Boxy urban utility vehicles have a strong following in many Asian countries, and have been around for many years. The theme is slowly beginning to catch on in the U.S. and Europe - Scion’s xB
has made some inroads, the Ford Flex
appears to be floundering and Nissan’s upcoming Cube
hopes to expand the field further - but to date most of the entries have all been relatively small in size. Honda’s Pilot, while sharing a lot in terms of looks, is an order of magnitude larger, both inside and out. Whether that helps place it in a different and more broadly acceptable category or dooms it to outcast status is a question for some debate.
At first glance the 2009 Pilot is nothing new or groundbreaking, but a closer examination reveals some interesting traits. Its basic form is of two rectangular boxes stacked neatly, like a child’s vision of a school bus. Some chamfered edges and a very bulky grille give the Pilot a modern look, but the shape is decidedly uninspired. It is, however, a great shape for maximizing the interior space in a given set of exterior dimensions. The paradoxical largeness of this very car-like SUV makes for an intriguing blend of handling and practicality, but inspires little confidence in off-road or towing capability.
Part of the less-than-confident feel of the Pilot can be traced to its rather anaemic 250hp (183kW) 3.5L V6 engine. Certainly the power would be adequate if backed up by a suitably large torque figure, but this engine needs to be spun at 4,000-5,000rpm before it feels like it’s doing any real work, and by then it’s gone past sipping, drinking, and slurping fuel directly to chugging it. Watching the fuel-economy gauge under moderate-to-hard acceleration or while going up a steep hill will routinely cause ratings in the 3-5mpg (78-47L/100km) range - hardly in keeping with Honda’s ‘green carmaker’ image. Peak torque is rated at an uninspiring 253lb-ft (342Nm) at a lofty 4,800rpm, however, a dual-stage intake manifold and variable valve timing and lift keeps over 90% of this twist between 2,000 and 6,000rpm.
Sign up for our Daily
Get daily news, spy shots and more!