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High-altitude crossover

Honda Pilot offers light-duty off-roading, high towing capacity and on-road comfort

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If you’re looking for a vehicle that approaches the Acura MDX in ability, but is either less expensive or, perhaps, less triggering to those opposed to luxury brands, the 2022 Honda Pilot may be the SUV you seek.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/11/2021 (371 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you’re looking for a vehicle that approaches the Acura MDX in ability, but is either less expensive or, perhaps, less triggering to those opposed to luxury brands, the 2022 Honda Pilot may be the SUV you seek.

The Pilot tops out its range $200 less than the entry-level MDX, and can be had in nicely serviceable form for as much as $13,000 less.

The value of the differences are in the eye of the buyer: the MDX has 10 more horsepower and an extra gear in the transmission, as well as Super Handling All-Wheel Drive as opposed to Honda’s Intelligent Variable Torque Management AWD system.

Supplied The 2022 Honda Pilot offers space and composure in a reliable package.

The MDX, arguably, has a more refined design, as should be expected when comparing mainstream and luxury versions of what is essentially the same vehicle. The interior trims are a bit more luxe, the exterior a bit sleeker. Again, in the eye of the beholder.

For the average driver, however, many of those differences are moot. It’s unlikely the everyday driver will explore those 10 extra horsepower or the corner-carving ability of the Super-Handling system. For these folks, the Pilot will do nicely, thank you.

The flip side, of course, is that those drivers checking out the topline Black Edition (which in the case of the tester was, naturally, white) are only $200 away from graduation to Acura.

On its own, the Pilot is an excellent crossover. It’s not designed for hard-core off-roading, but nobody looking for that is even thinking of darkening a Honda dealer’s doorstep.

The Pilot is, however, well-suited to the typical Canadian driver’s needs, with an excellent all-wheel drive system for snow, gravel and boat launches, and as much as 2,268 kilograms (5,000 pounds) of towing capacity — the same as the MDX. (Oddly enough, when neither is equipped for towing, the Pilot, with 1,588 kg capacity, can out-tow the MDX (1,360 kg).)

The interior isn’t as luxurious as MDX, but is attractive, well laid out and with a decent combination of materials.

All trim levels of the Pilot will come with Honda’s push-button transmission-shifter console. Where Honda’s push buttons distinguish themselves from some systems — such as DCT or CVT shifters that require you to push forward to go backward — selecting Reverse on the Honda console is done by pulling backwards on a sideways-mounted button. Intuitive.

There’s a large touchscreen display, but many of the most-used functions happen with actual knobs or buttons. While the touchscreen doesn’t entirely negate the distraction of using one, it is possible to restrict most use of it — such as setting navigation or audio functions — to periods when you’re stopped.

The Pilot uses the same 3.5-litre single overhead cam V-6 engine as the MDX, but in the Pilot is tuned to 280 horsepower. It connects to the all-wheel drive system through a nine-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard.

With its on-road refinement, light-duty all-wheel ability, high towing capacity and Honda’s reputation for reliability, the Pilot is among the top performers for seven- or eight-seat crossover vehicles.

Kelly Taylor

Kelly Taylor
Copy Editor, Autos Reporter

Kelly Taylor is a Winnipeg Free Press copy editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He's been a member of the Automobile Journalists' Association of Canada since 2001.

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