The 2024 Honda Pilot TrailSport, Our Rebelle Rally Teammate, Conquered Everything

From dirt and rocks to sand and silt, the 2024 Honda Pilot TrailSport championed its way across 1,404 miles of the Southwestern U.S. desert. I learned a lot about this rugged three-row SUV during my time driving it competing in the 2023 Rebelle Rally. 

Pre Tech Check At The Rebelle Rally With My Race Partner Emily Winslow And Our Honda Pilot Trailsport. Photo: Paolo Baraldi
Pre Tech check at the Rebelle Rally with my race partner Emily Winslow. Photo: Paolo Baraldi

The 2024 Honda Pilot TrailSport was a Reputable Ride at the Rebelle Rally

I’ve been an avid Honda fan all my life. Between my husband, Andy Lilienthal, and me, we’ve owned nine different Hondas in our lifetime. From two-door CRXs and a plethora of Civics to a Prelude Type SH, a CR-V, and a 1979 subcompact equipped with a two-speed Hondamatic transmission, I’m very familiar with Honda’s reputation for driving dynamics and its good ergonomics.

What about the Japanese automaker’s latest iterations? According to Honda, the brand continues to lead in SUV sales, with the newly redesigned Pilot and CR-V outpacing rivals. 

However, if you’re in the market for an off-pavement SUV capable enough to tackle a variety of terrain, how does the Honda Pilot compare? For 2024, Honda added more off-road capabilities to create the TrailSport trim for buyers who want to take it off-road. Armed with a 10-speed automatic transmission and a powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine generating 285 HP, this family-friendly seven-to-eight-seater SUV can easily pass people on two-lane highways and crest sand dunes when using Sand Mode all in the same day. I found out firsthand.

Related: The 2023 Honda Pilot 3 Row SUV Now Has a Removeable Seat for 7-8? Get Out!

The Bone Stock 2024 Honda Pilot Trailsport Was A Great Fit For Team 211, Aka Team Nor'Wester. Photo: Mercedes Lilienthal

The bone stock 2024 Honda Pilot TrailSport was a great fit for Team 211, aka Team Nor’Wester. Photo: Mercedes Lilienthal

The 4th Time is the Charm – and in a Bone Stock Model!

Honda invited its first-ever journalist (me) to create a non-employee team to compete in this year’s Rebelle Rally all-female off-road traditional navigation competition. I paired up once again with my friend and seasoned navigator, Emily Winslow, a Washington-based project manager who specializes in first responder pre-employment testing.

In 2018 and 2019, Emily competed in her Subaru Crosstrek. In 2018, I also competed on my own in my then-navigator’s husband’s Toyota Tacoma 4×4 truck (both had manual transmissions). We met over our love of driving stick shifts and rallying and became fast friends. In 2021, we joined as a team and partnered with Volkswagen, making history by driving the rally’s first all-electric crossover across the finish line: an all-wheel-drive ID.4 SUV. This was a significant accomplishment for us, especially with a bone stock height vehicle that many thought would never finish since the race places a large emphasis on EVs. 

In 2022, we joined Jeep and commanded a “bone stock,” or un-modified, Wrangler Rubicon 4xe plug-in hybrid 4×4. After we finished, we became the first team to complete the competition in the rally’s total duration with an EV powertrain, plug-in hybrid, and gas-powered engine.

Related: We Survived 8 Days in the Dirt at the Rebelle Rally

Navigation Is Key In The Rebelle Rally Race. Photo: Mercedes Lilienthal

Navigation is key in the Rebelle Rally race. Photo: Mercedes Lilienthal

Rebelle Rally Terrain is Diverse; How Would the Honda Pilot TrailSport Hold Up?

For this year’s rally, Honda challenged us with a bone stock 2024 Pilot TrailSport (sans the knobby 265/60 R18 Maxxis RAZR all-terrain tires). The Pilot TrailSport SUV has many factory off-road accoutrements that up its capability when off the beaten path. We drove through rocky canyons, craggy washes, silt-laden areas, and sand dunes the size of houses with zero issues.

In addition to its 8.3” ground clearance, the new Pilot TrailSport boasts multiple high-strength-steel skid plates, front and rear factory vehicle recovery points, and a TrailWatch camera system. It also has a state-of-the-art i-VTM4 torque vectoring all-wheel drive system with trail torque logic that kept us in line with where we were heading, not skidding out of control due to extreme off-road conditions we endured.

Lots Of Different Terrain Awaited Us In The 2024 Honda Pilot Trailsport. Photo: Mercedes Lilienthal

Lots of different terrains awaited us in the 2024 Honda Pilot TrailSport. Photo: Mercedes Lilienthal

Over the course of the competition, we surprised multiple 4×4 teams. “How did you get that up here?” or “Wow! That’s amazing how capable that car is and how you’re driving it.” Comments like those go to show that a bone stock 2024 Honda Pilot TrailSport has solid off-road chops. 

Related: Want to Learn Off-Roading, but Afraid to Try? 4Fest Events Has You Covered

Ready To Tackle It All In The 2024 Honda Pilot Trailsport. Photo: Regine Trias

Ready to tackle it all in the 2024 Honda Pilot TrailSport. Photo: Regine Trias

Top 10 Things I Liked About Our 2024 Honda Pilot TrailSport:

  1. Its overall off-road capability, given my eight-day 1,404-mile “rally test drive.”
  2. Its bright, eye-popping wrap is courtesy of Lili Melikian, a senior designer in Honda’s styling and design department.
  3. It’s well suited for left-foot braking in various terrains (versus previous Pilot generations), especially in higher-speed driving scenarios. Left-foot braking helps modulate acceleration and deceleration over obstacles and uneven trail sections, providing a smoother, more stable ride.
  4. Its expansive interior. We took out the second and third-row seats to allow for our gear, but we found the cabin to have tons of space regardless.
  5. It’s got different driving modes: normal, econ, snow, tow, trail, and sand. The last two were used most during the competition.
  6. It has an easy-to-use climate control system. Thanks to Honda for keeping knobs in your design and incorporating simple buttons.
  7. Its paddle shifters work well, are placed in an ergonomically exceptional area, and don’t click loudly when used.
  8. It’s got comfortable, heated seats. I didn’t experience driver fatigue after sitting for 10+ hours at a time.
  9. The infotainment system is easy to use and has buttons and knobs for essential controls.
  10. Its TrailWatch camera system has different views to allow for easy trail-side viewing or checking out what’s in front of you over a crest if your vision is impaired on steep inclines.
I Loved The Cupholders In The Center Stack Of The 2024 Honda Pilot Trailsport. Photo: Mercedes Lilienthal

I loved the cupholders in the center stack of the 2024 Honda Pilot TrailSport. Photo: Mercedes Lilienthal

The bone stock 2024 Honda Pilot TrailSport, which has an MSRP of $48,800 (plus a $1,345 destination charge), was all that and more during my time with it. It gave us no mechanical issues, it did everything I asked of it as a driver and more. The interior was quiet, spacious, and well-appointed. It also has huge cupholders and lots of them!

After a grand total of 3,604 miles and 16 days on the road (and trails) with it, I can confidently say this is a solid SUV that deserves a place in the Lilienthal family’s Honda history. It’s capable and comfortable on pavement or off, wherever you may take it.

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Oregon-based Mercedes Lilienthal is a freelance journalist and photographer who contributes to The New York Times and several automotive... More about Mercedes Lilienthal