in 2009 Affordable Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $13,601 - $22,100
Original MSRP: $27,695 - $40,095
MPG: 17 City / 23 Hwy
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2009 Honda Pilot Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The 2009 Honda Pilot receives praise for its smooth ride and easy maneuvering. However, its more-powerful engine goes largely unnoticed and test drivers complain about torque steer.

  • "I noticed the 2009 Pilot is easier to turn and maneuver than the previous model. The steering is more effortless in the new model. However, the car-based Pilot does not have the feel of a crossover vehicle. It feels like an SUV, though the ride is smooth and not at all 'trucky.'" -- San Francisco Chronicle
  • "Even more than its predecessor, the 2009 Pilot is solid and well behaved: about as refined as any crossover SUV is likely to get. Smooth operation and quiet running are the rule, though the Pilot does emit a light roar on hard acceleration, and tire whine may be heard on certain surfaces." -- AutoMedia.com
  • "Solid off road abilities, quiet ride and good handling make the Pilot a good all-around vehicle." -- The Detroit News
  • "It's still no MDX; but those who genuinely prefer comfortable, controlled cruising to high-intensity corner-carving will love the 2009 Pilot's even more surefooted demeanor and improved ride." -- Motor Trend
  • "The Pilot's extra towing capacity of 4500 pounds will likely be of great interest to boat and ATV owners everywhere, particularly since Honda claims that all equipment necessary for towing (heavy-duty radiator, oil cooler, trailer hitch, wiring harness, etc.) is already in place on the new Pilot." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Dynamically, the 2009 Honda Pilot feels every bit as big as it looks. There's bountiful body roll, and brake dive is significant even at low speeds. The reasonably precise steering is extraordinarily slow but nicely weighted, and the soft suspension affords a comfortable ride over rough roads and on the highway. The latter traits should endear the Pilot to family-minded buyers." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The Pilot's new V6 engine includes variable cylinder management, which automatically switches from six to four to three cylinders to improve fuel economy. According to the EPA, the two-wheel drive Pilot should net 17/23 mpg city/highway, while the four-wheel drive model should achieve 16/22 mpg.

  • "The SUV cruises comfortably at 75 mph -- the V-6 engine isn't taxed in the least -- and it's easy to keep the Pilot on course." -- Cars.com
  • "Any Pilot has ample power and fine throttle response in both city and highway driving. The transmission is smooth and responsive, but occasionally hunts for the ideal gear." -- Consumer Guide
  • "On the road, the extra power really isn't noticeable, but then there has always been plenty on tap. The automatic transmission and the V-6 engine communicate well." -- Orlando Sentinel
  • "Acceleration feels adequate for the type of vehicle this is, but it certainly won't be confused with some of the more sporting crossovers like Audi Q7 TDI 4.2." -- Autoblog
  • "Pilot's put on about 140 pounds, negating some of the new punch, but had plenty of pep for a family of four and miscellany." -- USA Today

Handling and Braking

Most reviewers are pleased with the Honda Pilot's comfortable -- albeit predictable -- handling, but a few test drivers have complaints about the steering, which they say can be imprecise.

  • "While the Pilot tries to look like an S.U.V., its ride is not trucklike. Even on roads through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where the ride in some family sedans can be abusive, the Pilot sheltered me from all but the worst impacts." -- The New York Times
  • "I drove the Pilot on winding roads in the desert outside Palm Springs, Calif., and even when pushed hard through corners the SUV remained even-keeled. A number of competitors, like the Hyundai Veracruz and Mazda CX-9, aren't as successful in this respect and more easily succumb to the laws of physics." -- Cars.com
  • "Handling falls on the ordinary side, but that's hardly a surprise for a vehicle of this nature. Sportiness is not what you get from an SUV, crossover or otherwise, from Honda or any competitor." -- AutoMedia.com
  • "Ride was an odd mix of accommodating smoothness on most surfaces but jerky harshness on slow bumps. Cornering was precise and controlled enough for most users. But pushed hard, the new Pilot had an old fault: excessive under-steer. Partway through a tight, quick corner, you'd find yourself resteering to maintain the intended path." -- USA Today
  • "The steering was not as precise as the GMC Acadia in back-to-back testing, but the Pilot was comfortable on the highway and in city driving. There was some noticeable torque steer when accelerating during a left turn (I was trying to beat a yellow arrow at a traffic light), and the steering felt a little unstable for a moment as I pulled through the turn." -- The Detroit News

Four-Wheel Drive

The Pilot's optional four-wheel drive system isn't meant for true off-roading, but reviewers find it competent on light terrain, hills and in bad weather.

  • "For pavement people, VTM-4's near-instantaneous torque-transferring capabilities simply impart a more confident feel in rain or snow conditions." -- Motor Trend
  • "Even though where we drove -- rutted dirt roads and up and down some steep hills -- was probably more severe than anything a Pilot owner would ever likely attempt, the SUV breezed through the terrain with ease, and HAS [Hill Starts Assist] performed as advertised." -- Cars.com
  • "During our evaluation, we also took the Pilot on a dirt and rock trail to assess its off-road capabilities. Even in first gear (there is no low range), with the VTM-4 system locked, the Pilot struggled to clear some of the hills and obstacles on the course." -- Velocity Journal

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