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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
“ample power and fine throttle response”
“transmission never made a harsh shift”
“engine can run on either three, four, or all six cylinders”
The 2009 Honda Pilot handles well and has good power, but a little torque steer was noted by reviewers from sources around the Internet.
The only engine and transmission combination available in the 2009 Honda Pilot is a 3.5-liter V-6 with 250 hp, teamed to a five-speed automatic. “With as much as 4,600 pounds to motivate," Automobile says, “Honda figures you'll need something useful from under the hood.” However, the Pilot’s “power arrives a little farther around the tachometer dial than you'd like, and since there are only five speeds in the transmission with which to find it, you have to work the throttle pedal kind of hard to get there.” Motor Trend agrees that power “peaks at a somewhat heady 4800 rpm,” while ConsumerGuide reports that the engine “has ample power and fine throttle response in both city and highway driving.” USAToday thinks the “engine sounds sweet when spurred and has a jump-and-run persona.” Automobile adds that the Pilot’s V-6 has “VCM (variable cylinder management),” which means “the engine can run on either three, four, or all six cylinders, depending on how much power is needed.”
The five-speed automatic transmission in the 2009 Honda Pilot “is smooth and responsive,” ConsumerGuide continues, “but occasionally hunts for the ideal gear.” The Detroit News feels “the transmission seemed to find its gears smoothly under heavy acceleration.” Cars.com reports that “during the entirety of my drive, the transmission never made a harsh shift and always seemed to be in the right gear,” while USAToday notes that “the only hiccup was a jolt when it shifted simultaneously with cylinders shutting off or kicking in.”
Fuel economy in the 2009 Honda Pilot is good for a vehicle of its size; according to the EPA, the front-drive Honda Pilot gets 17/23 mpg, and all-wheel-drive Pilots get 16/22 mpg. The improvement from the previous Pilot is notable, but testers, including USAToday, “managed only about 15 to 19 miles per gallon in various uses — typical but not exceptional for midsize crossover SUVs.”
While it handles well, the 2009 Honda Pilot has some torque steer, and in general, “It's still no [Acura] MDX,” Motor Trend says, though they approve of the new Pilot’s “even more surefooted demeanor and improved ride.” The Pilot “never loses its composure,” ConsumerGuide reports, while USAToday says its “steering stayed on-center nicely and was properly responsive upon command.” However, the paper found that the Pilot’s “ride was an odd mix of accommodating smoothness on most surfaces but jerky harshness on slow bumps.” USAToday does add that “the handling that's important to most people most of the time—maneuvering in tight spots and parking in crowded lots—was excellent because of a compact turning circle and good visibility.” Cars.com says the “Pilot managed to impress on the ride and handling front,” though “steering feel is a little vague when turning the wheel left or right from the straight-ahead position.”
Towing is relatively easy with the 2009 Honda Pilot; it offers tow ratings of 3,500 pounds for front-drive models and 4,500 pounds for all-wheel-drive models. There’s a standard “integrated Class III hitch and heavy-duty cooling packages,” Motor Trend says. The all-wheel-drive system doesn’t have a low range, but Honda’s system acts like a locking differential, they note. It also can “impart a more confident feel in rain or snow conditions.” Edmunds adds that it’s “exquisitely simple and completely affordable, if not exactly trail-rated.”
With the 2009 Pilot, Honda has improved handling and boosted power, though its ride can be a little choppy.