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2010 Honda Pilot
2010 Honda Pilot

2010 Honda Pilot

Honda gets (almost) everything right with the Pilot Add to ...

Aside from different paint choices and one less interior colour combination, Honda's edition of the 2010 Pilot is unchanged from 2009. And that includes price; the base model starts at just under $37,000, and the Touring version, which is what I drove, comes in at almost $50,000. Honda gave the Pilot a complete overhaul in '09, and 2010 is a carryover year.

Too bad they didn't do something about that front grille. Like its upscale brethren over at Acura, the Pilot is, er, physically unattractive. With its snub-nosed front end and oversized granny's brooch grille, it gets my vote as one of the homeliest models in the SUV category - and that's saying something.

Clearly, Honda's grille division has run out of inspiration and the revised Pilot bears a strong resemblance to the Ridgeline pickup, which is not a good thing in my eyes.

On the other hand, the Pilot's lack of pulchritude is more than compensated for by its drive train. Power is still delivered by a 3.5-litre V-6 that features Honda's variable valve timing feature as well as a variable cylinder management program that shuts down up to four of the engine's cylinders, depending on driving conditions.

During highway driving, for example, the system will de-activate cylinders depending upon load and speed, and the whole thing is completely unobtrusive. A small "eco" light on the dash lets you know when the engine is running at maximum efficiency, but otherwise, you'd never know. Other manufacturers have similar systems, but this one may be the most seamless and it gives the Pilot a Tier 2/Bin 5 - or ultra low emissions vehicle - rating from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

There is but one transmission choice: a five-speed automatic with a manual shift mode, and most trim levels of the Pilot come with a full-time all-wheel-drive system that features a 4WD locking mode, accessed via a button to the right of the ignition switch.

The base LX model is front-drive only, but the AWD system has a front-drive bias, and all AWD versions have a hill start assist feature that prevents the vehicle from rolling backward when you're stopped on an incline. For the market it's aimed at and the duty it's intended for, this system is more than adequate and, if the odd off-road foray is on the menu, it can handle that as well.

Like some Acura products, the Pilot Touring has an extremely busy dash/console. There are buttons and knobs all over the place. At the risk of repeating myself, Honda needs to clean this up.

And one other, albeit minor, complaint here. When you climb into the car, the seat automatically slides back to give you easier access. No problem with that, but it doesn't automatically go back again once you're aboard, and you have to hit the Memory button every single time. And even then, the mirrors need to be re-adjusted. I set and re-set and re-re-set the seat/mirrors time and again with my tester and never could get them to co-operate. This is a case of too much technology improperly executed.

Ditto with the navi system. I'm not a fan of navi systems at the best of times, but if you must have one, get yourself a Garmin or Tom-Tom for a couple of hundred bucks, stick it on the windshield, and it'll work just fine, while saving you thousands of dollars.

The Pilot Touring has a price tag $5,400 higher than the EX-L and $13,000 higher than the base LX. As far as I'm concerned, this higher price tag just gives you a lot of stuff you can probably can do without - like the navi system, parking sensors, heated second row seats and power tailgate. This last item is also kind of useless; I find it much simpler and faster to just close the tailgate manually.

When Honda re-did the Pilot, one of the areas they apparently worked on was body structure and NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) reduction. I'm happy to report that it's mission accomplished here. Apparently body rigidity is up some 40 per cent, and it shows.

Honda has a program it calls Active Noise Control, and as well as a tighter body construction, the Pilot has redesigned engine mounts, and a slew of lightweight engine components. It all works, and the Pilot is quiet and muted, and even on the highway has a nice tight feel to it.

In terms of storage and carrying capacity, it has the customary fold-down second- and third-row seats and, with everything laid flat, boasts some 589 litres of cargo space. No complaints here; everything works simply and is easy to get at, and the second-row seats have a separate lever for third-row seat access. It's still a bit of a stretch to get back there, but no worse than anything else in this category.

Virtually since its introduction, in 2002, the Pilot has been the benchmark in the mid-size crossover/SUV segment. It's been the model other manufacturers cite as the one to beat in this market, and until now, Honda has done everything right. But with the restyling job and its steadily climbing price tag, the Pilot's leader of the pack status could be in jeopardy.

*****

2010 HONDA PILOT TOURING

Type: Mid-size crossover/SUV

Base Price: $49,920; as tested, $49,920

Engine: 3.5 litre V-6

Transmission: Five-speed automatic

Drive: Front-wheel-drive/all-wheel-drive

Horsepower/Torque: 250 hp/253 lb-ft

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 13.1 city/9.1 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Hyundai Veracruz, Chevrolet Traverse, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9, Mercedes GLK 350, Nissan Murano, Saturn Outlook, Subaru Tribeca, Toyota Highlander

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