Every three-row crossover is geared toward family use, but the 2019 Honda Pilot generally goes a few steps further than most. For starters, it manages to squeeze more interior space out of a smaller, more manageable exterior size. Full-sized adults and teenagers can actually fit in all three rows, while the cargo area is large, boxy and versatile. The lives of parents are also made easier thanks to thoughtful storage solutions throughout, while plenty of kid-friendly features reside in the back like USB ports, multiple cupholders and seat-back pockets for smartphones. There's also the matter of strong safety credentials and residual values, and Honda's reliability reputation.
In other words, buying a Pilot would be a very sensible choice. Admittedly, however, it's not the most exciting one. The new Kia Telluride has garnered plenty of attention for its style and luxurious interior while being even more spacious than the Pilot. The Mazda CX-9 certainly isn't as spacious, but its sharp handling, driver-oriented focus and sleek design should be particularly appealing to those transitioning to a big family vehicle from something smaller and sporty. The new Ford Explorer also boasts massive space and impressive performance figures.
So, as you've probably already noticed, there's no shortage of three-row crossover choices. But because of its overt family friendliness and several smart updates for 2019, the Honda Pilot remains a must-drive for those shopping in this segment.
What's new with Pilot for 2019?The Pilot receives its first significant update since being redesigned three years ago. Although the styling changes a bit, you'll be forgiven for not noticing. Instead, those considering the top two trim levels should appreciate the improved (though hardly perfect) nine-speed automatic transmission. The touchscreen infotainment system standard on all but the LX has also been updated with a new UI and a volume knob, but lacks the physical menu buttons and other improvements you'll find on the Accord and Odyssey. The Honda Sensing suite of accident avoidance tech is also now standard on every Pilot.
Finally, it's also worth noting that there's basically now a two-row Pilot available: the 2019 Honda Passport.
What's the Pilot's interior and in-car technology like?We wouldn't call the Pilot's cabin the most stylish out there, but it sure is well-made and functional. There are bins everywhere up front, including a giant center bin that's big enough to hide a purse or other valuables. Better still, its flat rolling cover provides extra storage since it doesn't need to serve double duty as an armrest (there are minivan-style rests attached to each front seat). There are also multiple tiers of bins on the doors and in the center stack.
Technology isn't as well executed. Yes, there are plenty of included features on everything save the more basic LX, but the touchscreen that controls them can frustrate. Adding a new UI with quicker responses and a volume knob for 2019 is welcome, but many other flaws remain: insufficient menu buttons, no tuning knob and/or direct tune function, and an excessive process for going between Honda and Apple/Android interfaces are just some of the annoyances. Many of these issues were corrected for the vastly improved system in the Accord and Odyssey, but the Pilot and Passport stick with an imperfect old/new hybrid. If there's a reason to ponder something other than the Pilot, this would certainly be it.
How big is the Honda Pilot?Honda did an exceptional job of getting the most interior space out of the Pilot as possible. While its exterior dimensions are some of the smallest in the segment, its interior is among the roomiest and most functional. Second-row space is typically generous, while the third row has enough leg- and headroom for full-size adults and teenagers to fit quite comfortably. It's also pretty boxy back there, so you shouldn't feel too claustrophobic in the way-back.
Cargo capacity is also quite good, though ultimately not as generous as a Kia Telluride, 2020 Ford Explorer or Subaru Ascent. This is particularly noticeable behind the raised third row. You may be able to fit an extra bag back there in one of its rivals, but in general, the Pilot holds a ton of stuff without feeling especially huge and unwieldy behind the wheel.
What's the Pilot's performance and fuel economy?Every 2019 Pilot comes with the same engine: a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is also standard on all trims but the Elite, which comes standard with the advanced torque-vectoring i-VTM4 all-wheel-drive system that's optional on all other trims.
The LX, EX and EX-L get a six-speed automatic, which helps return 19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined with FWD. That lowers to 18/26/21 with AWD. The Touring and Elite trims get a nine-speed automatic, which we've found to be less refined than the six-speed. Its fuel economy is nearly the same, too, at 20/27/23 with FWD and 19/26/22 with AWD.