Road Trip Season is Here – But Do You Have the Right Car?
Since I was a kid, road trips have been a big part of my life. As soon as the snow was off the ground (and sometimes sooner) my parents would pile us in the car and drive us around the country. From Michigan to Walt Disney World, a tour of Civil War battle fields, and even to San Antonio to see the Alamo. I think we covered over half of the nation just in our car, and it was always an adventure. This is something I still love to do today, and have to stop off at least one tourist trap along the way, after all, it is tradition!
So when I had a scheduled trip to Branson, Missouri, on the books, I was on the hunt for the best road trip car for us to get us there. With a drive that is more than twelve hours each way, special requirements like comfort for everyone on the trip, storage and safety features to help the driver with long hours on the road are a must.
And, they are a big plus for SUVs like the 2018 Honda Pilot Elite. Honda loaned us this popular SUV for the trip, and just driving it around the block I knew it was perfect for what we needed, and so much more.
Who This Car is For
- Singles, couples or families
- Lovers of luxury features who want a 3-row SUV for under $50,000
- Drivers who need flexible seating for family, cargo or lifestyle
- Buyers who value comfort for all passengers
- Drivers who need leg room for all passengers
- Buyers who regularly need third row seating
What This Car Costs
- Base price: $30,900 LX – 280-HP 3.5 Liter V6 Engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, multi-angle rearview camera, 8 passenger seating
- EX – Honda LaneWatch, which gives a camera view of the right front and side of the car when the right turn signal is used, remote start engine, touch-screen infotainment system, three-zone climate control: Add $2430
- EX-L – Leather-trimmed seats, one-touch 2nd-row tilting seats; rear entertainment system and Honda Sensing safety features are available, too: Add $5,860
- Touring – 9-speed automatic transmission, navigation, 20-inch alloy wheels, Honda Sensing: Add $11,070
- Elite – Heated 2nd row captain’s chairs, panoramic sun roof, blind spot monitors, LED headlights with automatic high beams, AWD: Add $16,570
- Price of the model we test drove, including delivery: $47,470
You May Have to Adjust to the Shifting But Soon It’s Second Nature
Like most newer cars the Honda Pilot has a push button start, but after I started the car I sat there for a minute to figure out how to shift it into gear. I was looking behind the steering wheel for the gear shift or for one that stuck out of the center console. Instead, I was greeted with a push button gear shifting system that seemed intimidating at first.
The design of the shifting system is modeled after the traditional gear shift we all are used to, with buttons in the place of a traditional stick. The button placement and actualization is set to model the movements you would make if it were a physical gear shift and you can intuitively find them without looking down, much as you would while driving a traditional automatic vehicle.
The two buttons that take a bit of time to get used to, and even this is minimal, are the reverse and parking. To put the car in reverse simply pull back on the R button. It will switch to reverse and activate the backup camera. Parking actually took a bit of time to get used to, but it’s really just pushing the Park button, which engages park completely. At the bottom of the gear shift panel, you will find a traction selector that lets you set the system for the conditions you may be in, as well as your drive mode.
The placement of the push-button gear selector does mean the cup holders are right next to it (and I was afraid I’d spill my drink on the buttons), but that may be the only negative thing we found in the whole week we had the car.
Adaptive Cruise Control? This is the Feature We Didn’t Know We Needed!
As long as I’ve been driving cruise control was an option. You set it, still monitored everything but enjoyed the bit of a break while driving long distances. But adaptive cruise control is a total game changer and perfect for while you’re on a road trip. Yes, you still have to monitor everything while driving but it helps take some of the stress away.
With adaptive cruise control the car slows or speeds up to keep pace with traffic; you can also set how many car lengths you want to stay from the car in front of you. As the vehicle detects cars in front of you, it will show them on your digital readout on the dash and slow the car (or speed up) to keep you at your desired distance. The only time we had issues with it was on curvy roads or when we reached a mountainous area that it could not detect the cars as well. On a rare occasion, it would break harder than we wanted, so we felt that driving in those areas was better left to us.
Besides keeping us at a safe distance, we found that using the adaptive cruise control helped reduce our road fatigue over the long distance.
Comfort and Features – The Pilot Has You Covered
But don’t think the Honda Pilot is just for long trips; the car packs a lot of great features. The comfortable ride makes it great for long hauls or just daily errands. With plenty of storage space the Honda Pilot can handle all your bags, a pile of sports equipment or just is a comfortable ride to and from work.
Honda has loaded the Pilot with family friendly features that keep your family happy and the driver comfortable, both around town and on the road. From center row captains chairs so each passenger has their own space and arm rests, to an entertainment system option with wireless headphones to up to 5 USB ports, a household plug and and HDMI port for plugging in a gaming system, drivers don’t have to worry about taking care of everyone– they can take care of themselves!
A Comfortable Car to Drive in Town, Too
Before the Honda Pilot was delivered, I had never been behind the wheel of a Honda. But a quick trip to the store for trip essentials told me everything I needed to know about it before we even hit the road. The drive was smooth, the Pilot despite its size was easy to park, the seats were comfortable and I knew we were in for a great trip.
Our road trip took us from the Motor City through parts of Route 66 and to the Ozark Mountains, so we were able to test the Pilot on multiple driving conditions and areas. Probably most notably, no one got car sick. The nice ride height and headroom in the car, as well as the leg room and three-zone climate control meant everyone felt comfortable and the curvy roads and hills didn’t impact them. This can be a huge consideration for a road trip car. Overall, we spent a combined 24+ hours on the road and were comfortable the whole time.
Keeping Both Passengers and Driver Safe Along the Way
Honda has been on the forefront of putting active safety systems into its cars and SUVs. These systems are built from a series of cameras and sensors that work to sense objects, traffic and pedestrians around the car and then help the driver to react. The driver is in charge, but assistance from technology can mean you’re less likely to have a crash or incident. Systems on the Honda Pilot we drove include:
- Collision mitigation braking system, which uses sensors active with the adaptive cruise control system to slow the car if traffic ahead of you slows
- Lane departure system, which monitors the lines along the road and if you drift from your lane it gives you an alert
- Adaptive cruise control keeps pace with the traffic ahead of you, slowing when necessary and speeding up when possible
- Lane keeping assist system monitors the lanes on the road and if you drift from your lane, it nudges you back in by providing a little resistance and a visual and audible alert. This system is deactivated if you have your turn signal on
- Honda Lane Watch, which is unique to Honda: when you turn on your right turn signal the touch screen displays a right-side camera so you can see anything on the right side of the car. This is great for making a right turn in towns where bicycling is popular, or for merging to the right on the highway
The Right Road Trip Car is Key To a Successful Journey
Once a road tripper always a road tripper, right? At least in my case. So when I look at a car, I consider the regular trips I’ll make as well as those bucket list trips, and how my car can help make that happen. And if it’s great for making the drive to work or the weekend jaunts to the nursery, all the better.
What We Loved
- Adaptive Cruise Control makes the long haul a breeze
- Comfortable ride for everyone in the vehicle
- Lane departure assist keeps you where you need to be
- Handles hills and mountains like they’re nothing
- Legroom even for the tallest drivers and passengers
- Beautiful design steals your heart at the first look
- Ample storage and hidden compartments to keep your items safe when you aren’t in the vehicle
- Goes easily from a family vehicle to one perfect for road trips
- Smart key with push button start
- Multiple drive modes including eco, sport and snow
- Rear seats fold for extra cargo space
- 1,500 lb tow Capacity
What You Need to Know
- Seating for 8 comfortably with leg room to spare
- Back seat passengers have entertainment, charge ports and climate zones
- Cargo space behind the third row is good but not huge
- An under-floor storage space in the rear is great for keeping things out of site
- Different drive modes to help you in different weather conditions
- Ability to go off-roading (no we’re not kidding) with a traction control system that handles sand, mud, and ice
- 20MPG city/27 highway
- Regular gas recommended
What We Listened to in the Honda Pilot
Every road trip demands a great playlist. This is what we listened to on our way to and from Branson!
Disclosure: The Honda Pilot was provided for our test drive; all opinions are my own.