
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June 9, 2015
2014 Honda Pilot 4WD 4-Door Touring w/RES & Navi

Really nice Pilot, that I'd tweak just a bit.

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Overall a very nice and solid vehicle for road trips, day to day driving, and family/gear hauling. Have always liked Honda's quality, reliability and smoothness of the controls, so there's a lot that we like... + More »
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April 15, 2015
For 2014 Honda Pilot

Solid SUV for the city and country drives!

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The Pilot is a super reliable and good overall SUV. Model I got was the EX-L w/ Navigation. Wished I got the 4WD option as the FWD leaves a lot to be desired when cornering & accelerating. Real time traffic... + More »
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Styling 7.0
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Safety 8.0
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