2016 Honda Pilot Touring long-term road test: what we'd change

Last week, we picked 7 things that keep us grabbing the keys to our long-term 2016 Honda Pilot Touring AWD for long road trips.

Now it’s time for the nitpicking.

Granted, the Pilot does many things very well–well enough to earn our Best Car To Buy 2016 award.

Some things could stand improvement, and some things it does are honestly better left to other technology providers, let’s say.

What we’re driving

Our Pilot is a $44,000 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.

In our first 5,000 miles, we’ve overcome our initial pause for Pilot features like pushbutton transmission controls, the beep of its real-time traffic data system, and the lack of a volume knob for passengers (there’s a hard button for the driver on the steering wheel, after all). But we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out a handful of things that could stand a round of improvement.

Here’s what we’d fix:

The homebrew-ish infotainment interface. We complain a lot about infotainment systems, everything from Ford’s MyFord Touch (may it rest in agony) and the roller-controller brigade from Germany and South Korea. Honda’s system is pure touchscreen, which we prefer, and it has big touch-and-swipe tiles for mostly easy operation.

Fitting for the company that builds the Odyssey, Honda’s setup feels like a third-rate gaming system. Some tabs on screens are small, low-contrast affairs; toggling from Map to Audio functions is a legit first-world hassle, and Honda’s Garmin-licensed maps offer none of the gorgeous visual depth of some systems in other $44,000 vehicles.

None of this leads to hair loss, stomach upset, headaches, dizzy spells, or anything that requires a warning label. Still, five minutes in a Chrysler Pacifica shows how a well-developed system can lure buyers into a different vehicle altogether.

No Apple CarPlay. At least for the 2016 model year. For 2017, Honda will update its microphones and firmware to enable CarPlay, the best information-overload cure we’ve sampled yet. Our 2016 model doesn’t have the right mic, so it’s not possible to retrofit for CarPlay use. Sad!

Ride noise. Our Pilot rides on 20-inch wheels, and while neither the size of the tread nor its sidewall height hurts the ride quality much, it does make for a lot of tire slap. The Pilot’s suspension also makes more noise as it damps out the road–more than in the Ridgeline pickup, in fact.

Juddery stop/start. Shutting off the engine at stoplights, and kickstarting it back to life, is a relatively new technology making its way into mainstream vehicles in a big way. Some drivetrains just don’t handle the combination of restart and launch well while a vehicle is in a drive gear, and the Pilot is one of them. Catch it off-guard, and it restarts with a mild lurch, counter to its otherwise smooth operation.

Better seat bottoms. The Pilot is an expert at maximizing interior space. That said, its seats don’t have much bolstering, and the flat seat bottoms grow more noticeable the longer you drive. We’ve put in 700-mile trips without any real drama, but more support at the sides would be welcome.

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