We were treated to a preview of the next-generation Honda Pilot at this year's Detroit auto show, and now that the official production variant has been released, we see how accurate a preview it was. Honda's newest mid-size crossover SUV focuses on building its already strong reputation for efficiency, comfort and quality while adding more SUV-like characteristics.

Standard features across the line include a 3.5L V6 i-VTEC engine delivering 250hp and 253lb-ft of torque. Emissions meet CARB's ULEV-2 rating, and the Pilot delivers fuel economy of 17/23mpg city/highway in 2WD guise, while the 4WD model slides in just below at 16/22mpg - a solid improvement over the old model's 16/22mpg in 2WD and 15/20mpg in 4WD.

A five-speed transmission is standard, although an automatic is available. The new 2009 Pilot is also larger in nearly every dimension, with interior volume up over four cubic feet. Ground clearance remains the same at eight inches, despite the more aggressive visual treatment.

Aesthetically, the Pilot has always been a very mild-looking SUV - not a rugged, brutish brick like a Hummer, but more of a tall wagon. That car-like demeanor is what helped the Pilot break ground in the crossover SUV category, but Honda is working to add some of the visual appeal of a more rugged vehicle while holding on to its excellent ride quality and moderate size.

New features not found on the 2008 Pilot include Variable Cylinder Management on all trim levels, which allows the engine to deactivate cylinders when appropriate to aid fuel economy. A tailgate with a lift-up glass hatch makes quick access to the back of the vehicle easier, and hill-start assist will keep your rear bumper off the hood of the car behind you in steep driving. A new power tailgate and Bluetooth hands free system are available on the Touring trim level.