That’s right. There’s only one Honda Pilot model year that Consumer Reports recommends. It earned the CR Recommended designation thanks to some strengths that impressed reviewers. So if you’re looking for a new three-row SUV, there’s a chance the 2021 Pilot‘s same strengths might entice you, too.
The 2021 Honda Pilot at a glance
The 2021 Honda Pilot offers the reliability and utility you’d expect from an SUV in its class. It’s well-powered with a 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque and a nine-speed automatic transmission. It gets a decent estimated 20/27 mpg city/highway on the standard front-wheel-drive version. It handles very well for a midsize crossover, thanks in part to a solid, well-tuned suspension. And if you need to tow, the FWD Pilot can handle 3,500 pounds, while the AWD version can handle up to 5,000 pounds.
The Pilot also comes with a generous amount of cargo and passenger capacity. There’s storage space in a covered bin between the front seats, bins by the cup holders, storage space in each door, and more. You also get 16.5 cubic feet of storage behind the third row. Need more? Drop the back row for 46.8 cubic feet or both the second and third rows for 83.8 cubic feet. You should have all the space you need for luggage, equipment, and most other routine hauling needs.
Technology options are a little lacking, starting with a minuscule 5.0-inch touchscreen. The controls, however, are easy to use, and display size upgrades are available on higher-level trims. The seven-speaker audio system is nice, as is the standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. And dual-zone automatic climate control comes standard across trims.
The Honda Pilot’s CR Recommended distinction
You can find many of the features Consumer Reports‘ reviewers praised on all 2021 Honda Pilot trims, starting with the base-model LX. They include a quiet and smooth engine, comfort, and a few advanced safety features. For other praiseworthy perks, you’ll have to upgrade to a higher trim level.
The Pilot EX-L comes with a power tailgate and sunroof, along with a garage door opener, leather upholstery, and a power front passenger seat. With the Special Edition, the liftgate comes hands-free, and your wheels grow from the standard 18 inches to 20.
The Pilot Touring also sits on 20-inch wheels and comes with front and rear parking sensors and LED headlights. Further, the Touring boasts built-in navigation, a 10.2-inch touchscreen, a 10-speaker sound system, wireless charging, and a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Toward the top of the line is the Honda Pilot Elite, with a dual-pane glass roof, AWD, and ventilated front seats.
And at the very top sits the Honda Pilot Black Edition, including black exterior and interior styling, along with all the lower-level trims’ amenities.
Consumer Reports’ reviewers note the interior features and amenities as a high point. They also note the eight-passenger capacity available on the EX and EX-L trims and base-model LX. And on the EX-L (and higher trims), they praise the one-touch control for folding the second row, along with navigation and rear-seat entertainment available for most trims.
Earlier model years
Despite the CR Recommended distinction, the difference between the 2021 model and earlier versions isn’t substantial. The only differences between the 2021 and 2020 models are the Special Edition’s features, the standard nine-speed automatic transmission replacing the six-speed transmission on lower trims, and exterior color choices.
Year after year, the Honda Pilot has retained the core features that make it a solid family-friendly SUV, with upscale trims that can add a touch of luxury to this otherwise utilitarian segment. There’s likely no other reason the 2020 or 2019 Honda Pilot didn’t receive the CR Recommended distinction other than a crowded field of impressive vehicles and reviewer tastes.
However, regardless of Consumer Reports’ recommendation, the Honda Pilot has provided solid performance, excellent comfort, bountiful amenities, and ample cargo and cabin space for several years. Though Consumer Reports is now touting the 2021 model, you’d do just as well to grab a deal on a 2020 or 2019 Pilot considering their relatively minor differences from this year’s model.