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2021 Honda Pilot Review

Stephen Rivers

Honda has added a couple of new trim levels, more technology, and a better transmission to the 2021 Honda Pilot. Is it enough to keep it elite though?

What’s New for the 2021 Honda Pilot?

2021 Honda Pilot - automobiles.honda.com

2021 Honda Pilot – automobiles.honda.com |  Shop 2021 Honda Pilot on Carsforsale.com

The 2021 Honda Pilot gets a slew of slight upgrades that should make it just that much better including a 9-speed automatic transmission for the entire range, a Special Edition trim package, automatic stop/start, and standard dual-zone climate control. Those who opt for the Special Edition package will get wireless charging, 20-inch wheels, and a foot-activated power tailgate. The upgrade to a 9-cog transmission is a welcome one that does away with the less efficient 6-speed found on lower-tiered models in 2020.

Body Style

Starting Price

MSRP $32,250

Drivetrain

Drivetrain

FWD or AWD

Drivetrain

Fuel Economy

19 City / 26 Hwy (MPG)

Number of Seats

Seating

Seats 7-8

The Breakdown

Base models exceptionally well-appointed

The 9-speed transmission is so much smoother

Multiple standard safety features

Safety features a bit overly sensitive

The Black Edition costs a little much

Infotainment still lags behind

Add more powerful engine options

2021 Pilot Specs

Trims & Pricing

LX - $32,250
EX - $34,930
EX-L - $38,360
SE - $38,960
Touring - $42,920
Elite - $48,420
Black Edition - $49,920

2021 Honda Pilot Powertrain

2021 Honda Pilot 3.5L V6 engine - carsforsale.com
2021 Honda Pilot 3.5L V6 engine - carsforsale.com

Only one drivetrain package is available for the Honda Pilot and it’s a combination that is Honda to its core – what you need, and nothing more. With just 262 lb-ft of torque, this 3-row SUV tows less than a Porsche Panamera sedan, so for those of you looking for a sporty family hauler, this isn’t it.

2021 Honda Pilot - automobiles.honda.com
2021 Honda Pilot - automobiles.honda.com

What it is though is an SUV that will comfortably and reliably haul your family and a decent amount of cargo nearly anywhere for a decade or more without much need in the way of maintenance or repair. The actual performance of the Pilot reminds you of a glove that fits just right. It’s confident, quiet, and won’t ever give you cause for alarm. The ride quality is pretty standard for an SUV of this size, but won’t disappoint drivers either. Over bumps and broken pavement, it’s comfortable even in the back seats.

2021 Honda Pilot - automobiles.honda.com
2021 Honda Pilot - automobiles.honda.com

Steering feedback and handling around tighter bends is also as to be expected with calm confidence-inspiring behavior even in wet conditions. Perhaps our favorite part of the Pilot is that for a mid-level SUV, it’s very quiet inside, something we’ll get into more of in the comfort section.

While we’d love to see a more potent powertrain to combat things like the 6.2-liter engine found in many GM SUVs, the Pilot is lighter than many competitors and the V6 under the hood does a nice job of accelerating to highway speeds as it swaps through the 9-speed automatic transmission.

2021 Honda Pilot Fuel Economy & MPG

Nothing shocking here about the Pilot either as it puts down respectable numbers of 19, 26, and 22 mpg overall for the AWD model. Front-wheel-drive Pilots get a small bump to 20, 27, and 23 mpg total. Regardless of which you might choose, both are adequate when compared to others in the segment. Again, Honda here provides what their customers want, a reliable, tried and true balance between the extreme ends of the spectrum.

Interior, Comfort, & Cargo Space

The goal of Honda seems to be a major focus on interior quality and comfort more than ever before. We found the Pilot to be much quieter than its price tag might suggest and in terms of overall comfort it was excellent. Heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and wireless charging all add to the positive feelings you get when you slip into this larger SUV.

The layout of the interior is really simple and straightforward and if you’ve ridden in or driven any of the current generation of Pilots (introduced in 2016), then everything will feel very similar. Touch materials are slightly above average, but nothing to write home about even in the Elite model.

2021 Honda Pilot interior - automobiles.honda.com
2021 Honda Pilot interior - automobiles.honda.com

The captain’s chairs in the second row are a bit drab, but the way that you can access the third row with a single button push on the base or back of the 2nd-row seat is outstanding. More automakers need to follow the lead Honda has taken here. No motors, no two-step process, just a single simple button push and the 3rd row is easy to reach.

2021 Honda Pilot cargo space - automobiles.honda.com
2021 Honda Pilot cargo space - automobiles.honda.com

Overall, cargo space is outstanding and the simple way that you lower the seats is much faster than many powered options on the market today. We also love the reversible cargo cover in the back. One side is carpeted to match the interior and the other is a hard textured plastic for carrying more messy materials without damaging your cargo liner.

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Entertainment & Technology

2021 Honda Pilot infotainment system - automobiles.honda.com
2021 Honda Pilot infotainment system - automobiles.honda.com

We’ve mentioned it in the past and we’ll say it again, the touchscreen here is slow to respond. It really brings down the rest of the tech/infotainment system as a key flaw, but frankly, it’s the only real issue in here. The screen itself looks very nice and if you’re doing something that can be handled by the steering-wheel-mounted controls then it’s snappy and seamless.

The rear-seat entertainment system operates similarly, but provides a robust viewing experience that’s sure to keep many rear-seat passengers entertained and engaged. Tech features like 2.5A quick charging USB ports, wireless charging, and the large gauge cluster screen all are major benefits.

Safety Features

2021 Honda Pilot blind spot detection - automobiles.honda.com
2021 Honda Pilot blind spot detection - automobiles.honda.com

Standard safety features win the day with us and having things like adaptive cruise, forward collision warning, and automated braking are things that every new vehicle should have. It’s great to see Honda taking the lead here to ensure that no 2021 Honda Pilot is left without the tools to keep its occupants just that much safer in the case of an accident. Scoring a 5-star crash test rating with the NHTSA is just one more example of that commitment. Front and rear parking sensors available on the upper trim levels are outstanding and manage to communicate without being overly annoying like so many others.

2021 Honda Pilot Trims & Pricing

2021 Honda Pilot LX - carsforsale.com
2021 Honda Pilot LX - carsforsale.com

LX – $32,250

We love the excellent features that are a part of even the base-level 2021 Honda Pilot. Among them, you’ll find LED Headlights, Adaptive Cruise, and automatic high-beams. Those can make every drive just that much easier and they’re all standard on the Pilot.

2021 Honda Pilot EX - carsforsale.com
2021 Honda Pilot EX - carsforsale.com

EX – $34,930

Take everything you already get on the LX and add in LED fog lights, blind-spot monitoring, an 8-inch infotainment system, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For those that care about tech, this is hardly a high price to pay for the years of improved experience to be had. 

2021 Honda Pilot EX-L - carsforsale.com
2021 Honda Pilot EX-L - carsforsale.com

EX-L – $38,360

Luxury is the largest focus of the EX-L as it adds leather seating, a leather steering wheel, and a power tailgate. These features come at a premium though of nearly $4,000. For us, these simply wouldn’t be enough for us to option up to the EX-L level, because the Special Edition gets much better for less than $1,000 more. 

2021 Honda Pilot SE - carsforsale.com
2021 Honda Pilot SE - carsforsale.com

SE – $38,960

The Special Edition of the Pilot comes with all that we love from the EX and all the luxury features from the EX-L, but adds some lovely touches like wireless charging, touchless activation of the power liftgate, and roof rails. 

2021 Honda Pilot Touring - carsforsale.com
2021 Honda Pilot Touring - carsforsale.com

Touring – $42,920

If you’re interested in really bumping the opulence of your Pilot, the Touring package might be for you. Now the rear seats get heat, headlights are now automatic on and off, parking sensors are standard, and rear passengers get a 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system of their own. 

2021 Honda Pilot Elite - carsforsale.com
2021 Honda Pilot Elite - carsforsale.com

Elite – $48,420

There’s quite a bump in the price of nearly $6,000, but the 2021 Honda Pilot Elite trim level does indeed get quite a lot of features for that price. All-wheel-drive is standard and second-row captain’s chairs are as well. The steering wheel gets a heating feature and the seats in both of the first two rows are perforated for a much more luxurious feeling. 

2021 Honda Pilot Black Edition - automobiles.honda.com
2021 Honda Pilot Black Edition - automobiles.honda.com

Black Edition – $49,920

Identical to the Elite, but with black trim outside and red trim inside.

Warranties

This is an area where Honda could do better, but doesn’t have to. Its paltry 3-year 36,000-mile limited warranty is good enough and the 5-year 60,000-mile powertrain warranty is the same. No complimentary maintenance, nothing special, just enough, and nothing more.

What we think

2021 Honda Pilot - automobiles.honda.com

2021 Honda Pilot – automobiles.honda.com |  Shop 2021 Honda Pilot on Carsforsale.com

At the end of the day, the Honda Pilot continues to be a strong choice for those who want an ultra-reliable, comfortable, and modern 3-row SUV. The SE is possibly the best deal for most families as it offers great standard features, the freedom to option many of the high level features on more expensive trims, and comes in at just $38,960. As the packages and trims get more expensive it gets harder to justify the Pilot when many of its competitors offer a similar value with more power, more space, or both.

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Stephen Rivers
Stephen Rivers

Stephen is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion. In his free time, he’s usually at a hockey rink, walking his dogs, or on a road bike. His automotive tastes lean towards cars that oftentimes seem to take a pound of flesh for the ethereal pleasure they provide: things like the Lamborghini Diablo, TVR Cerbera, and a C4 Corvette turned into a street-legal go-kart. He drives his Bugeye Subaru WRX in Autocross, Rallycross, and track day competitions throughout the year and daily drives a twin-turbo BMW 535i.

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