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The Honda Pilot has been one of the most popular SUVs in the automaker’s lineup for a long time. However, the Honda Pilot SUV was a pioneer in many ways and paved the way for some of the biggest sellers of today. Find out how this sport utility vehicle evolved over the years to culminate in the 2023 Honda Pilot on the market today. Read more about the Honda Pilot history below, including how the various engines evolved in both horsepower and efficiency.

What is the Honda Pilot SUV known for?

The Honda Pilot is known for being the first three-row SUV developed on a unibody platform. Honda pioneered this move and set new standards for fuel-efficient SUVs that made better use of the interior space. On top of that, the Pilot had plenty of standard features that other automakers were not utilizing yet. Since its introduction in 2003, drivers purchased more than 2.3 million Pilot SUVs.

The first-generation Pilot was designed and developed in Raymond, Ohio, and Torrance, California. Honda wanted to use features commonly used in sport utility vehicles, like the high driver’s seat, versatility, and four-wheel drive, to make a better vehicle. Combined with Honda’s dependability, the Pilot was built to meet all of those stipulations from the ground up.

The famous 3.5L single-overhead-camshaft (SOHC) V6 combined with Honda’s VTEC system provided 240 hp and 242 lb-ft of torque. This was some of the best-in-class acceleration at the time and paved the way for similar vehicles. Honda built the Pilot in Alliston, Ontario, for the first generation.

The Honda Pilot SUV through the years

In 2004, Honda added second-row sliding seats to all trim levels. For the EX-L, heated mirrors and seats were included as standard features. The SUV also received the new Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System that covered 48 states. Back in 2004, this was big news. 2005 brought an upgraded SOHC V6 engine with 255 hp and a new Drive by Wire (DBW) Throttle System. Combined with a revised transmission, the Pilot’s driving range increased by more than 40 miles. 2006 saw a reduction in horsepower, down to 244. By the time 2008 rolled around, the Pilot received two new trim levels: Value Package (VP) enhanced LX and Special Edition (SE) enhanced EX.

The second-generation Honda Pilot SUV ran from 2009 through 2015. Honda totally redesigned the Pilot in 2009, adding new looks and a more comfortable ride. The automaker even added a new intake manifold that brought all-wheel drive models up to 250 hp. After that, Honda moved the Pilot production to the Honda Alabama Auto Plant.

2012 through 2015 found more streamlined exterior looks and more efficiency from the 3.5L V6. Honda added Bluetooth and a rearview camera in 2013, and a DVD Rear Entertainment System became an option the following year.

The Pilot earned an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety award in 2019

The Honda Pilot SUV in its first generation form
A 2003 Honda Pilot SUV | Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

When the third-generation Pilot hit the road in 2016, it received another major redesign. Honda focused on improving interior quality and adding more features on every trim level. This year, the Honda Sensing suite of safety features was added to the popular SUV. The following year brought the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keeping the Honda Pilot history up-to-date with modern technology.

Another light refresh worked its way into the 2019 SUV, bringing more standard safety features than ever before. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 2019 Honda Pilot SUV Top Safety Pick Plus. For the 2022 Pilot, Honda added the Sport and TrailSport trims, making the SUV more capable.

All of this led up to the 2023 Honda Pilot, now the biggest and most powerful SUV in the automaker’s history. It has more room for passengers and cargo than ever, and the new off-road-focused trims constitute a significant improvement. This year, the 3.5L DOHC engine gets 285 hp and is coupled with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Honda offers more trim levels and options than ever before, and the new Honda Performance Development (HPD) is a recent addition. For those who need an SUV that can do it all, the 2023 Honda Pilot SUV has a long history of reliability and dependability that drivers can trust.


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