While a few car companies have struggled with the market shift toward SUVs, Honda has not had much of a problem. Its CR-V is one of the best-selling vehicles (No. 6 through August 2018) on the market, and a refreshed HR-V should bolster the automaker’s position in small crossovers.
Looking at the larger models, Honda will look to capitalize on the success of the Pilot. This midsize, three-row SUV has been one of the vehicles owners kept the longest over the past decade, and for the new model year the automaker simply went about upgrading various elements.
As the 2019 Pilot arrives at — and quickly departs from — dealerships across the country, here’s everything you need to know about it.
1. Powertrain refinements
All Pilots continue running on the 3.5-liter V6 engine capable of 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. From the base LX ($31,450) through the many versions of the EX ($34,330), the program starts with front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. Upgrading to all-wheel drive (AWD) costs $1,900 on both models.
In the Pilot Touring ($42,520) and Elite ($48,020) trims, buyers get an automatic nine-speed transmission. This system, which uses polarizing push-buttons for gear changes, got new tuning for 2019. Honda said the system will shift automatically into second gear for a smoother launch in certain conditions (something the 2019 Acura MDX got as well).
Otherwise, the Idle Stop function found in several late-model SUVs also got reworked to avoid clumsy restarts in heavy traffic.
2. Styling updates
While you may not notice the styling changes at first glance, there are several things to note that are new in the 2019 Pilot. The list includes a redone front fascia with standard LED lights, a new bumper, and chrome accents below the fog lights and on the rear bumper.
Meanwhile, the grille got reworked as well with chrome on the top end and a single bar crossing under the Honda emblem. Out back, new tail-lights and LED backup lamps lead the way, while a hands-free tailgate becomes available for the first time.
Finally, new 20-inch wheels on Touring and Elite models aim to enhance the look of what’s a fairly conservative SUV. Honda pushed for “aggressive” with these style changes, so you can be the judge of whether the designers succeeded (or whether it matters at all).
3. Safety tech
There are clear improvements in the new Pilot’s safety tech. For 2019, the Honda Sensing suite comes standard in all models. That includes collision-mitigation braking, forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control.
Meanwhile, the blind-spot information system once reserved only for the Elite trim comes standard on the EX and Touring. The Rear Cross-Traffic Monitor also comes to EX models for the first time. (EX models look even more like the best buy with these additions.)
The added standard safety tech moved Pilot from a Top Safety Pick for 2018 to a Top Safety Pick+ for 2019. So far, only the Pilot and Kia Sorento landed this award for the upcoming model year. (The 2018 list was notably thin among SUVs.)
4. Interior comfort and tech
As for the interior, the refreshed Pilot got several upgrades. The changes begin with a new digital 7-inch instrument cluster controlled at the steering wheel. Meanwhile, a new 8-inch Display Audio (EX trims and up) controls the infotainment. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto remain standard, and you’ll find apps arranged like they are on a smartphone.
Otherwise, a new Rear Entertainment System (RES) on high trim models ($39,760 and up) is a highlight along with the 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, both available for the first time. The RES features a ceiling-mounted 10-inch screen that comes down (in vintage bus-style) to entertain passengers, and drivers can keep the ruckus it in the back with wireless headphones.
Meanwhile, wireless charging will be standard on Elite models and available from EX trims on up.
5. Fuel economy, crash test results
As there is no new engine or transmission in the 2019 Pilot, fuel economy quotes will remain the same. Front-wheel-drive models get 22 mpg combined, while all-wheel-drive models with the six-speed transmission achieved 21 mpg.
Models with front-wheel drive and the nine-speed auto transmission got the best figures of the bunch (23 mpg), and all-wheel-drive models also gain a tick (22 mpg) with the nine-speed.
Pilot once again aced every crash test except the passenger small overlap front (“acceptable”) and rated among the best in every other area except child-seat anchors (also “acceptable”).