I am driving a 2007 Honda Pilot with 195,000 km on it, which I have owned since 2007 and expect to drive into the ground. I am starting to look though, just to be ready, and would like your opinion. Which of the following SUVs would give me the best combination of reliability, cost of ownership and technology, so I can have the same experience as I do with my Pilot: Mercedes GLE, Audi Q5 and Q7, BMW X5, Honda Passport and Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Tesla Model X, and Volvo XC60 and XC90. As you can see I am all over the map, so a little help would be appreciated. – Manjinder
Richardson: I can answer this easily. My neighbour drove his Honda Pilot into the ground, with 400,000 km on it – though his son is now driving it – and bought himself a two-year-old Pilot that he just loves. Next question, please.
Gentile: Don’t be so quick to dismiss Manjinder. He has a legitimate question, and he’s smart to start looking sooner than later.
Richardson: I’m not dismissing him. I’m telling him not to bother looking at other competitors to the Honda and just get another Pilot. Why’s he even thinking about anything else?
Gentile: Why not? Maybe it’s time for a change? There are so many new contenders in the SUV space nowadays – he has nothing to lose by trying something new.
Richardson: He has everything to lose. He knows his dealer and he knows his Pilot. If he’s happy with them, why change? He could end up buying from a dealer who gives him poor service, or buying a vehicle that annoys him every day he drives it.
Gentile: After 13 years, he’s due for a change. He shouldn’t settle. There are many worthy contenders and new players, even in the electric space, like the Tesla Model X or Y, and the Highlander Hybrid, that go head-to-head against the Pilot. The Pilot doesn’t even offer a fuel-efficient hybrid. It’s behind the time.
Richardson: Well, if he really does want to throw himself needlessly out there, we can start with the caveat that if he doesn’t have a place to charge his vehicle – a garage or at least a private driveway – he shouldn’t consider an all-electric vehicle like the Tesla Model X. It’s a way-overpriced status symbol, anyway.
Gentile: Don’t go slamming Tesla again. I like the Model X for its space, off-the-line power and technology. Yes, it’s overpriced, but all EVs are overpriced in my opinion. Besides, you’re paying for the status.
Richardson: My point is, Tesla owners always comment on these columns that we should have recommended a Tesla, but if the person cannot charge the car conveniently – and most downtown people cannot – then it’s an impractical choice. We have no idea if Manjinder can have access to a charging station, but the Model X is an expensive wild card in his list. Let’s just dismiss it now.
Gentile: Okay. One of my favourite vehicles on Manjinder’s list is the new Highlander, especially the hybrid. That would give him the best of both worlds. It returns excellent fuel economy; I averaged about 7.2 L/100 km combined highway and city driving during my week-long test drive, which is really impressive for a three-row AWD SUV. And it’s not a plug-in, so he doesn’t have to worry about where to charge or buying an expensive charger for his home.
Richardson: That’s a bit better than me. I averaged 7.5 L/100 km in my week with the Highlander Hybrid. It was very frugal, and it felt more like a Lexus. He won’t get that fuel consumption from any of the German competition, and as you say, there’s no hybrid Pilot.
Gentile: Not from German, American or other Japanese competitors that’s for sure. Plus, it has pleasant road manners – it doesn’t feel like you’re driving a big boat.
Richardson: Our challenge is that we have no idea of Manjinder’s budget. A new Pilot is $45,000-to-$60,000, but the Mercedes he mentions starts at $65,000 and the BMW is $10,000 more than that. Don’t even get me started on the $113,000 Tesla. If he’s driving his Pilot into the ground, I think he’s looking for the same value for money he got with the Honda.
Gentile: That’s a fair assumption. Another vehicle he mentions is the Volvo XC60; that’s definitely worth considering. I especially love all the safety features and innovative technology inside as well as the interior dashboard layout and design. If he’s tech-savvy, he’ll love it, too.
Richardson: Yeah, the XC60 has a base MSRP of $46,350, but it’s the XC90 that’s more the Pilot’s equivalent in size, and that starts at $61,250. Volvo is a premium brand these days, and there’s a price for that. They’re excellent vehicles, but the Toyota and Honda are better value.
Gentile: Definitely better value and price going with a Toyota and Honda. When it comes to Volvos, I actually prefer the size of the XC60 over the XC90. It doesn’t feel as big and cumbersome to drive as the XC90. And I do love Volvo’s track record for safety and reliability.
Richardson: It’s not as big, but Manjinder’s looking for a Pilot alternative, not a CR-V alternative. There are plenty of nice touches with the Volvo, like the large vertical display screen and the airy feel to the cabin, but Manjinder should go sit in one to decide if they’re worth it to him. Any Volvo dealer will welcome him to come visit.
Gentile: It doesn’t hurt to take both Volvos for a spin when he’s at the dealership. But my favourite of the bunch is still the Toyota Highlander hybrid for its fuel efficiency, space, luxury and pleasant road manners.
What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at email@example.com.
Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up today.