2010 Honda Pilot Review and Prices

Last Updated: Aug 5, 2011

Pros

  • Hard to believe a tall box drives this well
  • Wonder-tech V-6
  • Superior room in a sensible size

Cons

  • Chest-hair styling does it a disservice
  • Nothing short of a Beechcraft Bonanza needs this many dashboard buttons
  • Few bumps in the road go unnoticed

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2010 Honda Pilot Buying Advice

The 2010 Honda Pilot is the best SUV for you if you want a midsize crossover that excels on the road -- and don’t mind one that strives too hard to look butch.

The 2010 Honda Pilot seats eight and delivers a topflight blend of performance, useful features, and value. The 2010 Pilot builds on a 2009 redesign that gave Honda’s biggest SUV new styling and a smidgen more cabin space than the 2003-2008 version. Pilot buyers like their amenities, and the most popular trim level is the leather-lined EX-L edition, which is priced at $36,155 with four-wheel drive. Step down a rung to the cloth-upholstered, but still-comprehensively equipped, EX and you’ll save about $3,000. Come resale time, though, it’ll be the EX-L that represents the higher return on your investment.

Should you buy a 2010 Honda Pilot or wait for the 2011 Pilot? The 2010 Honda Pilot is a virtual duplicate of the 2009 Honda Pilot. But the 2011 Honda Pilot is due some mid-cycle modifications to spruce up this crossover until its next full redesign for model-year 2013 or 2014. Shopping the 2010 Pilot during an economic recession puts you in the driver’s seat for price negotiations. Conditions may not be the same by the time the 2011 Honda Pilot arrives, but waiting gets you the version that’ll look fresh until the next all-new Pilot arrives.

2010 Honda Pilot Changes back to top

Styling: The 2010 Honda Pilot earns crossover cred by blending an SUV’s blocky profile and high ground clearance with a car-type unibody structure. Peel off its sheet metal and you’ll find not a truck frame but basically the same chassis used by Honda’s Odyssey minivan (and by the MDX crossover from Honda’s premium Acura division). The 2009 redesign wisely inflated Pilot’s exterior dimensions only slightly, so this wagon remains the most maneuverable eight-seat SUV on the market. It’s a garage-friendly 10- to 23-inches shorter than other eight-passenger SUVs. Unfortunately, Honda listened to first-generation Pilot owners who said they wanted tougher styling. So the 2010 Honda Pilot gamely wears a caboole of trucky cues: exaggerated fender flares, sapling-thick roof pillars, a pugnacious front end. The grille appears inspired by a tie clip filched from the set of “Mad Men.”

Mechanical: The 2010 Honda Pilot boasts impressive engine and driveline engineering. Extracting the most efficiency from its lively, smooth 250-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 is Honda’s advanced Variable Cylinder Management system. This automatically transitions the engine back and forth between six, four, or three cylinders as sensors determine the best balance of fuel economy and power. All Pilots are available with front-wheel drive or Honda’s Variable Torque Management all-wheel drive. Pilot’s not designed for serious off-roading, so its AWD system does not have low-ranging gearing. It’s instead designed to improve grip in all conditions, even on dry roads. And pushing a dashboard button does lock in a front-rear torque split for maximum low-speed traction. Honda says 65 percent of Pilots are ordered with AWD. The sole transmission for the 2010 Honda Pilot remains a five-speed automatic.

Features: The 2010 Honda Pilot comes in four levels of trim: base LX, midrange EX, leather-upholstered EX-L, and top-of-the-line Touring. Honda doesn’t offer factory options, but does make the 2010 Pilot available just about every comfort and convenience feature. These include power heated front seats, sunroof, Bluetooth phone link, USB connection for iPod and other MP3 devices, navigation with voice recognition, rearview camera, and rear DVD entertainment. The 2010 Honda Pilot is among the few SUVs with anchor positions for four child safety seats. And folding the rear seats allows it to carry a 4-foot-wide plywood sheet laid flat. All models come with antilock four-wheel disc brakes, traction control, and an antiskid system. Standard are head-protecting curtain side airbags designed to deploy in side collisions as well as in impending rollovers. Front bucket seats and second- and third-row bench seats are standard; second-row captain’s chairs aren’t available. The second and third rows each hold three occupants, and both split and fold.

2010 Honda Pilot Test Drive back to top

From behind the wheel:  The spec sheet suggests nothing extraordinary. The 2010 Honda Pilot’s horsepower figures are unexceptional. And it’s among the few in its competitive set with a transmission that doesn’t have six speeds. But this SUV teams smart engine technology and astute gearing to move away from a stop with authority and merge or and pass with right-now response.

Cylinder-deactivation is just about seamless, detectable only if you’re sensitive to subtle powertrain shudders. An “Eco” icon (for “economy” appears on the instrument panel to let you know your running on fewer than six cylinders. The presence of cylinder-deactivation is the reason every 2010 Honda Pilot comes with a subwoofer. Its part of an active-noise-control audio system that emits specific frequencies to counteract unpleasant exhaust-system resonances when the engine is running on three cylinders.

Easy maneuverability and parking in tight spaces is an asset. And handing in general is confidence-inspiring. Pilot’s steering is accurate and linear. Straight-line stability is rock-solid. Balance in turns is impressive, and resistance to body lean in fast corners is admirable. There’s a palpable surefootedness to the Pilot, and part of the credit goes to Honda’s Variable Torque Management all-wheel-drive technology. It improves behavior even on dry roads by distributing power to all four wheels without waiting for a tire to actually begin slipping. Stopping power feels strong and brake-pedal modulation is satisfying. The 2010 Honda Pilot’s maximum trailer-towing capability of 4,500 pounds is in line with that of other V-6 crossover SUVs.

Dashboard and controls:  Must you be a trained pilot to drive a Pilot? You’d think so from the proliferation of controls on the dashboard and steering wheel. On most Pilot models, there are 41 separate buttons and knobs on the central dashboard alone. Pilots with Bluetooth and navigation capabilities put an additional 10 buttons on the steering wheel spokes. Beyond shear numbers, the buttons are insufficiently differentiated by size, markings, or groupings. Hunting and pecking rather than reaching instinctively for the right one is likely to be the rule well into your ownership experience. At least Honda’s navigation system is no more difficult to program than most, though its voice-recognition software insists on carefully annunciated commands.

Big, clearly marked, and unobstructed, the gauge layout proves the 2010 Honda Pilot can do ergonomics right. Same goes for the placement of the gear-shift lever: It’s just above the center console, near the driver’s knee. It’s a breeze to reach. And unlike the column-mounted shifter in the first-generation Pilot, it doesn’t block access to a single control. Added bonus: it frees up real estate between the front seats that’s a perfect place to put your purse.

Designers evidently thought the chunky, beveled styling that defines Pilot’s exterior was a good template for the interior. The result is a collection of blocky forms that collide at a variety of unusual angles. Making up for many of the cabin’s visual excesses are richly grained surfaces, padded panels, careful assembly quality, and silken control action.

Room, comfort, and utility:  Upright styling translates into a wonderfully spacious and airy interior. Seating is roomy and supportive. Pilot’s third row merits special praise. Its space and comfort equals those of many minivans and shames most full-size SUVs. Making use of the strategically located grab handles will help you climb into the Pilot – it has a generous 8 inches of ground clearance, after all. But the vertical architecture pays off again with a tall roof that doesn’t force you to stoop as you board. Even entry and exit to the third row is class-leading, thanks to the high ceiling and smooth-sliding second-row seats.

The 2010 Honda Pilot is admirably isolated from disagreeable wind, road, and mechanical noises. But its laudable ride composure and determined sense of control comes at a price: Pilot’s taut suspension makes for thumping progress over sharp bumps and abrupt ridges.

Less exacting is the trade-off between Pilot’s cargo versatility and its relatively short overall length. True, Pilot’s maximum cargo volume of 87-cubic feet doesn’t match the 102-118 cubic feet in other SUVs that employ longer bodies to fit three rows of seats. But the 2010 Honda Pilot makes terrific use of the space it has. Part of the credit goes to a roomy well behind the third-row seat that swallows lots of luggage even with all seating rows occupied. A sort of hammock that creates a second level of storage is typical of Honda’s space-efficient thinking. Pilot’s 60/40 split second and third rows fold without removing their headrests to create a level load floor that holds a 4-foot-wide panel laid flat. Raising the third-row seatbacks from outside requires a long stretch from the rear of the cargo bay, however. Got sippies? Sunglasses? A platoon of Power Rangers? Bring ‘em along. Each Pilot door has two storage pockets, and the cabin boasts an abundance of pouches, bag hooks, cupholders, and bins.

2010 Honda Pilot Prices back to top

Depending on the model, 2010 Honda Pilot prices are up between $250 and $350 over 2009-model Pilot prices. The 2010 Honda Pilot’s base prices can appear higher than those of competitive SUVs because Honda, in effect, includes as standard features that which others charge extra for. Comparably equipped, the 2010 Honda Pilot is priced competitively with key competitors.

The 2010 Honda Pilot LX is priced at $28,605 with front-wheel drive and $30,205 with AWD. (All prices listed here for the 2010 Honda Pilot and competitive models include their manuafacturer’s mandatory destination fee. For Honda, that fee is $710.) Front and rear air conditioning, an audio system with a subwoofer and auxiliary input jack, manual driver’s seat-height adjustment, and a trailer hitch are included in the LX price. The LX accounts for about 10 percent of Pilot sales.

Prices for the 2010 Honda Pilot EX are $31,455 with front-wheel drive and $33,055 with AWD. It upgrades the LX’s cloth upholstery and adds a power driver’s seat, CD changer, steering wheel audio controls, alloy wheels, fog lights, outside temperature gauge, heated side mirrors, and body-color exterior side trim.

The 2010 Honda Pilot EX-L is priced at $34,555 with front-wheel drive, $36,155 with AWD. Leather upholstery, a power moonroof, heated front seats, and a power front passenger seat are among its features. Superimposed in the corner of the EX-L’s interior mirror is a screen that shows a video image of what’s behind when the Pilot is shifted into reverse. The EX and EX-L account for about 60 percent of Pilot sales.

Moving up the line, the 2010 Honda Pilot Touring is priced at $37,755 with front-wheel drive, $39,355 with AWD. The Touring adds to the EX-L a voice-activated navigation system with a rearview camera that projects onto the dashboard screen. Pilot Touring models also come with Bluetooth cell-phone connectivity, front and rear parking sensors, a power tailgate, memory seats and mirrors, USB linking, second-row window sunshades, mirror-mounted turn indicators, and chrome body side trim.

EX-L and Touring models are available with the DVD entertainment system; it adds about $1,600 to their price and includes a 9-inch-diameter screen that folds out from the ceiling.

Honda credits Touring models with about 30 percent of Pilot sales. It says Touring buyers have an annual household income over $110,000 and tend to desire luxury amenities without paying a premium for a luxury brand.

2010 Honda Pilot Fuel Economy back to top

Though many six-cylinder crossover SUVs with six-speed automatic transmissions have higher highway gas-mileage ratings than the 2010 Pilot, this Honda lands about mid-pack overall thanks in part to its fuel-saving cylinder management system. EPA ratings for the Honda Pilot are 17/23 mpg (city/highway) with front-wheel drive and 16/22 with AWD. The Pilot uses 87-octane gas.

2010 Honda Pilot Safety and Reliability back to top

The 2010 Honda Pilot performs extremely well in government crash tests. The tests award a maximum of five stars for occupant protection in frontal and side collisions. The 2010 Pilot scores the maximum five stars for protection of the driver, front passenger, and rear passengers in both frontal and side impacts. Rollovers are a leading cause of fatalities in crashed involving SUVs, and in government assessments of rollover resistance, the Pilot rates four stars on the five-star scale. Four stars puts it among the best SUVs in the rollover test.

For quality and reliability, the Honda brand earns high marks from J.D. Power and Associates, the leading automotive consumer survey firm. Honda owners surveyed give Pilot top grades for quality of the body and interior. They rank mechanical and accessories quality above average. In J.D. Power surveys that measure problems experienced by original owners of three-year-old vehicles, Honda brand dependability rates above average, too. Honda dealers rate only average for sales and service.

Owners surveyed by J.D. Power rated their Honda Pilot about average for overall quality. It scored among the best for body and interior design, above average in powertrain quality, and below average for design of the features and accessories. In overall dependability, Pilot owners gave this crossover average marks, though they rated powertrain dependability above average.

2010 Honda Pilot Release Date back to top

The 2010 Honda Pilot went on sale May 29, 2009.

What's next for the 2010 Honda Pilot back to top

With a redesign for model-year 2009, Pilot won’t change substantially until model-year 2013 or 2014. Sources suggest a mid-cycle freshening is on tap for model-year 2011, though that could be pushed back to model-year 2012 if economic demands disrupt Honda’s pace of product updates. Whenever it comes, the mid-cycle refresh would revise some styling details at the nose and tail, and could alter some interior trim. Pilot’s overall size or shape would not be affected.

Honda at any time could expand availability of the navigation system beyond just the Touring model. And it could add state-of-the-art “all-four-corners” vision to the rearview camera that’s part of the nav system. The more worthwhile change would be simplification of the dashboard control layout, but cost and technical hurdles make that unlikely.

As for powertrains, Honda doesn’t seem interested in a gas-electric hybrid version of the Pilot. But it was reportedly preparing to offer the 2010 Pilot with a state-of-the-art diesel V-6 that would be far quieter and cleaner-running than diesels of years past. It might have given the Pilot fuel-economy ratings of something like 23 mpg city/31 highway, with a range of more than 600 miles between fill-ups. The diesel also would have delivered more midrange thrust than the gas V-6, and it likely would have been rated to tow more than 4,500 pounds. But diesel engines cost more than their gas counterparts and diesel fuel is more expensive than gasoline. When the economy drooped and gas prices dropped below $4 per gallon, the diesel plan was tabled. It could be revived if gas prices climb and Honda needs the diesel’s superior fuel economy to meet new federal gas-mileage requirements that kick in for model-year 2011.

2010 Honda Pilot Competition back to top

2010 Toyota Highlander: This crossover is the 2010 Pilot’s toughest rival for size, quality, resale value, and reputation for reliability. Its styling is less macho than the Honda’s, and it seats seven to Pilot’s eight. But Highlander is among the few midsize crossovers to offer a hybrid model and a four-cylinder engine in addition to a powerful V-6. The four-cylinder has 187 horsepower and tops out at 20/27 mpg. The V-6 has 270 horsepower and rates 18/24 (17/23 with AWD). The Highlander Hybrid also has 270 horsepower, comes only with AWD, and is rated at 31/27. Base-price range spans roughly $28,500-$42,000. No major changes are likely until after model-year 2012.

2010 Chevrolet Traverse and 2010 GMC Acadia: These crossover SUVs seat eight and share a basic design with the Buick Enclave and soon-to-be discontinued Saturn Outlook. They’re refined and roomy, but are significantly larger overall than the Pilot so they’re tougher to maneuver in tight spaces. While the Enclave and Traverse go for the smooth look, the Acadia, like the Pilot, has square-cut styling. Traverse has 281 horsepower, rates 17/24 mpg with front-wheel drive, 16/23 with AWD, and has a base price range of around $29,000-$42,000. Acadia has 288 horsepower, is rated at 17/24 and 16/22, and has a base-price range of about $33,000-$39,000. No major changes to either are expected for the next few model years.

2010 Mazda CX-9: Perhaps the most stylish crossover SUV in this grouping, but not quite as mechanically refined as the others. It’s bigger outside than the 2010 Pilot, but not usefully larger inside. The CX-9 shares its basic design with the Ford Edge SUV but seats seven rather than five. It has 273 horsepower and is rated at 16/22 mpg with front-wheel drive, 15/21 with AWD. Base-price range is about $30,500-$36,000. No major changes planned until after model-year 2012.