2016 Honda Pilot

Booming into the competition pool

"The latest revamp of the Pilot puts an end to its boxy life cycle and puts it bang into the competition pool."

"You are treated to the familiar Honda levels of smoothness and refinement throughout the rev range."

"The Pilot is all about mile munching rather than scorching lap times."

"A good buy for the Honda fan who wants a full-size SUV," said Ershad.

Finally, it is goodbye to boxy lines and hello to aerodynamic curves. The 2016 Honda Pilot is a refreshing and much needed update to the ever ageing and dated design of the previous Pilot. Even as the smaller CR-V received constant design and feature updates, we could see a certain feel of neglect towards the Pilot. Nevertheless, the latest revamp of the Pilot puts an end to its boxy life cycle and puts it bang into the competition pool.

My plan for the day was to drive down to the Camel Racing Club to check if I was lucky enough to see some action. I have been in Dubai for quite some time and never really had the chance to see a camel race. It was a short 45 minute drive from my place and I hoped to get a good mix of various driving surfaces. An early morning start ensured that there was no traffic enroute and I could have a good review of the Pilot. Powered by a 3.5 liter V6 petrol engine, generating 280 horsepower, the slightly tweaked engine is very refined and delivers power in a very linear fashion. Taking off from a standstill is spirited, but the enthusiasm dies right there. You are treated to the familiar Honda levels of smoothness and refinement throughout the rev range. Even though the engine lacks punch, the Pilot manages the 0 to 100 km/h run in eight seconds – which is pretty impressive for its class.

Cruising down the motorway it was very evident that the Pilot loves to cruise along rather than being pushed hard. Quick overtaking requires that extra push on the throttle pedal and at times makes you wish that the engine pumped out a couple of horses more. Special mention goes to Honda's effort to maintain an excellent feel of refinement and smoothness in the cabin even during high-speed cruises or while tackling occasional rough patches. The suspension is well tuned to absorb road undulations and manages to keep the occupants comfortable throughout. The driver, however, feels this certain lack of feedback and feel; which is the result of a combination of super comfy suspension and butter-smooth steering. Braking is smooth and progressive with ABS and EBD standard across all variants. Sudden lane changes can upset the vehicle with evident body roll, but it's much more controlled than the previous versions. The 245/50 tires shod on 20-inch alloy wheels provide ample grip and match the overall looks of the vehicle. The Pilot is all about mile munching rather than scorching lap times.

The interior of the new Pilot is laden with soft-touch material and feels plush. The largely plastic feel in the previous generation Pilot is now history. The cabin feels very roomy and has quite a few interesting storage solutions. There is ample space across all three rows of seats. The first and second rows feature comfortable captain seats. Third row access is a chore (as in all recent SUVs), but it can very easily accommodate two adults or three kids quite comfortably. The third row folds flat, adding to the already huge storage area. Air-conditioning vents are available for all occupant rows, and are effective in cooling down the huge cabin quickly. The panoramic roof helps in adding to the airy cabin feel.

There is a new eight-inch touchscreen display which acts as the control center for the Pilot's infotainment system. It looks great, yes, but it only looks great. That's the problem. The touch does not respond at times, responds slowly the next instant and does not provide any kind of feedback. It therefore becomes hard to operate while driving and I had to actually stop the vehicle a couple of times just to work out the touchscreen. Guys at Honda, I hope you are listening to this. Do not let this eight-inch screen destroy the whole feel of the new car!

The audio quality is up to the mark and there is something peculiar about listening to good music inside big SUVs; it feels a bit theatrical doesn't it? One nice feature was the conversation mirror, which is becoming a standard feature in large SUVs recently. Once you get the hang of it, it is surprising how it aids in continuing conversations.

I reached the Camel Racing Club and found a parking spot close to the racetrack. On the starting grid I could see the camels and their jockeys getting prepared for the game. Just before the race started, I had time to have a good look at the Pilot. The more you look at it, the larger it feels. It is big, almost as long as a Land Cruiser. It has new headlights with DRLs, fog lamps, new grilles, bumpers; this is a brand new car from the ground up. Up front, the new Pilot has a hint of aggressiveness with bold and big horizontal grille stacks and a good use of black mesh elements. You can feel a flow being carried over from the front to the sides of the SUV, which then continues to the rear. The taillights are a like-it or hate-it sort of design, and I would personally like a redesign at the earliest. Black plastic cladding runs all around the vehicle for the typical tough SUV feel. I did test the Sand mode on the drive-mode selector by going over some small dunes and while the Pilot did handle it smoothly, I felt a lack of grunt at times. Let's call in some guys from the 'Type R' division and I bet they will take care of adding the grunt!

A worthy predecessor for the old Pilot; there is still a lot of room for improvement. A good buy for the Honda fan who wants a full-size SUV. And yes, the race starts soon. Time to join the party!

Pros: Significant exterior facelift, spacious cabin room, fuel economy, smooth drive
Cons: Unresponsive infotainment touchscreen
Rivals: Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Dodge Durango, Mazda CX-9, GMC Acadia, Chevrolet Traverse, Hyundai Grand Santa Fe
Engine: 3.5 L, V6, 280 hp @ 6000 rpm, 355 Nm @ 4700 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed auto, 4WD
Performance: 0-100 km/h: 8 sec, 9.5 L/100 km, top speed: 175 km/h
Weight: 1,837 kg

One word: revitalized

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