2013 Honda Pilot Review and Prices
The 2013 Honda Pilot is the best SUV for you if you want a crossover that looks old school but doesn’t act it.
The 2013 Honda Pilot base model gets some standard features previously reserved for the more expensive trim levels, including Bluetooth and USB connectivity and a rearview backup camera. Otherwise, this trucky-looking eight-passenger wagon is a virtual repeat of the 2012 Pilot. That means it carries over styling tweaks meant to stoke interest in a design that dates from model-year 2009. Most midsize crossovers are much newer and have exceeded the Pilot in sales. Despite its throwback looks, however, the 2013 Pilot remains a friendly-driving SUV, solid, spacious and reliable.
Should you buy a 2013 Honda Pilot or wait for the 2014 Pilot? Buy the 2013 Pilot. It’s got the features and styling that’ll see this crossover through to model-year 2015, when an all-new Pilot is due. Unlikely to change in any way worth waiting for, the 2014 Honda Pilot will be a lame duck on the verge of replacement by the all-new 2015 Pilot. And it’ll cost more than the 2013.
2013 Honda Pilot Changes back to top
Styling: The 2013 Honda Pilot slots in Obsidian Blue Pearl in place of Bali Blue Pearl as an exterior color choice. Aside from that, it’s a Xerox of the 2012 Pilot, which got a subtle midcycle freshening highlighted by a moderately ugly three-bar grille in place of a genuinely ugly affair that looked like a big tie clip.
The 2013 Pilot returns four models: base LX, midline EX, leather-upholstered EX-L, and top-of-the-line Touring. All benefit from model-year 2012 interior revisions that improved ergonomics with some new control buttons and instrument-panel lighting. On top of those improvements, Honda treats 2013 Pilot LX and EX models to the high-resolution 8-inch dashboard screen previously exclusive to EX-L and Touring models.
All these changes are incremental updates to a crossover whose square-rigged styling recalls an old-school, truck-based SUV. In fact, today’s Pilot shares its underskin engineering with the 2005-2011-generation Honda Odyssey minivan. Thus, it has unibody architecture in which the body and frame are one unit, as in a car. That’s in contrast to the heavier-duty body-on-frame build of a truck-type SUV, such as the Toyota 4Runner. Comparatively lightweight, unibody designs benefit handling and fuel economy.
Most crossovers have sleeker styling – see the Toyota Highlander or Nissan Murano. But Pilot’s among the few that manages to provide generous first- and second-row accommodations while also squeezing in an adult-sized third-row seat – all in a 16-foot-long body that’s relatively easy to maneuver and to garage.
Every 2013 Pilot seats eight on two front buckets and second- and third-row benches that carry three passengers each. (Oddly, second-row captain’s chairs are unavailable.) Pilot is among the few SUVs with anchor positions for four child safety seats – three in the second row and one in the third.
Folding the third row drops it into a well in the rear floor. With both rear benches folded Pilot can haul a 4-foot-wide plywood sheet laid flat. Maximum cargo volume is an unexceptional 87 cubic feet, but you’d need a longer vehicle to get significantly more.
As before, visual distinctions among the Pilot models are modest. The outside mirrors, exterior moldings, and door handles are black on the LX, body-colored on other Pilots. The LX has 17-inch steel wheels; other 2013 Pilots have 18-inch alloys, with Touring versions wearing an exclusive six-spoke design with a high-contrast machined surface. Touring models also are identified by mirror-mounted turn indicators and some chrome body-side trim.
Mechanical: The 2013 Honda Pilot continues with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). It gets entirely acceptable acceleration from the only engine this design generation has known: a single-overhead-cam 3.5-liter V-6. At 250, horsepower it’s at the lower end of the scale for V-6s in this class. But its 253 pound-feet of torque is competitive and that’s key because torque is the muscle that gets a vehicle moving.
On paper, Honda’s use of a five-speed automatic as Pilot’s sole transmission is uncompetitive. In transmissions, the more gear ratios the greater the opportunity to maximize performance and fuel economy. Indeed, virtually every Pilot rival has at least a six-speed automatic – with the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Volkswagen Touareg boasting eight speeds.
On the road, Pilot’s powertrain response and refinement are quite satisfying. This is a well-integrated engine-transmission team, and Honda evidently believes any potential improvement in performance or fuel economy would not offset the extra cost of a transmission with more ratios.
Partially compensating for lack of a sixth gear ratio is Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management technology. It optimizes fuel economy by automatically transitioning the engine to four or three cylinders when six are not required. And the 2013 Pilot has decent trailer-towing ratings for the class: 4,500 pounds with all-wheel drive, 3,500 with front-drive.
Pilot’s truck-like profile doesn’t equate with trucky driving manners. The 2013 Pilot still impresses for maneuverability, steering precision, and overall control. A demerit is a suspension that allows sharp bumps and ridges to register abruptly. Not helping was Honda’s model-year 2012 move away from sensible 17-inch wheels on all Pilots, although even the 18s on the EX and Touring models look undersized compared to the 19- and 20-inch-diameter wheels increasingly common on rivals.
Honda calls Pilot’s AWD system Variable Torque Management. It’s a crossover-typical setup in that it normally operates in front-wheel drive. When sensors detect a loss of traction, power automatically shuffles between the front and rear wheels until grip is restored.
Despite its rugged styling and decent 7.9-inch ground clearance, Pilot is not designed for severe off-road duty. The AWD system does not have low-range gearing and Pilot still lacks hill-descent control, a nearly universal crossover feature that keeps speed to a crawl on steep slopes. Honda does provide a dashboard button to that gives AWD Pilots maximum torque transfer to the rear wheels for added traction below 18 mpg.
Features: Honda can’t do much about the 2013 Pilot’s styling. But it continues to be more democratic about its features content. It’s not adding new amenities – Pilot remains without features most rivals offer, such as the safety of lane-departure, blind-spot, and rear cross-traffic alerts or the convenience of active cruise control.
But the 2013 Pilot LX finally gains Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone connectivity -- a safety feature, really. (Bluetooth was added to the EX and EX-L models only for model-year 2012.) It works in conjunction with an audio-system that incorporates music streaming and two gigabytes of music storage.
Similarly, a USB iPod interface, another increasingly ubiquitous feature in this price class, is belatedly added to the 2013 LX and EX models, so all Pilots now have it. All 2013 Pilots -- not just EX-Ls and those equipped with the navigation system – also gain an 8-inch color dashboard screen that displays audio and vehicle information and the view from the backup camera. Lastly, the LX joins every 2013 Pilot with tri-zone automatic climate control as standard equipment.
As before, Pilots are available with a power sunroof, power heated front seats, and a power liftgate. Since Honda doesn’t offer factory-installed options, however, you may need to ascend the price ladder for a Pilot equipped with your desired features combination.
Standard across the board is rear air conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, tilt and telescope steering column, and power locks and windows with auto-up/down front windows. Automatic on/off headlights, trip computer, digital compass, and an integrated class-3 towing receiver also are included. The standard audio system is an AM/FM/CD stereo with seven-speakers, including a subwoofer and an auxiliary jack for digital devices.
EX-L models are available with a choice of a navigation system or a rear DVD entertainment system with a 9-inch ceiling screen – but only the Touring model gives you those features in combination.
Pilot’s navigation system is controlled via voice recognition and the 8-inch screen. It includes an audio upgrade to 10 speakers, including the subwoofer, subscription-free real-time FM Traffic information, and 15 gigabytes of hard-drive music storage.
Used with the navigation system is a multi-view rear camera that can furnish wide-angle, normal, and top-down perspectives. The addition of either the navigation or the entertainment system also adds a 115-volt power outlet in the center console.
The rear liftgate includes separate-opening glass, with a power liftgate standard on EX-L and Touring models. Standard safety features include head-protecting curtain side airbags that deploy in side collisions as well as in impending rollovers.
2013 Honda Pilot Prices back to top
Price range for the 2013 Honda Pilot is $30,250-$42,000. The increase over the 2012 Pilot’s range of $29,280-$41,630 mostly reflects the standard features added to the LX model.
(All base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Honda’s fee for the 2013 Pilot is $830; it was $810 for the 2012 Pilot.)
Honda’s lately done an OK job keeping a lid on Pilot prices. Even with each model limited to an unalterable set of features, Pilot’s “base” prices no longer seem high relative to direct competitors’. And when you option-up rivals to match equipment levels at various Pilot price points, most any bottom-line difference tends to shrink or disappear. Add to Pilot’s value equation Honda’s sterling reputation for reliability and resale value.
Price for the 2013 Honda Pilot LX is $30,250 with front-wheel drive and $31,850 with AWD. The 2013 Pilot LX’s basic standard-equipment list is covered in the Features section above.
The 2013 Honda Pilot EX is priced at $32,500 with front-wheel drive and $34,100 with AWD. It adds to the LX model such popular features as a power driver’s seat with lumbar support, six-disc in-dash CD changer, XM satellite radio, exterior temperature indicator, heated mirrors, HomeLink remote garage-door system, alloy wheels, and fog lamps.
Price for the 2013 Honda Pilot EX-L is $35,750 with front-drive and $37,350 with AWD. It has the power tailgate, leather upholstery, heated front seats, power front passenger seat, power moonroof, and an automatic-dimming rearview mirror with reverse-camera display.
With the rear DVD entertainment system, the 2013 Pilot EX-L is priced at $37,350 with front-drive and $38,950 with AWD. The navigation-equipped EX-L is priced at $37,750 with front-drive and $39,350 with AWD.
The 2013 Honda Pilot Touring model again includes all the EX-L equipment, plus the DVD and navigation systems as standard. Tourings also come with memory power front seats and mirrors, second-row window sunshades, and front and rear parking sensors. Price for the 2013 Honda Pilot Touring is $40,400 with front-wheel drive, $42,000 with AWD.
2013 Honda Pilot Fuel Economy back to top
Among direct competitors, only the Toyota Highlander matches the Pilot for seven-passenger capacity – most in this class max out at seating for seven. So Honda’s justified in promoting the front-wheel-drive Pilot as the most fuel-efficient eight-passenger 2013 SUV in America. And the AWD Pilot is again among the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid midsize V-6 SUVs.
EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2013 Honda Pilot are 18/25/21 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 17/24/20 mpg combined with AWD.
2013 Honda Pilot Release Date back to top
The 2013 Honda Pilot went on sale in autumn 2012.
What's next for the 2013 Honda Pilot back to top
It’s mostly status quo until the all-new 2015 Pilot debuts with new styling and an updated powertrain that will include a six-speed automatic transmission.
That redesign is overdue, and Honda has plenty of incentive to make effective changes. Pilot has suffered a decline in sales, dropping from No. 2 among midsize SUVs in calendar 2008 to a distant No. 7 in 2012; it was No. 6 through the first three months of calendar 2013.
2013 Honda Pilot Competition back to top
Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia: These seven- and eight-passenger crossovers are twins beneath the skin, with Traverse using swept-back styling and Acadia a more traditional upright-SUV look. Both get minor appearance updates for 2013, and Traverse introduces the industry’s first front-center airbag designed to keep driver and passenger apart in a collision. These General Motors SUVs are priced close to midsize crossovers, but arguably belong to the full-size class. They’re longer than the Pilot by more than a foot, but don’t actually have a huge advantage in usable passenger space. They do provide nearly 30 cubic feet more cargo volume, but they’re extra length makes them more difficult than the Pilot to garage and maneuver in tight spaces. A V-6 with 281-288 horsepower, depending on model, hooked to a six-speed automatic is the sole powertrain. Fuel-economy is 17/24/19 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive, 16/23/19 with AWD. Base-price range is $31,370-$43,435 for the 2013 Traverse and $34,945-$48,840 for the 2013 Acadia.
Ford Explorer: Here’s a crossover that successfully blends traditional SUV cues with aerodynamic touches for a modern-yet-macho look. Explorer seats seven and offers front-wheel drive or an all-wheel-drive system with all-terrain technology that makes it more adept off-road than most crossovers. Explorer has three engine choices. The base unit is a 290-horsepower V-6. Ford’s 237-horsepower turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder is available with front-drive only. And exclusive to the new-for-2013 AWD Sport model is a 365-horspower twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6. Roominess and roadability are good, the features list is extensive, and fuel economy is competitive. The four-cylinder is too weak for this SUV, and costs extra. We recommend the base V-6, at 17/25/20 mpg city/highway/combined with front-drive and 17/23/19 with AWD. The Sport is a hoot and acceptable at 16/22/18 mpg. Base-price range for the 2013 Explorer is $29,960-$41,545.
Toyota Highlander: The 2013 Highlander closes out a design generation for Toyota’s seven-passenger crossover. The redesigned 2014 Highlander will have different styling but won’t be dramatically different in size or market focus. The 2013 Highlander shades a little toward a minivan vibe, and appeals for refinement, roominess, and reliability. It beats Pilot for cargo space and its ride is softer, too, though so are its road manners. Three powertrains are on tap: a four cylinder with 187 horsepower (front-drive only) rated 20/25/22 mpg; a V-6 with 270 horsepower rated 18/24/20 with front-drive and 17/22/19 with AWD; and a gas-electric hybrid also with 270 horsepower and AWD, but rated 28/28/28. Base-price range for the 2013 Highlander gas models is $29,865-$40,245 for gas models. The Hybrid starts at $41,015.