2021 Honda Pilot Review
The 2021 Honda Pilot is the automaker's largest and most capable SUV. It seats up to eight passengers and has a roomy enough third-row seat for adults. There's plenty of cargo room too, whether you're just loading up some groceries or folding down the rear seats to help a friend move house. We're also impressed by the Pilot's fuel-efficient and powerful engine and exceptional ride and seat comfort.
Among midsize three-row SUVs, the Pilot isn't quite the go-to choice it was when this generation was introduced in 2016. Since then, new competitors such as the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride have debuted, offering even more space and interior refinement. There's also the Mazda CX-9; it's smaller but in return it gives you a sportier driving experience. But overall the 2021 Pilot is one of our favorites. We recommend putting it right at the top of your research list for a well-rounded family SUV.
What's it like to live with?
If you're interested in knowing what it's like to live with a Honda Pilot, check out our long-term test of the Pilot. We tested a Pilot Elite for a year, driving it over 20,000 miles, commuting with it to work, taking it on road trips, and collecting data all along the way. Note that while we tested a 2016 model, most of our reporting still applies to the 2021 Pilot.
The Honda Pilot is space-efficient and smooth-riding, and it provides ample power along with decent fuel economy. You also get plentiful features, a useful cargo area and smart interior storage. This Honda is one of the most well-rounded three-row SUVs you can get.
How does the Pilot drive?
The Pilot is a surprisingly able performer. We tested a Pilot Elite and recorded a 0-60 mph sprint of 7.0 seconds, which is a bit quicker than most rival midsize three-row SUVs. Slowing down is easy too. The brakes have a relatively consistent feel and are easy to use in everyday driving. The Pilot's panic-stopping distance from 60 mph (129 feet in our testing) is average for this class of vehicle.
Twisty mountain roads don't pose a problem for the Pilot — this SUV feels more nimble than most. The steering is precise but offers little feel for the road. The Pilot's available AWD system is fine for slippery road surfaces, but this SUV lacks the ground clearance and specific off-road aids such as hill descent control to make it truly capable off-road.
How comfortable is the Pilot?
The Pilot rides comfortably both around town and on the highway. Body motions are well-controlled, but not at the expense of overall ride comfort. Small bumps are dispatched without issue. The front seats have supportive backs and bottoms, providing hours of comfort, and the second-row seats are similarly cushy and can recline and slide.
There's very little tire or wind noise inside the cabin, and the V6 sounds pretty good if you wind it out. The tri-zone climate control works well to keep everyone comfortable.
How’s the interior?
The Pilot exhibits typical Honda efficiency with smart use of space and practical features. The first and second rows are roomy. The third row is big enough for occasional use for adults, but it's not as spacious as what you'll find in a Kia Telluride or Volkswagen Atlas. Access to the third row is also a bit narrow.
Most drivers will be able to find a suitable seating position, though tall drivers might want a little more steering wheel adjustment. The upright seating position gives the driver a more commanding view out than a Honda Odyssey minivan provides.
How’s the tech?
Overall, the Pilot's touchscreen system is easy to use. The navigation system responds quickly, and the 10-speaker audio system sounds great. A Wi-Fi hotspot is included on Touring and Elite models, and users with the Honda CabinControl app can connect to the in-car Wi-Fi and control certain things such as rear cabin temperature and music playlists.
As for driver assist features, the Pilot's adaptive cruise control system isn't nearly as smooth in accelerating and braking as the systems in some rival SUVs. It also only works above 20 mph, which is a bummer for drivers stuck in stop-and-go traffic. The lane-keeping assist feature works fine on straight roads but can be overly intrusive if the road starts to bend.
How’s the storage?
The Pilot is a useful vehicle when you need to carry a lot of stuff. While cargo room is solid — 16.5 cubic feet behind the third row and a maximum volume of 83.9 cubes with the second- and third-row seats folded — it trails segment leaders. Still, there's generous storage under the load floor, and the space is very usable. The large door pockets and clever, configurable small-item storage within the center console are among the many places to store your things inside the cabin.
There's a really nice amount of space for car seat installations in the second row with good access to the LATCH anchors. The rear tether points are on the bottom of the second-row seats and are easy to miss if you don't know where to look. The one-button slide access to the third row helps facilitate seat installation back there.
Want to tow? The AWD Pilot's maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds, which matches the capability of most V6-powered three-row SUVs. Front-wheel-drive Pilots are limited to 3,500 pounds.
How economical is the Pilot?
The EPA rates the all-wheel-drive Pilot at 22 mpg combined (19 city/26 highway), which is about midpack for three-row SUVs. On Edmunds 115-mile standardized drive loop, which is made up primarily of highway roads, the Pilot returned 25.2 mpg which indicates that the EPA estimates are realistic.
Is the Pilot a good value?
We tested a fully loaded all-wheel-drive Elite, which is one of the pricier models in the class. However, it provides better comfort, quality feel and a nicer cabin than many competitors, so the price seems justified. The quality of materials and assembly is high for a non-luxury vehicle. The soft-touch plastics on the dash combined with high-gloss trim and matte-finish secondary controls look and feel good.
Basic warranty coverage is for three years/36,000 miles with a powertrain warranty for five years/60,000 miles. These are about standard for the class, as is the three-year/36,000-mile roadside assistance coverage.
Among three-row SUVs, the Pilot comes across as one of the most well-rounded. Its appealing combination of power and relatively rewarding handling is rare. It's certainly not sporty, but there's a willingness to change direction that's lacking in similar SUVs, with the exception of the Mazda CX-9. It's also comfortable and offers many conveniences.
Which Pilot does Edmunds recommend?
All 2021 Pilots have the same engine and transmission, so picking one largely comes down to your budget and knowing which features you want. In general, we think the midlevel EX-L trim provides the best value. A case can be made for the less expensive EX, but the EX-L adds some useful extras that you'll appreciate having in a family SUV, such as a power liftgate, second-row sunshades and additional USB charging ports.
Honda Pilot models
The Honda Pilot comes in seven trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L, SE (Special Edition), Touring, Elite and Black Edition. Most Pilots have seating for eight, though second-row captain's chairs — which reduce capacity to seven — are optional on the Touring and standard on the Elite and Black Edition trims.