2012 Honda Pilot Review

Tweaks and better kit for the latest edition of the 8-seater

By Shahzad Sheikh

Much underrated, the Honda Pilot gets a mild makeover for this year with some keen improvements inside.

The Honda Pilot makes a lot of sense, it’s capacious SUV with pretty reasonable seating for up to eight whilst still retaining some luggage space. It has decent on-road performance and is a lot better off-road than you might think – both in the wadis and the dunes (though not quite up there with off-roading heroes like the Toyota Prado.

Even the price is reasonable, plus of course it will come with that famed Honda build and reliability. So why is it so hard to fall in love with this car?

Mostly because of its looks, it’s essentially a box, and an uninspiring one at that, with a rather brutal face that’s somewhat unbecoming of a Honda.

Facelift for 2012

However the 2012 facelift involves new headlights, new front bumper and a completely revised grille that looks more like that from the ever-popular Toyota Land Cruiser. There are 6-spoke 18-inch wheels for the Touring and 5-spoke 17-inch rims for the EX. So the question is, has it dramatically improved the appeal of this thing?

In short, no. If anything, the previously grille was more distinctive, and now it’s rather more generic.

So let’s ignore the styling and looks of this thing (the designers clearly did) and focus instead on its interior. Well it also gets improved noise insulation (not that the previous car was particularly clattery) ungraded interior materials, revised instrument panel, new centre console, better navigation system and more kit.

More goodies

On the top models there’s rear DVD entertainment, rear view camera (now on the main screen, not embedded in the rear-view mirror) and Bluetooth hands-free phoning and audio streaming from your pocket player – which was reasonably easy to set-up, although the controls are a bit scattered.

Once you’ve figure it all out, it’s easy enough to use and looks much smarter than before, especially with that new screen. Having said that sat-nav directions weren’t the best. The instrument panel is easier to read and back-lighting has been improved. There’s a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player and (for the top spec) a 15GB hard drive).

Comfy and spacious

Where the Pilot always scored strongly and still does against rivals like the Dodge Durango and Ford Explorer is the sheer amount of interior space and seating for a full complement of eight passengers. This remains true with the middle row sliding forward to liberate some more room for the third row should you be carrying adults in that.

Neither the driver nor the passengers will have anything to complain about when it comes to comfort and the seating position, and there are rear A/C controls – and of course that roof-mounted DVD system. The boot looks spacious enough, but lift the floor panel and you’ll find even more space. Plus of course you could fold down the third row to get even more room.

Power and driving

Performance remains reasonable as it continues with the trusty Honda 3.5-litre V6 i-VTEC producing about 253bhp and driving (usually) the front wheels through a five-speed automatic. It does of course imperceptibly switch to four-wheel drive as soon as slippage is detected at the front.

There’s also a ‘lock mode’ available in first and second gears up to 28kph activated by a button, to push more torque to the rear wheels when things get really tough. We did take the previous version of this car, with pretty much the same system, off-road and it acquitted itself surprisingly well both on rock and in the sand.

On the road, it’s not the swiftest thing out there, but it gets up to speed in good enough time and is obviously a very competent cruiser.

Verdict

There is very little wrong with the 2012 Honda Pilot. The model year refresh takes what was a much underrated family-friendly SUV and just tweaks the whole package to make it slightly better – though the most significant changes are to the in-car systems and the dashboard.

The trouble is that there is also very little that makes the Pilot desirable. Especially as the competition is marching onwards and producing even more enticing alternatives.

But if you’re a Honda loyalist and need more space and decent off-roading ability, then by all means check out the 2012 Pilot. For those that want to save a bit of cash, check out nearly-new 2011 models – I think they actually look better and if you don’t need the fancy sat-nav and Bluetoothability it might be well worth making the saving over the new price.

Specs
Price:
EX – AED129,999 ($35,325)
Touring – AED164,999 ($44,840)
Engine: 3471cc, V6, 253bhp @ 5700rpm, 256lb ft @ 4800
Performance: 9.0secs 0-100kph (est), 177kph, 11.2L/100
Transmission: five-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Weight: 2120kg

Do you own a Pilot or indeed any other car and want to give us your real-world verdict? Then submit a review

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