2016 Honda Pilot long-term road test: 7 reasons to buy one

We’re entering month four with our long-term 2016 Honda Pilot Touring AWD, and the miles continue to roll up without a hitch.

That’s as we expected. We spent a lot of time with the Pilot last year in its run-up to our Best Car To Buy 2016 award. It was just about a year ago we took it for a first drive, and six months ago when it won our trophy.

Since then, we’ve shuttled it from the mid-Atlantic to the deep south. In between, we’ve driven some fine new competition for the Honda, including the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, Honda’s own Ridgeline pickup truck, and the buffed-up Ford Explorer.

Now, some 5,000 miles into our long-term drive, we’re making some lists. First up: the good things we count on every time we press the start button.

What we love about it

Our Pilot is a Touring AWD model, with White Diamond Pearl paint and a buckskin-colored leather cabin. It’s fitted with the standard 280-horsepower V-6 and a 9-speed automatic with paddle shift controls. Configured for 7 passengers, it has a second-row pair of captain chairs and Blu-Ray entertainment screens, and a fold-away third-row seat as well as a power tailgate.

In front, there’s touchscreen navigation; heated power front seats; remote start; keyless ignition; and an audio system with satellite radio and Bluetooth audio streaming. Its standard safety suite including a multi-view rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, a lane-departure warning system, lane-keeping assistance, and forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking.

Here’s where it’s proven its worth, so far.

It hits a sweet spot between crossover and minivan. No, the Pilot doesn’t handle as well as some SUVs with more wagon-like shapes and lower centers of gravity. It does a better job at approaching that task with space efficiency a top priority. Honda’s maximized room for 8 people while giving a good measure of composure and all-weather traction. The third-row seat in particular is the best we’ve sampled in a vehicle without sliding doors, and it’s better even than some traditional minivans. For anyone looking to dump the sliding side doors, the Pilot’s priorities are in order.

It tracks the highway well. The Pilot’s all-season tires, electric power steering, and lane-keeping assist make it a silent, swift runner on long highway slogs. It holds an un-SUV-like lock on a straight path on well-kept pavement, and even if its lane-keep assist is a first-gen system (it feels less smooth and slightly more jerky than advanced systems from makes such as BMW), it still allows a few seconds of hands-off control, just long enough to reprimand passengers in the third row.

It’s nailing its combined fuel economy rating. So far, we’ve hit about 21-22 mpg in combined fuel economy. We’ll have a more in-depth look at the numbers in a couple of weeks, but according to the fuel logs and the slightly optimistic trip-economy gauge, we’re turning in what the EPA intended.

It’s good for long-distance comfort for at least 6 passengers. It’s tough to get crowded out in the Pilot. The interior is cavernous, and though they’re slim on the support side, the seats have enough padding to be comfortable for hours of driving, in both the first and second rows. With two smaller passengers in the way-back, the Pilot makes economic sense for big trips where 6 coach tickets and the hours-long wait at TSA just doesn’t compute.

That enormous center console holds just about anything, and everything. Family vehicles need lots of storage. The Pilot has a center console that could double as carry-on luggage, if it were detachable. It holds a box of tissues, a couple of iPads, stacks of wet wipes, sunglasses by the bushel, fast-food bags, and has a hard sliding cover to protect it all from prying eyes (and assorted hand tools). There’s a high-power charge port in our Pilot Touring’s console, perfect for keeping those tablets on the ready, too.

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