’19 Honda Pilot adds 9-speed smoothness

The Honda Pilot performed well during rainy afternoon. (Bud Wells photo)
The Honda Pilot performed well during rainy afternoon. (Bud Wells photo)

Oh, so refined, is the Honda Pilot, which has been refreshed for the 2019 model year.

While others in the crowded SUV/crossover field continue to tweak offroad capabilities, get a charge through turbo power and borrow hybrid gas/electric technology from their sedan fleets, Honda sticks with its smooth-operating I-VTM4 all-wheel-drive system, enhanced with the addition of a 9-speed automatic transmission. Minor changes have been made to the Pilot’s front and rear fascias and taillights.

There is nothing extraordinary about its appearance, other than the exterior color on the review model. It looked black, maybe dark blue, then in a bright sun it turns sparkling green (steel sapphire, Honda calls it). A short hood adds to roominess in the three-row crossover.

I concluded my time with the new Pilot in a drive through the foothills west of town; it corners well, with little body roll from its tall and wide body.

Mated to the new 9-speed is a 3.5-liter VTEC V-6 engine with variable cylinder management, 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. Performance is decent, especially in Sport mode, which shifts at higher rpm and tightens steering feel. Momentary delay in shifts occurs occasionally at low speeds with the 9-speed tranny. A 6-speed automatic is standard in lesser-equipped trim levels, which include the LX EX and EX-L, while the Touring and Elite get the 9-speed. The review model is an Elite.

The Pilot is on a wheelbase of 111 inches, with overall length of 196.5 inches and curb weight of 4,319 pounds. Those are 2 inches longer in wheelbase and 5 longer overall than the Pilot of five years ago, yet the ’19 version has shed almost 250 pounds.

With the 3.5 engine and 9-speed, the midsize Pilot earns an EPA fuel estimate of 19/26 miles per gallon; my overall average was 21.2. With the Pilot AWD models, tow capacity is 5,000 pounds.

Now standard on all Pilot models are Honda Sensing safety systems, including forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist.

The Pilot, built in Lincoln, Ala., competes with the Toyota Highlander and 4Runner, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, Chevy Traverse, Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas, Nissan Pathfinder and others.

As the sale of Honda sedans Accord and Civic have been in a steady decline, the Pilot this year has seen its sales soar. The Pilot’s nine-month totals for this year have surpassed those of the Toyota 4Runner, which the Pilot trailed a year ago.

A high step-in height is required to reach the Pilot’s very-firm front seats. Between the seats in the center console is a large storage bin with sliding cover; at the front of the console is a smartphone charging pad. Between the second-row bucket seats is another center console; with the touch of a button, the second row seats will slide forward for entry into the third row, which is one of the roomiest on the market.

Cargo space behind the third row is 16.5 cubic feet. The hands-free power liftgate can be opened with the swing of a foot beneath the rear bumper.

Adding all the goodies, sticker price on the Pilot Elite is $49,015.