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#20

in 2011 Affordable Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $18,002 - $27,005
Original MSRP: $28,320 - $40,670
MPG: 17 City / 23 Hwy
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2011 Honda Pilot Performance

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

The 2011 Honda Pilot will get you around, but you won’t get much enjoyment out of driving it. The Pilot receives praise for its smooth ride, easy maneuvering and decent power. However, test drivers complain about long braking distances and numb steering. Fuel economy is about average, which doesn’t help matters.

  • "Solid off road abilities, quiet ride and good handling make the Pilot a good all-around vehicle." -- Detroit News
  • "As auto reviews commonly point out, Honda has done well striking a balance between refined driving dynamics, performance, and fuel efficiency with the powertrain of the 2011 Pilot." -- Automobile.com
  • "The trouble starts with the brakes – the…Honda Pilot required almost 150 feet of pavement to come to a halt in our instrumented 60-0-mph testing, which is a solid 20 feet or more behind rival crossovers. Things aren't much better under the hood: The V6 is nice and smooth under full throttle, but 250 horsepower -- 21 fewer than a V6-powered Accord -- just isn't enough oomph to move the roughly 4,400-pound Pilot around with any authority. Fuel economy, another traditional Honda strength, doesn't exactly stand out either." -- Edmunds
  • "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
  • "Gone from the steering is the slight dead spot on-center, and the ride has been stiffened appropriately, getting rid of the previous car's somewhat mushy-soft behavior." -- Car and Driver
  • "But if you enjoy driving, the Pilot is probably the wrong vehicle for you -- it just has no soul. The steering is totally numb, offering no feedback to the driver whatsoever." -- MSN

Acceleration and Power

The 2011 Honda Pilot comes with a 250-horsepower V6 engine that most test drivers say has adequate power (though a few find it sluggish). The engine is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission.

The EPA has not yet rated the 2011 model, but it’s expected to receive the same fuel economy ratings as the 2010 Pilot. According to the EPA, the 2010 Pilot with two-wheel drive achieves 17/23 mpg city/highway, while the 4WD model achieves 16/22 mpg.

Plenty of SUVs have better fuel economy ratings. The Dodge Journey, for example, starts at about $8,000 less than the Pilot and has a 19/25 base rating. It seats seven, but its 173-horsepower base engine is largely viewed as sluggish. You can get better fuel economy and a more powerful engine with the Ford Flex, but you’ll have to spend about $950 more than the base Pilot. The Flex comes with a 262-horsepower V6 and a 17/24 base fuel economy rating, which one mile per gallon higher than the Pilot’s on the highway.

  • "A lack of low-end torque from the V6 makes the 2010 Honda Pilot feel rather flat-footed off the line. Passing power isn't much better, as Honda's VTEC technology uncharacteristically fails to bring the V6 to life at higher rpm, no doubt a consequence of the Pilot's hefty curb weight." -- Edmunds
  • "Power is adequate for most situations, and with Honda's cylinder deactivation system, fuel economy is not bad for a vehicle of this size - I saw 18 mpg in mainly city driving." -- MSN
  • "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
  • "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
  • "As we began driving the Pilot, the 3.5-liter V-6, with its 250 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque, proved more than adequate to get the truck moving. We wouldn't call it fast, but it didn't struggle, either." -- CNET

Handling and Braking

Most test drivers are pleased with the Pilot’s comfortable handling. However, some of them say the steering is numb, and others criticize the overly long braking distances.

  • "The feel of the brake pedal is confidence-inspiring, but the brakes perform unacceptably in panic-stop situations. On the plus side, the soft suspension affords a comfortable ride over broken pavement and on the highway, though this does result in rather ponderous handling on curvy roads." -- Edmunds
  • "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
  • "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." -- Detroit News
  • "The Pilot adds to its confidence-inspiring image with a taut, but not harsh, suspension setup and precise steering feel." -- AutoMedia.com

Four-Wheel Drive

The Pilot's optional all-wheel drive system isn't meant for true off-roading, but it works in mud, ice or loose gravel. It has a feature that lets you manually lock the rear differential to help you get moving in these conditions (at speeds up to 18 mph). But test drivers have mixed opinions on whether the system is worth the money.

  • "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 HSA [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

Next Steps: 2011 Honda Pilot

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