Is the Honda Pilot a Budget Acura MDX?

Many drivers choose the Honda Pilot for the promise of comfort and convenience. You may even want to consider the Pilot’s fancy cousin, the Acura MDX. Both of these midsize SUVs provide comparable experiences, but can the Pilot really be a budget MDX?

Driving the 2020 Honda Pilot vs. the 2020 Acura MDX 

A blue Honda Pilot SUV outdoors.
Honda Pilot | Honda

Neither the Pilot nor the MDX stands out in the respective classes for sportiness. People typically enjoy the Pilot and the MDX for the same things performance-wise: satisfying power and smoothness. The Pilot comes standard with a 280-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine linked to a six-speed automatic. On the upper-level trims, the Pilot gets a nine-speed automatic. 

Along with its power, you’ll appreciate the Pilot for its composure. It’s also an OK choice for fuel economy. Standard models with front-wheel drive get up to 23 mpg overall; all-wheel-drive sacrifices a point. 

A gray 2020 MDX on the Track
2020 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

The MDX has the same V6 that the Pilot does, and it comes with a nine-speed auto. However, the MDX gives you 10 more horses. That may not seem like a lot, but the MDX provides a noticeably, quicker driving experience. Also, like the Pilot, the MDX has decent fuel economy ratings for its size. One significant difference here is that the MDX is available as a hybrid.; the Pilot is not. 

Comparing car cabins 

2020 Honda Pilot Elite center console
2020 Honda Pilot Elite center console | Honda

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You’ll find a lot to like about the Pilot and the MDX on the inside too. The two offer plenty of space for people and cargo. In its standard configuration, the Pilot can carry up to eight people and has cloth upholstery. You can upgrade your Pilot with amenities such as leather and heated and cooled front seats.

Of course, the MDX comes with more frills. This luxury SUV can carry up to seven and comes with leather and heated front seats. As U.S. News highlights, the MDX offers helpful features such as the One-Touch Smart Slide Walk-In, which folds the second-row down by clicking a button. Furthermore, the MDX presents other amenities, like upgraded leather. 

Dash area of the 2020 MDX with brown leather.
2020 Acura MDX interior | Acura

The Pilot and the MDX have similar active safety features, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assistance, and road departure mitigation. However, standard infotainment features are another story. The Pilot is pretty blah in this department, with its most notable standard features being a 5-inch display screen and Bluetooth.

Standard infotainment gadgets for the MDX include a dual-screen setup, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. You would have to upgrade to the Pilot’s 8-inch touchscreen to get these smartphone integration apps. Although, the Pilot’s upgraded infotainment system is more user-friendly than what the MDX has. 

So, is it fair to say that the Pilot is a budget MDX?

Red 2020 Acura MDX PMC Edition
2020 Acura MDX PMC Edition | Acura

It’s pretty fair to say that the Pilot is a budget-friendlier MDX. The Pilot may not have the same sleek style that the MDX does, but it offers a very similar driving experience and interior features. Thus, many drivers don’t feel that the MDX is worth the nearly $13K price increase.

2020 Honda Pilot Elite front view
2020 Honda Pilot Elite | Honda

The suggested MSRP range for the 2020 Pilot is $31,650 – $49,720 and the 2020 MDX’s is $44,500 – $61,750. Local dealers are offering attractive incentives on both models as the 2020 model ends. You might also be interested in the 2021 Pilot because it comes with more in-car tech, and the upcoming MDX is completely redesigned