Crossover & Midsize

Is the 2020 Honda Pilot a Better SUV Than the 2020 Ford Explorer?

Midsize SUVs offer drivers fuel-efficient motors, spacious accommodations, and a reasonable middle-ground price tag. There are a lot of high-performing cars in the segment to choose from. According to Consumer Reports, the best midsize SUV overall for 2019 is the Subaru Ascent. If you’re looking for a used SUV, a Honda Pilot is a great option for families.

The Ford Explorer has also been touted as an excellent family SUV. Between this one and the Honda Pilot, which midsize SUV is the better choice? In a recent comparison test from MotorTrend, the staff compared pretty much every element of the two. Here’s what they found.

About the Honda Pilot

For this test, MotorTrend used a fully-loaded Black Edition model. It comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine capable of 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a nine-speed transmission and comes equipped with all-wheel drive.

Critics have reported that the Honda Pilot isn’t as agile as its rivals, and its fuel economy ratings are only average. Inside, the Pilot has supportive seats, ample cargo capacity, and many standard safety features. It comes with many fancy tech features like wireless phone charging and a rear-seat infotainment system but only on higher trims.

About the Ford Explorer

The base XLT was used for this test, so it doesn’t have the available all-wheel drive. However, it gets an extra boost of power from the turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. It makes up to 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

The Explorer XLT only seats six instead of seven, but it offers more space for passengers to stretch their limbs. The Explorer also offers plenty of standard technology like a Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth, and smartphone integration. Many advanced safety features, like post-collision braking and blind-spot monitors, are also included.

Where the Honda Pilot shines

Testers found that the Honda Sensing suite offered the most safety features, all of which work well for their intended purposes. The Honda Pilot also has better safety scores from both the IIHS and the NHTSA. The MotorTrend crew also appreciated many minor details inside the Pilot and found its layout to be very organized.

The MotorTrend staff was impressed by the Honda Pilot’s powertrain. Judging from its specifications, it looks to be the weakest option of the two. However, it proved the opposite during real-world driving. Thanks to its retuned transmission, there was no delay between shifting gears. The Honda Pilot also offered the best steering and the strongest suspension.

Good points about the Ford Explorer

Testers found the Ford Explorer’s interior to be the best thing about the car. The seats are large and comfortable, even in the third row. They also liked that there’s plenty of cargo space even with all three rows folded up. For additional storage space, there’s a hidden compartment beneath the floor.

The Ford Explorer also has a more powerful engine and tow rating than the Honda Pilot. Despite this, the MotorTrend staff felt that it didn’t hold up well in real-world testing. They found driving the car to be a chore thanks to its unrefined engine and touchy brakes. They also felt the transmission was slower than the one in the Pilot.

Which one is better?

The Ford Explorer is the stronger option and has more standard features than the Honda Pilot. However, in terms of ride comfort, the Honda Pilot is miles ahead of the Explorer. The Pilot is also quicker than the Explorer despite its aged powertrain. If you’re looking for the smoothest drive, the 2020 Honda Pilot is clearly the best value.