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Auto experts and consumers sometimes don’t agree, as is the case with the 2023 Honda Pilot trims. Four notable car critics recommend the EX-L and TrailSport trims. However, consumers pick the top-tier Elite. That raises the question: What’s behind the disconnect?

A look at the 2023 Honda Pilot trims

The 2023 Honda Pilot offers six trim levels. All have a 3.5-liter V6 engine making 285 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque, paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Here’s the lineup, in order of Honda’s listed starting prices:

  • LX, $36,300
  • Sport, $39,500
  • EX-L, $42,300
  • Touring, $46,800
  • TrailSport, $48,700
  • Elite, $52,380

All trims except the TrailSport and Elite have two-wheel-drive with a 3,500-pound towing capacity but optional all-wheel drive with a 5,000-pound towing capacity. The TrailSport and Elite come standard with AWD and a 5,000-pound towing capacity.

The EX-L through the range-topping Elite provide more features than the two lowest trims. But the EX-L is the only one that offers optional second-row captain’s chairs, reducing the overall passenger capacity from eight to seven. In addition, the TrailSport doesn’t provide the option to seat eight.

The Elite is the pinnacle of Pilot’s technology and luxury. With this top-tier trim, shoppers get AWD, a TrailWatch multicamera system, rain-sensing wipers, and auto-dimming side mirrors. This SUV also provides ventilated seats, a head-up display, and a larger 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster.

A red 2023 Honda Pilot Elite midsize SUV parked on a mountain road amid pine trees in the rain
2023 Honda Pilot Elite | American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Car and Driver, Edmunds, and MotorTrend recommend the 2023 Honda Pilot EX-L trim, while Autotrader prefers the EX-L or the TrailSport. Despite experts’ preferences, the most popular trim is the range-topping Elite, according to Edmunds.

With a starting price over $50,000, the Elite is fully loaded with amenities and tech features. It comes standard with AWD, seven driving modes, and a TrailWatch camera system with a 360-degree view.

In addition, Pilot Elite boasts a dual chrome exhaust, a four-door keyless entry system, an acoustic windshield, and a stowaway second-row middle seat. Plus, it has heated second-row seats and a ventilated front row. Other features in the Elite are a head-up display, LED door trim lighting, and a 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster. 

Why do experts prefer the EX-L and TrailSport?

A blue 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport SUV parked on a red rocks in front of mountains on a cloudy day
2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport | American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Car and Driver reviewers rave about the 2023 Honda Pilot EX-L’s balance of price and features. The EX-L adds leather seats, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, a larger 9.0-inch screen, and optional AWD that provides extra towing capacity.

Edmunds praises the EX-L because it offers much more than the Sport. It also notes that the new TrailSport trim is ideal for adventurers because of its higher ground clearance, standard AWD, and off-road features.

MotorTrend says the TrailSport is tempting at a starting price of $48,700. MT mentions that users who don’t need the off-road capability are better off with the EX-L because of its better fuel economy.

However, Autotrader recommends the EX-L for drivers who don’t want high-end audio or luxury features because of its versatility and smoother ride.

Consumers and critics don’t agree on the best 2023 Honda Pilot trim. Experts think the mid-range trims are excellent, while buyers prefer the top-tier Elite. The disconnect between the opinions could come from differing priorities. While experts focus on factors like capabilities, performance, and technology, many consumers interested in the 2023 Honda Pilot prioritize the user experience, including high-end comfort and convenience features.


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