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2012 Honda Pilot Road Test Review - Road & Travel Magazine's 2012 SUV Buyer's Guide

2012 Honda Pilot Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

2012 SUV Buyer's Guide - Road & Travel's Top 10 Picks

Acura RDX

Honda Pilot

Buick Enclave

Hyundai Veracruz

Ford Explorer

Subaru Tribeca

Dependability is an admirable quality when it comes to the vehicle you drive. Having a good track record under one's skin goes a long way towards establishing such credentials. The 2012 Honda Pilot sport utility vehicle has several years of good approval ratings to bolster its appeal as a large SUV, and the longstanding solid reputation of Honda behind it.

There is a question that looms, however, and it's one we've heard many times. Is that all there is? Yes, we know about Honda's assets, its affordability, its improved fuel economy for 2012, and its spacious interior that even allows adults to sit in the third row without losing feeling in their lower extremities in the process. Those pluses come from enhanced “intelligent” engine technology including the ability to shut down cylinders when they aren't needed for underlying takeoff gusto.

The overall appearance, while streamlined somewhat for 2012 with new front treatment including new headlamps with integrated turn indicators, is one you might expect from a large family utility vehicle. The rather squared off corners in appearance and an elongated torso obviously seem meant to squeeze out every inch of usable space so it can hold as many as eight passengers.

The repeated question, however, doesn't go away. It relates to the intrinsic heart factor when choosing a vehicle. The design of the Pilot has never stirred the impassioned soul to state this is a “gotta have” vehicle. While it has a solidly crafted exterior, we keep looking for the “it factor” ignition switch. We think its strongest appeal is its imminent usability that we doubt will ever go wrong when put into service. We suspect that Pilot buyers spend as much time with eyes glued to a calculator as to a showroom window featuring a Pilot behind the glass.

So what other assets does Pilot provide for potential owners? Substantial power from the 3.5-liter, 250-horsepower V-6 engine, mated to a five-speed automatic, that delivers estimated mileage  numbers of 18 city/25 highway with a combined rating of 21 is one. The transmission keeps the Pilot in the proper gear going up or downhill. The powerplant has the kind of thrust that will accommodate most SUV duties, including towing as much as 3,500 pounds with front drive or 4,500 pounds with four-wheel-drive while providing a smooth, comfortable and sufficiently powerful ride. The upmarket Touring edition comes with a standard towing kit, that's a necessary option for the other LX, EX and EX-L models that will tow.

 Inside changes include redesigns to the instrument panel including upgrades to controls. Second row seating retains the ability to slide forward to allow easier access to the third row

Pilot scores well on the safety side. Safety technology includes a body structure designed to direct energy around the occupants to protect them in a crash along with such technology as electronic stability control, always a plus with high profile vehicles, plus a full complement of airbags that includes a rollover sensor, and determines how front seat passengers are positioned in the vehicle if there's a crash. Active front seat head restraints protect against whiplash. And anti-lock brakes augment the driver's ability to stop in time.

No matter if there's a lack of splash and dash in the 2012 Pilot, we can't help but admire the lengthy list of credentials it brings to the table.  In Honda tradition, models are usually offered with integrated amenity packages rather than a long list of available options to add on. The base, 2WD LX starts at $28,620 and 4WD EX-L pricing with navigation system and rear seat entertainment kicks off at $40,970.

We think this is one sport utility that knows its place in the hierarchy of the SUV world. And we expect that those who check out its value and credentials will continue to want what it offers.

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