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The Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot are both solid choices for the three-row midsize SUV segment. They are spacious, provide a smooth ride, and offer a long list of standard and available features. However, the 2023 Ford Explorer is better than the 2023 Honda Pilot in one huge way: superior performance with its more powerful engine options.

2023 Ford Explorer delivers better performance than the 2023 Honda Pilot

Red 2023 Ford Explorer midsize SUV driving over a bridge
2023 Ford Explorer | Ford

For midsize SUV drivers that desire plenty of power for their journeys, the 2023 Ford Explorer is the way to go. It delivers better performance than the 2023 Honda Pilot with its potent engine options. All of the engines in the Explorer lineup are more powerful than anything that the Pilot offers — even the base-level one.

The base-level turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine generates 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. And for an even more powerful driving experience, the available twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 churns out 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. The Explorer also offers a 3.6-liter V-6 hybrid variant, which has a total system output of 318 horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque.

For the Pilot, there’s just one engine option: a 3.5-liter V-6. It produces only 285 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque.

2023 Explorer has quicker acceleration and higher gas mileage than the 2023 Pilot

Rear angle view of blue 2023 Honda Pilot midsize SUV
2023 Honda Pilot | Honda

In addition to generating more power, the engines for the 2023 Ford Explorer provide other benefits over the 2023 Honda Pilot. This includes quicker acceleration for the midsize SUV. The Explorer completes the 0-60 mph sprint in as low as 5.2 seconds, compared to 6.0 seconds for the Pilot.

Also, the Explorer can tow a heavier load. It has a maximum towing capacity of 5,600 pounds, while the Pilot tops out at 5,000 pounds. 

Furthermore, the Explorer is more efficient — especially for the hybrid powertrain. Typically, more powerful engines translate to lower efficiency, but the Explorer provides higher gas mileage than the Pilot. The hybrid variant has an estimated fuel economy of up to 27 combined mpg, while the fully gas-powered model gets up to 24 combined mpg. In comparison, the Pilot has an estimated gas mileage of up to 22 combined mpg. 

Other strengths of the Ford Explorer over the Honda Pilot

There are other strengths the 2023 Explorer has over the 2023 Pilot for midsize SUV drivers. This includes off-road use and driving in challenging weather conditions. This is due to the Explorer’s more advanced four-wheel drive system, compared to the more basic all-wheel drive setup for the Pilot. Also, the Explorer has higher ground clearance than the Pilot (up to 8.7 vs. 8.3 inches). Plus, the more powerful engines, especially with the higher torque delivery, aid off-road use as well. 

Additionally, both midsize SUVs have off-road models — with the Explorer Timberline and the Pilot TrailSport. However, the Timberline is much more capable for driving on rugged terrain compared to the TrailSport. 

Also, the Explorer has a history of being safer than the Pilot. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently awarded the 2023 Explorer with a Top Safety Pick award. While the 2023 Pilot hasn’t yet completed its evaluations with IIHS, for the previous model year, it didn’t get a safety award from IIHS — due to its subpar showing in crash tests. 

However, the biggest way that the 2023 Ford Explorer is better than the 2023 Honda Pilot is with its more powerful engine options. For midsize SUV shoppers deciding between the two models, the superior performance is an important consideration.

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