2013 Honda Pilot Review: The Family Truck Refined

A Girls Guide To Cars | 2013 Honda Pilot Review: The Family Truck Refined - Honda Pilot

I have to confess: my first car crush was on a Honda. My college suite mate had an Accord, a classy, grown up looking sedan with the softest, most responsive clutch that got you up to speed in a flash, and tight, exact steering that made you feel like you controlled the road. It was a breeze to drive and a lot of fun. But what made my heart stop was the revelation that these cars rarely break down and will last for hundreds of thousands of miles.

I’d only ever driven cars that broke down. I couldn’t imagine the freedom of having a car that I could rely on day after day, knowing it would be there waiting for me, always ready to perform, for years and years.

A Crush Requited

It’s been a long time since I’ve driven another Honda, so I was excited to spend a week with the 2013 Honda Pilot Touring Edition. The ad campaign for the Pilot celebrates the SUV’s interior space: Enough room for eight adults with no compromises: plenty of leg room, plenty of head room, easy in and out, and the all important ample butt room. So when we had the chance to drive it recently, we had to put its passenger capacity to the test.

It was an all-out win. But not just for seating capacity, which you can get in a lot of different vehicles, from vans to oversized SUVs, and usually that’s what you get: Oversized. The Pilot falls into the mid-sized SUV category, not as big as some, but bigger than others.

Suv Line UpThe SUV line up: The Pilot (center left) is bigger than the GMC Acadia (center right) and Jeep Cherokee (on left) but smaller than the Suburban (far right)






A Family Truck

Lots Of Interior Space
Lots of interior space and headroom makes it easy for passengers to kick back and watch a DVD  (when they’re not goofing for the camera)
Even though the Pilot is classified as an SUV–Sports Utility Vehicle– it’s a truck. A family truck. There’s a reason people who drive trucks love them: They allow you to traverse the indiginities of the outside world with outsized muscle, interior comforts and smart storage. You sit high up over traffic, weather and terrain aren’t a challenge, and you are surrounded by all your creature comforts. There are places to store your tools and kits, and to keep your coffee. A truck says to other drivers “I mean business and I’m here to get it done.” The Pilot has all this.

Rear Of Pilot Back seat passengers have lots of control: Climate settings and media controls are on the center console; the remote, which is stored in the ceiling, can be used to operate the radio or DVD (below)

Then, theres the much maligned mini-van: so attentive to all the details and comforts of back seat passengers that it leaves its driver–and usually the one paying the bill–in a seemingly subservient role. It says “I’m here to take care of my kids and I don’t care about anything else.” Truthfully, mini vans aren’t bad to drive, but they aren’t a truck.

Comfort For All Passengers

But the Pilot takes a lot of inspiration from the mini van: passenger comfort, entertainment, storage, versatility. From the media console with navigation, satellite and radio, iPod access, and a hands free command option to operate your phone, navigation and more, to the DVD player with a flip down screen so back seat passengers can watch a movie (it comes with two wireless headphones and has jacks for three more) the Honda has tried to put it all into the Pilot.

The week we spent with the Pilot was an around-town week (though it would have been great to it on a take road trip!): Car pooling, grocery shopping, sitting in pickup lines at school, the usual stuff. Often for errands around town I choose to drive my smaller sedan: parking is easier and I don’t suffer from HOV guilt, one person driving around in a huge vehicle. But the Pilot didn’t make me feel that way at all; and while its gas mileage isn’t fabulous (getting a typical-for-its-class 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway) it’s only slightly less than my sedan (which gets about 21 mpg in the city).

Drop Down Screen And RemoteThe kids loved the Pilot too. I had carpool duty one day and had five teen girls in the car. Usually it’s a battle to get one or two kids to sit in the third row; now that they’re nearly full sized humans, they don’t like the low head room or lack of legroom. But they were comfortable in the Pilot: They sang along with the sound system, chatted quietly in the third row and watched a DVD. No one complained about the third row, which is in itself, a win.

What We Loved: 

  • Super comfortable third row and plenty of leg room in the center row
  • Entertainment system with drop down screen in the second row
  • Hands free voice activated systems
  • Bluetooth streaming for phone and iPod (a truly awesome feature)
  • Rear view camera
  • Second row sunshades on the windows
  • Storage shelf on front dash
  • USB ports and standard plug outlet
  • Heated seats
  • All of these things are standard: No charge for extras!
  • All wheel drive with stability assist and traction control
  • Built in Alabama
  • The price: $42,100 for the model we tested

Media Console And Dashboard ShelfThe Pilot’s center console is command central; it also has a nice storage space underneath for phones or small items; a shelf to the right of the console is great for passenger storage of phones or small items

Honda Pilot Back Up CamThe Pilot’s back up camera is a great safety feature








What You Need to Know

  • Media console is good, but not as whiz-bang as some others
  • Gas Mileage: 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway
  • ‘Soft’ handling, with a lot of play in the steering
  • Cargo Room: 87 cubic feet behind the front row; 48 cubic feet behind the second row; 18 cubic feet behind the third row
  • The third row is best accessed by passengers who can get their on their own; car seats fit, but getting kids in and out can be cumbersome
  • Uses regular gas
  • Towing capacity: 4500 lbs

Power And Usb In ConsoleThere’s power aplenty, and the center console has all three: Cigarette charge port, household plug and USB port

Disclosure: Honda provided the Pilot for our review; opinions are, as always, our 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