2009 Honda Pilot

Consumer Reviews
1 Review
The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
May 30, 2008

Buying tip

The 2009 Honda Pilot could be in short supply for months to come, as new Hondas are popular even in slow selling months. You could do very well to buy last year’s model, which TheCarConnection.com believes has superior styling, good fuel economy and handling, and a proven history of reliability and crash-test performance.

features & specs

2WD 4-Door EX
2WD 4-Door EX-L
2WD 4-Door EX-L w/RES
17 city / 23 hwy
17 city / 23 hwy
17 city / 23 hwy

The 2009 Honda Pilot looks more SUV-like in its second edition, but it has the room of a minivan, along with some notable styling miscues and expensive choices to make from the options list.

Car experts at TheCarConnection.com read reviews from reputable Web sites to compile this conclusive review of the new 2009 Honda Pilot. TheCarConnection.com's editors also drove the new Honda Pilot to assess which reviews are accurate and dependable, to add detail to them where needed, and to explain the differences in reviews so that you can decide if the new 2009 Honda Pilot is the right vehicle for you.

The 2009 Honda Pilot strikes out in a new direction in terms of styling. While it’s still a big crossover with three rows of seating, the Pilot has abandoned the delicate, feminine shape it once had in favor of big, squared-off corners and an ungainly grille that strikes fear in the hearts of tastemakers across the Web. Inside it’s still functional, but there are dozens of dash buttons to confuse first-time drivers.

The engine in the 2009 Honda Pilot is a 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. Teamed with a smooth-shifting five-speed automatic, the Pilot is no lightning chariot, but it’s reasonably powerful, and the combination is sweet to hear and feel. The engine also can disable some cylinders to increase fuel economy, though the Pilot is still middle of the pack when it comes to gas mileage. Handling is good, though with noticeable torque steer and the occasional harsh jounce from its suspension. All-wheel drive is an option, and it works best in foul weather, not off-road.

Inside its boxy bod, the 2009 Honda Pilot has better room for adults in all three rows. Front seats are comfortable; the second-row seats slide to and fro for more legroom, and fold out of the way for access to the third-row seat. The “way-back” seat now has enough room for two adults, some sources say—though TheCarConnection.com’s editors found head- and legroom at a premium. The Pilot’s interior gets new plastics and fabrics that seem to take a distinct step backward from the previous version, but storage is a high point, and the Pilot bristles with cubbies, bins, and places to hide things as large as a purse or a laptop.

Review continues below

The 2009 Honda Pilot hasn’t been crash tested yet, but it includes all the latest safety features as standard equipment. Visibility is an issue, what with the thicker shape and wider roof pillars.

The features offered on the 2009 Honda Pilot are as advanced as those in minivans: DVD entertainment systems, navigation systems, Bluetooth, and iPod integration. However, Honda bundles many features into the most expensive models, leaving budget-minded shoppers at a loss for certain items.


2009 Honda Pilot


The 2009 Honda Pilot takes a new direction in styling, with a cumbersome grille and a dash with too many buttons.

The 2009 Honda Pilot has a thicker body with a much more prominent--and controversial, according to reviews from across the Web--grille.

The 2009 Honda Pilot, Automobile reports, “looks like a more muscular caricature of its predecessor, with enormous headlights, a menacing grille, and thick C-pillars.” The transformation from the previous Pilot is complete; while the 2008 model looked lean and vanlike, the 2009 Honda Pilot “tries hard to look more like a utility and less like a minivan,” Edmunds says. They call the look “bluff and hearty, like an American wearing a simple white T-shirt,” but point out its “self-consciously truck-style grille that strikes the same note of authenticity as a sumo wrestler wearing a belt buckle from the Salinas Rodeo.”

The grille on the 2009 Honda Pilot is a lightning rod for critics. USAToday thinks the Pilot is “not swoopy and sexy like the CX-9, nor graceful like the GM's GMC/Saturn models,” in part because of its “big, ugly grille—a visual sore point.” They also refer to the Pilot’s proportions as “off a bit,” though Cars.com thinks there are some “interesting angles in the liftgate near the taillamps.” Car and Driver says, “there are more right angles on the thing than you’ll find in a T-square factory.”

In the end, most reviewers found the Pilot “boxy-looking (and, to my eye, stodgy),” BusinessWeek reports. “The new model looks more friendly than tough,” the Detroit News adds. “None of its edges are sharp; instead, it's soft and curvy.”

The 2009 Honda Pilot’s interior is radically changed from the previous car as well, and it’s not entirely successful. “The interior is the biggest upgrade for the 2009 Pilot,” Automobile says. “The instrument cluster is especially cool, with black numbers floating on a transparent surface and orange needles below.” Motor Trend thinks its “3D-look analog gauges” are “highly legible,” but its “center stack layout [is] a trifle busy, especially in Touring trim.” Cars.com notes the “new dash” and its “white-faced gauges and translucent turquoise trim,” and thinks “the design works well.” The Detroit News observes that the “center stack, when the navigation system is included, becomes a confusing mess of buttons, switches and knobs.”

Review continues below

2009 Honda Pilot


With the 2009 Pilot, Honda has improved handling and boosted power, though its ride can be a little choppy.

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.”

Review continues below

2009 Honda Pilot

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Honda Pilot has more room and an adult-sized third row, but some interior trim is of lesser quality.

When it comes to interior space, professional car reviewers found a usable third-row seat and good adult-sized room in the 2009 Honda Pilot. Interior quality, though, has slipped a bit.

In the 2009 Pilot, Honda “added 2.9 inches to the length and wheelbase, made it 1.0 inch wider and nearly an inch taller,” Motor Trend reports. “Collectively, the changes upped cabin volume by 4.1 cubic feet.”

“Inside, this ground-bound space ship offers better accommodations across the board,” Motor Trend reports. “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 also gets “a steering column that now tilts and telescopes,” they note. Cars.com says the “front bucket seats have moderately firm cushioning that proved comfortable.”

The Detroit News says, “The second row felt spacious and the front offered lots of room,” and Motor Trend notes that it “retains 3.0 inches of basic fore/aft adjustability.” USAToday thinks the “second row slides fore-aft and has good leg and knee space,” but thought that the seat’s folding features were “a bit stiff to operate.”

“Honda has also managed to carve out an adult-size space” in the third row, Edmunds says, “by raising the hip point of the seat itself, so there are 1.9 inches more legroom and a far more comfortable seating position.” The Detroit News also finds enough space in the way-back seat: “As a full-size adult, I could climb back into the third row with little hassle and fit comfortably there.” Motor Trend agrees; “Still best for a trio of younger folk, the innermost sanctum now truly is capable of carrying two average adults in reasonable comfort,” they write. Cars.com feels it’s “still on the small side for adults.” The third-row seat folds completely into the floor of the Pilot, sources add.

Storage inside the 2009 Honda Pilot is made easy with two rows of folding seats in back, and numerous storage bins, along with the cargo area behind the third-row seat. In eight-seat configuration, the Pilot still has “class-leading 20.8 cubic feet of rear stow room, including a 2.8-cubic-foot concealed underfloor bin,” Cars.com says, and “47.7/87.0 cubic feet with one or both back rows flopped.” There’s space enough “for a couple golf bags or a folded stroller behind the 3rd row,” ConsumerGuide promises, and there’s also “ample small-items storage includes a versatile front console, two-tier front-seatback pouches, and plenty of compartments and cubbies.”

Quality construction is still a hallmark of the 2009 Honda Pilot, but some trim pieces are noticeably cheaper than in the past. Cars.com noticed “an uncharacteristic-for-Honda exposed cutline in one of the dash pieces and a slightly misaligned trim piece on the instrument panel hood.” They also pointed out the dash plastic is “hard to the touch, which is unusual considering that many automakers are using soft-touch materials in cabin designs.” ConsumerGuide also notes the “abundance of hard plastic trim.” Automobile thinks that “its thick-rimmed steering wheel and supportive seats make the Toyota [Highlander]'s cockpit feel cheap by comparison.”

Review continues below

2009 Honda Pilot


There’s plenty of standard safety gear on the 2009 Honda Pilot, but it has not been crash tested.

The 2009 Honda Pilot is fitted with a long list of standard safety equipment. To date, the Pilot has not been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The 2009 Honda Pilot’s standard safety gear includes “antilock brakes, an electronic stability system, side-impact airbags for the front seats, three-row side curtain airbags, and active head restraints for the front seats,” Cars.com says. It also offers Brake Assist, which the Detroit News says “uses a computer to determine if the driver is slamming on the brakes and then increases brake pressure electronically to help provide maximum stopping power.”
A backup camera is standard on the 2009 Honda Pilot EX-L and Touring models, Cars.com adds. On models without navigation, the available rearview camera projects an image into “a small screen on the inside rearview mirror,” USAToday says. “Never did seem as intuitive as the big-screen backup image…Better than no rearview display, but inferior to the big fella.”

Visibility is a bigger issue with the larger 2009 Honda Pilot. “Thick rear roof pillars block the driver's view to the rear corners,” ConsumerGuide observes, “but large windows and typically tall SUV driving stance mean good visibility otherwise.” USAToday adds that “the high hood line that accommodates the big grille makes it hard to see where the path goes when cresting an off-pavement hill.”


2009 Honda Pilot


The 2009 Honda Pilot has an extensive list of features, but many are only offered on the most expensive model.

Features galore are standard on the 2009 Honda Pilot; options include some of the latest high-tech equipment, but many are available only on the most expensive models.

The Detroit News reports that standard features on the 2009 Honda Pilot include "a flip-up glass hatch on the back door; integrated tow hitch; hill start assist; four car-seat latches,” as well as a “tilt and telescopic steering wheel.” Motor Trend adds that the Pilot has a “superbly redesigned center console that provides twice the capacity of any competitor's, multiple bins, supersize cupholders, [and] 12V powerpoints.”

However, many sources note that Bluetooth, a power tailgate, and navigation systems are only available on the most expensive EX-L and Touring models. Cars.com lays out the case against Honda’s packaging of options: “Rather than being optional equipment that you can add to any trim level, many popular features are limited to more expensive trims.” Features like a power moonroof and a DVD entertainment system are “only available on the top two trims, EX-L and Touring.” The Touring model is also the only Pilot that gets a USB port that teams up with Apple’s iPod to integrate your music library with the crossover’s sound system.

“While this feature-allocation strategy may be fine for buyers looking for a higher-end Pilot,” Cars.com adds, “it doesn't serve budget-minded buyers who aren't eager to step up to a higher trim level just to get one feature they're interested in.” BusinessWeek points out that the Touring edition “will sell for about $40,000, making it the most expensive Pilot ever.”

Review continues below
Continue Reading

The Car Connection Consumer Review

1 Review
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
Rate and Review your car for The Car Connection! Tell us your own ratings for a vehicle you own. Rate your car on Performance, Safety, Features and more.
Write a Review
April 19, 2015
For 2009 Honda Pilot

Comfortable, reliable and practical

  • Overall Rating
  • Styling
  • Performance
  • Comfort & Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy
  • Reliability
My pilot has been very reliable and has done everything I needed it to do. It is roomy and comfortable. It has great safety features and digital interface. The navi has been very useful. Overall it has been a... + More »
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
$6,995 - $13,990
Browse Used Listings
in your area
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 9
Features 8
Fuel Economy N/A
Compare the 2009 Honda Pilot against the competition
  • 2009 Ford Flex

    Compare Cars
  • 2008 Toyota Highlander

    Compare Cars
Compare All Cars
Looking for a different year of the Honda Pilot?
Read reviews & get prices
Related Used Listings
Browse used listings in your area
See More Used
The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from The Car Connection. I understand that I can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.