The 2023 Honda Pilot 3 Row SUV Now Has a Removable Seat for 7 or 8? Get Out!

2023 Honda Pilot Featured Image

You can do that, too… as in … get out off-road.

I’m just going to start with this: In the 2023 Honda Pilot, which was fully redesigned for 2023, you can remove the middle seat in the center row to seat 7, or pop it back in to seat 8. It’s our call, and if you’re not sure if you’ll need it, you can stow it under the rear cargo floor. 

This is just one of the really great features that awaits 2023 buyers of this very popular SUV, which starts at about $36K and tops out at about $52K; it culls some of the best features in the Honda Odyssey minivan, off-road capable 4 wheelers and brings it all together in a family- focused SUV.

Related: 2023 Honda CR-V: Get Ready to Love Hybrid SUV Driving

The 2023 Honda Pilot Elite

The 2023 Honda Pilot Elite. Photo: Scotty Reiss

For 2023, a Modern but More Rugged Redesign

We saw redesigns of the HR-V and the CR-V lately and were waiting… waiting… waiting… for the Pilot to get its due. It took some time, though; Honda’s research showed that more and more families are prioritizing camping for recreation, and nearly double the number of people hike and camp than did just 7 years ago. So, they took a step back to make sure they got the Pilot redesign right. They not only added great new features, but added the off-road customized TrailSport model to the lineup for off-roading capability. 

The new front face of all models are noted for the slim headlights, LED daytime running lights and a large black gloss honeycomb grille; this design language feels inspired by its luxury sibling Acura, and you’ll see similar grilles on the HR-V and the CR-V. 

Then, there are new tail lights and a new tailgate design that spells the PILOT name across the back. 

The 2023 Pilot is larger by 3.5” than the prior model; this is clear in the center row, which has 2.5” more legroom, and even in the third row which expanded by more than half an inch. And, there’s more cargo space behind the third row—nearly 4 more cubic feet. 

Overall, the look is elegant but also, rugged. Immediately noticeable is the body-colored rear pillar between the rear doors and cargo area windows; in the prior model this pillar was black but now it’s body colored, giving it more of a Toyota 4Runner look than a family SUV look.

Related: Camping Trip for a Non-Camper: Discovering Something New In Myself

The View From The Driver'S Seat

The view from the driver’s seat in the 2023 Honda Pilot Elite. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Pilot Delivers Even More Features and Comforts in the 2023 Redesign

The best features in 2023 redesign are seen in the Elite model, though there are nice new benefits in all trims: 

  • New customizable multimedia system that is faster and easier to use
  • 7” touch screen is standard
  • A “stuff shelf” on the front dashboard that allows you to stow a few things there
  • A wide under-dash cubby that is big enough for two phones to lay side by side
  • Large cupholders and bottle pockets throughout the car (14 in all)
  • 4 standard USB ports, including one USB-C port, and two additional in the third row in Touring and Elite models
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard
  • An upgraded 9” multimedia system is available
  • The larger 9” screen also has wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Qi phone charge pad
  • Leather seating in all but the base model
  • Power slide and tilt center row seats
  • The Elite model has head up display and a Bose premium sound system

Honda also added to safety features for 2023, starting with a new steel frame that withstood a side impact crash test with flying colors; more airbags, and more active safety features including road sign reader, traffic jam assist and hill descent control, all of which is part of the standard Honda Sensing safety package. 

Related: New Automotive Safety Systems Will Soon Be Able Communicate with Traffic Lights, Bridges and Toll Roads, Thanks to Harman

Honda Pilot Rear Seat Removal

Removing the rear seat in the 2023 Honda Pilot is easy but takes a bit of muscle; it’s not light! Photo: Scotty Reiss

Even More Configurable Seating

The removable middle seat in the center row may be the best feature in the 2023 Honda Pilot but there’s a caveat: it’s only available in the top two trims, the Touring and Elite models. 

But this feature adds incredible flexibility in seating: room for 7 or 8 is added to center row seats that slide and tilt with the touch of a button on the seat’s shoulder; center row seats that slide forward or back and recline; and rear seats that can fold flat in a 60/40 split so you can create a little more or a lot more cargo space. 

Then, there are full child passenger seat LATCH systems (lower anchors and tethers) in 3 of the seats: Center row outboard and third row passenger side; all have tether anchors on the back of the seat, even the removable middle seat. In all there are plenty of ways to safely and easily install a child car seat. 

Oh, and those slide and tilt seats? They will slide and tilt with a front facing car seat installed using the LATCH system. 

The Rear End Of The Honda Pilot

The rear end of the 2023 Honda Pilot. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Taking the Honda Pilot TrailSport Off Road: Can it Handle the Trail?

The TrailSport, which has an additional 1” of ground clearance, adds true off-road capability, with skid plates; the TrailWatch camera system with 360, front and side views; rugged all season floor mats; all terrain tires with wheels designed to be more off-road resilient; a full size spare tire; and Trail Mode, which sends power to the wheels that need it.

I’m pretty sure that the executives at Honda would not send me out on a trail that they were not sure the car, and I, could handle, and certainly would not allow their engineers to stand on the trail and spot me as I climb up a rock staircase or cross a slick rock face. Still I was surprised at the challenges they put us through, from a moderately rugged trail to traversing creeks to the thunk and grind of rocks scraping the underside of the TrailSport— that one is always unnerving but if you have skid plates, it’s OK, the car is protected. 

The bonus was that we were warm and comfy, even though it was below 30º outside and we were driving on rocks. Honda’s new seat design, which added more lower body support and cushioning to absorb bumps in the road, make the ride even more comfortable. I never even spilled my coffee.

Related: The Teams … and the Vehicles… We’re Watching Compete In the 2022 Rebelle Rally Off Road Competition

Cargo Area Behind The Second Row

The cargo area is nearly 4 cubic feet larger than the prior model. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What You Need to Know 

For 2023, Honda increased the power output of the Pilot to 285 horsepower and 262 torque from the V6 engine, and added three more drive modes: Sport, Tow and Trail were added to the lineup of Normal, Snow, Econ and Sand (in AWD models). Then, the Pilot was loaded with great features at every level. However, the company made a thoughtful effort not to overthink options to keep pricing simple. Which means there are considerations to be made: 

  • A rear seat entertainment system is not offered
  • Electric rear seat control buttons (typically found in the cargo area) are not offered; a manual strap system remains, and with the larger cargo area, they can be hard to reach (I had to slide the center row seats forward to put the third row up)
  • The removable center seat is in the EX-L, Touring and Elite models; the LX has a 3-seat bench and the TrailSport has captains chairs
  • Since the TrailSport only has captains chairs but not the removable middle seat, it does not have center row cup holders, just the bottle pockets; the third row has cup holders, though 
  • Navigation is an option and not standard; I would opt for it in the TrailSport edition, since Apple CarPlay depends on a cell signal
  • AWD is standard on TrailSport and Elite models, and offered on the others for $2,100

You can see all the equipment specs here. 

The Stuff Shelf!The Stuff Shelf!

The stuff shelf!. Photo: Scotty Reiss

This Car Gets You… So you Can Get Out More 

Honda charged its engineers in Ohio and designers in California to modernize the Pilot and add more off-road capability along with comfort, flexibility and the necessary luxuries. And, then the company modernized its Alabama assembly plant to build it. All in an effort to make the Pilot everything that family SUV buyers want and need. 

The good luck for Pilot buyers is that you get the intelligence, innovation and tinkering Honda does in all its cars, especially the Odyssey, in the Pilot. So you can handle weekday carpool and the weekend hill climb and still feel comfortable, capable and pampered. Don’t you love it when a car company gets you? 

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


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