In 2009, Honda gave the Pilot a complete overhaul and was so happy with it they carried it over into 2010. So, aside from different paint choices and interior colour combinations, the 2009 and 2010 editions of the Pilot are essentially the same animal.
It came in four trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L and Touring. Power for all was delivered by a 3.5-litre V-6 that was also found in the Ridgeline and Odyssey minivan. It featured 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 deactivates cylinders depending upon load and speed, and the whole thing was completely unobtrusive. A small "eco" light on the dash lets you know when the engine is running at maximum efficiency, but otherwise, it was all hush-hush. This gave the 2009 Pilot a Tier 2/Bin 5 – or ultra low emissions vehicle – emissions rating from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
There was but one transmission choice: a five-speed automatic with a manual shift mode, and most trim levels of the Pilot came with a full-time all-wheel-drive system that featured a 4WD locking mode, accessed via a button to the right of the ignition switch. The base LX model was front-drive only.
The AWD system featured a front-drive bias, and all AWD versions came with a hill start assist feature that prevents the vehicle from rolling backward when stopped on an incline. For the market it was aimed at and the duty it was intended for, this system was more than adequate, but if the odd off-road foray was on the agenda, it could handle that as well.
When Honda re-did this edition of the Pilot, one of the areas they apparently worked on was body structure integrity and reducing NVH (noise, vibration, harshness). It seemed to be mission accomplished here. Apparently body rigidity was tightened up as well, and in combination with redesigned engine mounts and a program Honda called Active Noise Control, the '09 Pilot may have been the quietest one of all.
In terms of storage and carrying capacity, it had the customary fold-down second- and third-row seats and, with everything laid flat, boasted some 589 litres of cargo space. Everything worked simply, was easy to get at and the second-row seats had a separate lever for third-row seat access. Still a bit of a stretch to get back there, but no worse than anything else in this category.
Transport Canada has one safety recall on file, and it concerns the front seat belts, which may separate from the anchor during a crash and expose occupants to injury. This glitch affects all Pilots manufactured from 2009 through to 2011, but is easily corrected by dealers.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has 11 technical service bulletins for this edition of the Pilot. These range from a tendency for some models to pull to the right even when driving on a level road, to problems with spark plugs fouling at random, to assorted software issues. Apparently, there were also problems with the moonroof, which drew electricity from the battery even when the vehicle was parked, or reversed itself while closing.
With the exception of the electrical gremlins and paint and trim issues, the 2009 Pilot gets top marks from Consumer Reports and earns a "better than average" rating with a "best bet" award. The magazine says the Pilot had a reliability rating some 27 per cent above average when new in 2009 and retained its "impressive functionality" in this year. Some comments from owners: "interior styling and materials cheap compared to some other brands," "cabin noise seems quieter" and "strongly recommend any family to purchase one."
Although market research company J.D. Power doesn't give the '09 Pilot any top marks, most areas fare well. With the exception of features and accessories dependability, it gets an average or better than average grade across the board.
These days, depending on the model and equipment level, you can expect to pay from about $20,000 to just less than $30,000 for a 2009 Pilot. The 2WD LX is significantly cheaper than its AWD counterparts, and the top of the line Touring is almost a full $10,000 pricier than the base LX.
2009 Honda Pilot
Original Base Price: $36,820; Black Book: $20,600-$29,400; Red Book: $20,525-$27,475
Engine: 3.5-litre V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 250 hp/253 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
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