in 2012 Affordable Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $20,298 - $30,456
Original MSRP: $28,620 - $40,970
MPG: 18 City / 25 Hwy
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2012 Honda Pilot Performance

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

The 2012 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 adequate power. However, test drivers complain about abnormally long braking distances and excessive body roll. Thanks to this year’s improvements, the Pilot’s fuel economy is at the top of its class.

  • "Despite its size, the 2012 Honda Pilot SUV rides and drives very much like a large car.” -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "On the road, the Pilot does a fine job, and there is no noticeable lack of power.” -- Motor Trend
  • "But if you enjoy driving, the Pilot is probably the wrong vehicle for you -- it just has no soul." -- MSN
  • "When it comes to performance, 2012 Honda Pilot is hindered by a lack of power and a hefty curb weight.” -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 Honda Pilot comes with a 250-horsepower V6 engine that’s paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. The Pilot can tow up to 4,500 pounds in four-wheel drive models, which is less than many other crossovers in its class. The engine includes Variable Cylinder Management, enabling it to run on three, four or six cylinders based on the amount of power needed, which reduces fuel consumption. For 2012, the Pilot receives aerodynamic and powertrain improvements that net even better fuel economy. According to the EPA, front-wheel drive Pilot models get 18/25 mpg city/highway, while four-wheel drive models get 17/24 mpg city/highway. Honda claims that these numbers make the Pilot one of the most fuel-efficient V6 crossovers with three rows on the market. Still, its gas mileage isn’t significantly better than competitors; it beats out the eight-seat Chevrolet Traverse by only 1 mpg in each category when comparing two-wheel drive models.

Most test drivers note that while the Honda Pilot isn’t particularly sluggish, it’s certainly slower than most of its competition. One reviewer says that the automatic transmission sometimes has trouble finding the right gear.

  • "We love the 3.5-liter V6 for its gutsy response when we demand to go fast, and for its smooth, silent operation. We also like the fuel economy, which is near the best in this class.” -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Pilot's powertrain lags some of the competition, since the V-6 produces only 250 hp and is mated to a five-speed automatic; newer competitors have six-speeds and more power. That said, I didn't find engine power to be an issue, even when I loaded 600 lb of water-softener salt into the cargo hold.” -- Automobile Magazine
  • "At the track, the Pilot motored to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds and ran through the quarter mile in 16.6 seconds at 83.6 mph. Braking from 60 mph took a longish 142 feet. Those aren't bad numbers, but they certainly aren't class-leading.” -- Motor Trend
  • "In Edmunds performance testing, we clocked a Pilot Touring from a standstill to 60 mph in a pokey 9.7 seconds, a full second or two behind many rivals.” -- Edmunds
  • "Low towing capacity reminds of its minivan-based underpinnings.” -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

Most test drivers are pleased with the 2012 Pilot’s comfortable handling, though a few note significant body lean while cornering or during hard braking. One reviewer takes issue with the Pilot’s unusually bad braking performance, which puts it on par with heavy-duty trucks rather than rival crossover SUVs.

  • "We can carp about option packages and pricing all we want, but it's hard to deny that the Pilot is one of the best-driving crossovers in its segment. The steering is very nicely weighted, and engineers have dialed in the suspension perfectly -- there's little body roll, and the ride quality is neither too soft nor too stiff.” -- Automobile Magazine
  • “We found the Pilot's steering a bit heavily weighted, but it is very precise and offers good feedback in the turns. On the highway the Pilot SUV tracks straight, and even strong wind gusts can't deter it from its intended course.” -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Crisp steering, but soft springs make for lots of lean in turns, squat under acceleration, and dive when braking.” -- Car and Driver
  • "Generally car-like driving feel, with fine low-speed maneuverability and city-friendly turning radius. The tires' tall sidewalls contribute to slightly lazy steering response in quick changes of direction. Pilot's high center of gravity means fair body lean in sharp turns, but no undue noseplow.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "Antilock disc brakes are also standard, but they don't do a very good job in panic stops, requiring a very long 149 feet to halt the Pilot from 60 mph. Only vehicles without ABS or heavy-duty trucks tend to match that distance, which is at least 20 feet longer than most competitors.” -- Edmunds

Four-Wheel Drive

The Pilot's optional Variable Torque Management four-wheel drive system (VTM-4) isn't meant for true off-roading, but it works in mud, snow or loose gravel. It has a feature that lets you manually lock the rear differential at low speeds. Test drivers say it works well, though for true off-road brawn, shoppers will be better off with alternatives like the Toyota FJ Cruiser.

  • "Decent off-road capability for a mainstream crossover.” -- Car and Driver
  • "Although we didn't have a chance to test the Pilot's AWD system in the snow, we did venture up some dirt fire roads and found the VTM-4 AWD setup to be fairly capable of keeping the Pilot SUV moving forward through dirt, loose gravel and mud.” -- Kelley Blue Book

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