2023 Honda Pilot Review: A cohesive, competitive redesign inside and out

2023 Honda Pilot Review: A cohesive, competitive redesign inside and out

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Pros: Segment-leading space; unique second-row functionality; refined ride; TrailSport is actually interesting and surprisingly capable

Cons: Thirsty V6 with no hybrid or turbo alternatives

New from the ground up for 2023, the Honda Pilot brings new gadgets and a more purpose-built off-road trim to a segment swiftly growing crowded with both. It’s bigger, quieter, comfier and outfitted with better tech than ever before, once again reminding the world that Honda’s badge is indicative of segment leadership. Then there’s the new TrailSport model, which combines beefier tires and additional ground clearance with Honda’s torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system, taking the outdoor adventure fight to the likes of the Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek and Ford Explorer Timberline (among others).


Prior to the redesign, the Pilot was one of the more functional choices in the segment, but it suffered from overwhelming plainness with a drab interior, amorphous exterior and a lack of punch-up options for outdoorsy types. The 2023 overhaul addresses those gripes. The new Pilot sports a more cohesive look that’s more square-jawed and intentional, pairing nicely with the dark trim elements offered on the loaded-up Elite and TrailSport trims. The vaguely Land Rover-like interior pairs with it well.

At the same time, it builds upon its predecessors’ practicality, and we’re not talking about ballooning in size. Honda has taken some of the guesswork out of the buying process for families who can’t decide between seven- and eight-passenger seating configurations by offering a removable center seat in the second row that can even be removed on-the-go without the need for extra storage space in your garage.  Quality-of-life updates like these help to propel the Pilot to the front of an incredibly tight three-row crossover field.

Interior & Technology   |   Passenger & Cargo Space   |   Performance & Fuel Economy

What it's like to drive   |   Pricing & Features   |   Crash Ratings & Safety Features

What's new for 2023?

The whole thing. The 2023 Pilot represents a culmination of sorts for Honda’s engineers, who just put similar effort into a new Civic, HR-V and CR-V, along with a heavily revised Accord.

What are the Pilot’s interior and in-car technology like?

Honda chucked the Pilot’s old cabin out the window entirely in favor of a new, much sleeker and more upscale look. The front seats were redesigned for better support and reduced fatigue. Materials, fit and finish all show improvements over the previous generation and help elevate what was a functional if slightly drab cabin to one of the more attractive options in the segment. There’s no under-console storage, but there is ample space inside along with room for doodads in the recessed portion of the dash.

The Pilot finally gets the upgraded infotainment system that showed up on the last-generation Accord (and has since been replaced for the new generation). So although it’s not exactly Honda’s latest and greatest, it’s substantially better than what was in the Pilot before – meaning it’s actually competitive now. Whether you opt for the standard 7-inch infotainment system or the 9-inch upgrade, the physical-button-to-touchscreen-control ratio is favorable. The 10.2-inch digital cluster exclusive to the Elite is cool to look at but doesn’t offer much in the way of additional functionality.

USB-A and USB-C plugs are available on the center console for smartphones, as is a standard 12-volt DC outlet. USB-A charging is also standard in the second row; third-row ports become standard at EX-L and above. The single 3.0-amp USB-C port up front is nice, but we’d like to see more of those in the rear cabin area. Wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard (wireless is standard on EX-L or better). The new Bose system on the Elite is the first branded audio offered in Pilot’s history and a new TrailWatch camera system features four exterior cameras with four different views.

How big is the Pilot?

The new Pilot pretty much defines the segment average. It’s almost 5 inches longer than the Toyota Highlander and 5 inches shorter than the Chevy Traverse, matching up almost identically with the Nissan Pathfinder. This makes it bit more minivan-adjacent inside. That’s especially true of the novel new second-row seating arrangement standard on the Touring and Elite trims. It’s a bench seat, but as in the Odyssey and the Pilot’s Acura MDX cousin, the middle seat folds to create a console-like armrest. It can also be removed completely from the car or, uniquely, stowed in a cubby built into the Pilot’s rear cargo floor. Unlike the Pilot’s competitors, there’s no need to choose between eight-passenger bench seat or seven-passenger captain’s chairs at the dealer, but bear in mind that this feature isn’t offered on the TrailSport. Between the Pilot’s updated all-wheel drive system and the full-sized spare tire (in case you get an off-road puncture), there’s no space for the requisite cubby.

The big Honda has one of the roomer cabins in the segment. Its 40 inches of legroom in the second row tops virtually every one of its competitors. Legroom in the Pilot’s third row grew to a max of 32.5 inches, making it even friendlier for bigger teens and adults, even in the 6-foot-plus category. This puts it ahead of the Toyota Highlander and Nissan Pathfinder (both offer 28 inches) and just behind the Chevy Traverse (33.5 inches).

The cargo area can hold an impressive 22.4 cubic feet, not including the huge underfloor area, which as before, can be utilized to carry even more luggage (or that middle seat). The last-generation Pilot was able to hold far more stuff than its official volume suggested and we would expect the new version can as well, resulting in one of the most spacious and versatile cargo areas in the segment.

What are the Pilot fuel economy and performance specs?

The 2023 Pilot’s V6 engine may appear at first blush to have been carried over basically unchanged from 2022, but is in fact a new DOHC 3.5-liter (in place of the outgoing SOHC mill). Its output of 285 horsepower and 262 pound-feet is up slightly, but not so much you’d notice. A 10-speed automatic returns and is paired with paddle shifters for manual control.

From there, your powertrain options are fairly limited. The Pilot can be had in standard front-wheel drive or all-wheel-drive setup dubbed i-VTM4. Its arguably the most advanced AWD systems in the segment as it provides so-called “torque vectoring”: As much as 70% of the engine’s power can be sent to the rear axle, with 100% of that transferred to one wheel. This is not only beneficial for poor weather traction, but benefits dry pavement handling as well. It’s augmented on TrailSport models with a special Trail Torque Logic system and corresponding “Trail” option in the Pilot’s (also new) drive mode selection system.