2019 Honda Pilot: This Full Size SUV is the Perfect Minivan Alternative — and Rocks Off-Road Trails

A Girls Guide To Cars | 2019 Honda Pilot: This Full Size Suv Is The Perfect Minivan Alternative — And Rocks Off-Road Trails - Honda Pilot Suv Minivan Alternative Featured Image

I never knew the Honda Pilot could do this!

We ask a lot of our family cars: To keep us safe, to get us where we want and need to go, to make us comfortable, to hold all our stuff.

Then there are things we don’t ask it to do: Be super sporty, drive places where other cars will get stuck, look bad-ass boss in the school pick up line.

So when our car does all those things, it’s a true bonus, right?

We have always loved the Honda Pilot for it’s reliability, accommodating size and space and its all wheel drive capability—great for snow, mud and rough terrain, like steep gravel driveways on sleeting winter days.

Honda Pilot A Full Sized Suv Minivan Alternative

The Honda Pilot in Black Forest Pearl, which looks black until its in the right light and the green with metallic flecks really shines. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What This Car Costs

With the Pilot topping out under $50,000, this is a great minivan alternative. With only a few exceptions, you can have all the great things you like about a minivan in a full sized SUV. Here’s how the pricing shapes up:

  • LX edition, starting at $31,450
  • EX, starting at $34,330
  • EX-L starting at $37,760
  • Touring, $42,520
  • Elite, starting at $48,020

But with the 2019 model year, which is on sale now, Honda has upped the offer. The Pilot was redesigned a few years ago to look a little sleeker and modern. If you ask me, that was enough. But if you ask Lara Harrington, Pilot’s chief engineer, it wasn’t. It needed to be badder, better and tougher. And, it needed to be better for the families on school runs and road trips to Disney World.

Read More: Looking for the Best Road Trip Car? The 2018 Honda Pilot Elite Has You Covered

Honda Pilot A Full Sized Suv Minivan Alternative

The control center in the Honda Pilot; that cubby under the dash is a wireless charge pad! Photo: Scotty Reiss

Adding the Best of Odyssey to the Pilot

Last year Honda rolled out the newly redesigned Odyssey featuring some innovative family features. And now, the Pilot has them too. Among the features that were added are:

  • Cabin Talk: Tap the icon on the touch screen and a microphone allows you to talk to passengers in the center and rear seats, even overriding the sound system, including any headphones being used wirelessly or plugged into the console;
  • WiFi: The Pilot is now a WiFi hot spot!
  • Cabin Control Remote app: Your phone is now a remote control! Passengers in the back download the app to set climate control, choose songs for the radio and other functions from their smart phones

    Honda Pilot A Full Sized Suv Minivan Alternative

    The entertainment systems comes with two wireless headphones and a remote control; Cabin Talk will interrupt the sound on the headphones so passengers can hear the captain speaking. Photo: Scotty Reiss

  • Social Playlist: Using the Cabin Control app, connect devices to the wifi and add songs to a single playlist from each person’s device
  • Customizable touch screen: Just drag and drop the apps so they are organized how you like them
  • Qi wireless phone charge pad, which is super strong and impressive; it charged my phone easily despite a thick case and metal phone ring attached to the back of it;
  • Apple Car Play/Android Auto: Well, actually Honda added this to the Pilot last year but I felt it was worth mentioning here; it’s such a great system.

Read More: Need more luxury in a minivan alternative? The Acura RDX sports a new look and more luxury than ever.

Honda Pilot A Full Sized Suv Minivan Alternative

With the seat forward there’s plenty of space to get in and out, which I could do with only one free hand. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Yes, I Sat in the Third Row. And Yes, I Could Breathe

Like the Odyssey, the Pilot is known for those wide open spaces: Leg room, head room and lots of storage. The new design preserved the third-row space and still delivers a reasonable amount of cargo space, too. I hopped into the third row—because, it has one so I had to!— and found it to be very comfortable.

Honda Pilot A Full Sized Suv Minivan Alternative

This button!!! push it to move the center seat forward. Photo: Scotty Reiss

But what I liked most was this: A button that slides and tilts the seat forward so I can get in and out. While getting in and out is better suited for someone with a good amount of agility, it’s good that no one has to struggle to get the seat to move forward. It does it all on its own.

Read More: 2018 Honda Accord First Look: A Sedan For The Future Generation

Honda Pilot A Full Sized Suv Minivan Alternative

The dirt is a badge of honor on the Pilots lined up for off-roading. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Biggest Addition to the Pilot? Adding “Rebelle” to its Reputation

For all its capability we all overlooked one thing in the Pilot: That it’s an all wheel drive SUV that can take on rugged terrain. But could it really conquer off-road trails? Most owners didn’t want to try it and risk getting stuck. So while the Pilot was capable, this isn’t what it was known for. Until now.

Honda not only took us on a pretty challenging off-road course, which you can see here:


But the Pilot’s engineering team is taking on one of the toughest off-road challenges there is: the 2018 Rebelle Rally.

Read More: The Rebelle Rally is the ultimate off road challenge but it takes a woman to do it.

Honda Pilot A Full Sized Suv Minivan Alternative

My friend Autumn and I with the Pilot. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Honda Pilot and Rebelle Rally: The Ultimate Test

Rebelle Rally is an 8-day race with no pavement, no GPS, no phones and no men. Teams of women competitors start in the mountains of Nevada and end in the California desert, and at the end, a small group is crowned champions.

It’s a proving ground for the women to compete, but it’s also a proving ground for the vehicles. These trucks and SUVs have to deliver a top performance in very challenging conditions. And while some vehicles are modified for the race, the Pilot will prove itself on its own: it’ll only get a skid plate added to its undercarriage and off-road tires. That’s it.

And that is pretty bad-ass boss: to look great, have smart function and compete at a world-class level.

Honda Pilot A Full Sized Suv Minivan Alternative

Are we there yet? This entertainment system app lets back seat passengers follow along with the Pilot’s navigation. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What We Listened to in the Honda Pilot

With the Social Playlist feature, everyone gets to play DJ! But we were inspired by our trip to see the Brady Bunch house to fill the car with classic pop from the ’70’s!

Disclosure: I was Honda’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss