2021 Honda Pilot

2021 Honda Pilot Review: Family Friendly

The Honda Pilot is a popular answer to the ever-competitive midsize SUV market. We've always loved the Pilot for its practicality, but looks wise it has never impressed, and the 2021 model is no different: it seems droopy when compared to the competition. Behind that dreary design lies a highly capable car that offers reliable performance from its 280-horsepower V6 engine, and all models now come with a slick-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission. Honda provides the Pilot in a wide range of trims, which means there is something for everyone up and down the price range. There's also a good amount of standard features. Higher up in the range, the Pilot starts to feature some premium equipment but can't match the likes of the Kia Telluride.

2021 Honda Pilot Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Pilot?

The 2021 Honda Pilot has been blessed with a new trim level and a host of upgrades. First off, Honda has introduced the new Special Edition, which slots in between the EX-L and Touring, and features 20-inch wheels finished off in black, wireless phone charging and a foot-operated auto-lifting tailgate. The smooth nine-speed automatic with paddle shifters and Idle Stop, which was previously only available on the Touring model and upward, is now standard across the lineup. All 2021 models now come standard with dual-zone automatic climate control. In order to facilitate all these upgrades, Honda has raised the base price by $600.

Pros and Cons

  • Frugal engine
  • It's spacious
  • Versatile storage
  • Lots of tech options
  • Uninspiring styling
  • Infotainment is lacking
  • Top models are pricey
  • Not as classy as its Korean rivals

Best Deals on Pilot

2021 Honda Pilot Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
LX
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$32,250
EX
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$34,930
EX-L
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$38,360
Special Edition
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$38,960
Touring
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$42,920

Honda Pilot SUV Exterior

There's not much to report here, and we think the styling of the Honda Pilot is one of its most significant drawbacks - it's overdue for a redesign. In typical Honda fashion, the Pilot offers excellent practicality, decent standard features, and competitive fuel economy figures, but chooses restrained styling over something more contemporary. Compared to competitors such as the bold Kia Telluride, the Pilot comes across as drab, and that wagon-like side profile does nothing for its street cred. Honda does, however, offer the Pilot in a new Special Edition trim, which adds a set of black alloys. The Honda Pilot Black Edition adds even more attitude, but we're not convinced that it's enough. Standard features across the range include low-beam LED headlights, and EX models and upward get LED foglights. EX-L models get a one-touch power moonroof, while Elite models offer a panoramic roof. Wheel sizes range from 18- to 20-inch items depending on the trim.

2021 Honda Pilot Front View Honda
2021 Honda Pilot Front View 1 Honda
2021 Honda Pilot Front View 2 Honda
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Dimensions

The 2021 Honda Pilot is classified as a midsize SUV in terms of dimensions, measuring in with a total length of 196.5 inches and rolling on a 111-inch wheelbase. It stands 70.6 inches tall and is 78.6 inches wide. The track is 66.3 inches front to back, and there's a useful 7.3 inches of ground clearance, enough for most suburban obstacles. Since it's an SUV, it would be worth mentioning its approach and departure angle of 19.7/20.8 degrees. The lightest Pilot is the 2WD LX, which weighs in at 3,982 lbs, while the heaviest is the Black Edition at a weighty 4,321 lbs.

  • Length 196.5 in
  • Wheelbase 111.0 in
  • Height 70.6 in
  • Max Width 78.6 in
  • Front Width 66.3 in
  • Rear Width 66.3 in

Exterior Colors

As if the exterior styling of the 2021 Honda Pilot wasn't dreary enough, the range of paint colors is just as drab. We understand that the Pilot was never meant to be a fashionista, but when you consider the exciting designs coming out of South Korea and elsewhere, Honda could have spent some time considering its paint offerings. In base trim, the Pilot is offered in four colors, namely Crystal Black, Modern Steel, Lunar Silver, and Platinum White, which is a $395 option. Fortunately, more colors become available higher up in the range. The mid-range EX-L is offered in a total of eight shades, with standout options being Obsidian Blue, Steel Saphire, and Deep Scarlet ($395). The Black Edition is offered exclusively in Crystal Black or Platinum White, while the new Special Edition gets five colors, including Modern Steel and Steel Sapphire ($395).

  • Platinum White Pearl
  • Steel Sapphire Metallic
  • Deep Scarlet Pearl
  • Black Forest Pearl
  • Obsidian Blue Pearl
  • Modern Steel Metallic
  • Crystal Black Pearl
  • Lunar Silver Metallic

Pilot Performance

Let's get one thing straight: the Honda Pilot is no Civic Type R. Its bulky design, raised ride height and automatic transmission translates into a car that doesn't thrill the senses or offer an impressive 0-60 mph run, but out in the real world we have been pleasantly surprised. It's not the most underwhelming midsize SUV we've tested. Power comes from a naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. This engine isn't as powerful as the V6 on offer in the Kia Telluride, which delivers 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Still, to our surprise, this engine sounds relatively sporty and picks up pace with an eagerness you wouldn't expect from such a vehicle. With linear power delivery, city driving becomes a pleasurable experience, even when fully loaded, and there's enough poke to make highway overtaking a stress-free exercise. Towing capacity is a reasonable 3,500 pounds in front-wheel-drive guise and increases to 5,000 lbs in all-wheel-drive configuration, which matches the Kia Telluride's towing abilities.

2021 Honda Pilot Front View Driving Honda
2021 Honda Pilot In Motion Honda
2021 Honda Pilot Engine Bay Honda

Engine and Transmission

The Honda Pilot will spend most of its life trudging around the suburbs picking up kids from school, going to the grocery store, and perhaps going on a few extended family holidays, so those who buy these cars expect a reliable workhorse. With that in mind, Honda has gone with the traditional and trusted combination of an automatic transmission and a large capacity naturally-aspirated engine which delivers predictable power. The engine under the hood is a 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V6, which sends all 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque to either the front or all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. We are impressed with how perky this combination feels: the engine offers plenty of low-down torque but doesn't mind exploring the upper reaches of the rev range either. We did, however, note that the transmission could get bewildered from time to time.

  • Engine
    3.5-liter V6 Gas
  • Transmission
    9-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The general rule of thumb when it comes to handling is that if it doesn't look sporty, and it's an SUV, it's most likely going to handle like a moose on ice. That is not entirely true with the Pilot, but there's no hiding the fact that it's a large car. Out on the open road, the Pilot feels stable, even above the speed limit, and in town, the suspension is well sprung for a comfortable driving experience. It's when you start flinging the Pilot through the corners that it starts to show its shortcomings. Flick the Pilot into a bend, and its weight and ride height become immediately apparent. It doesn't like being flung around, yet retains its composure as well as can reasonably be expected for a three-row family crossover. The 20-inch rims that come on higher trims detract from the otherwise pleasant ride quality and we would suggest avoiding them if possible. It should perform relatively well off-road, but we wouldn't put that theory to the test as it is not 4WD enabled.

Honda Pilot SUV Gas Mileage

Big V6, big curb weight, and a big body don't bode well for the 2021 Honda Pilot in terms of gas mileage, but we were pleasantly surprised by how little fuel this midsize SUV uses. The secret lies in the refined V6 engine that uses variable valve timing and other tech advancements to deliver good power and decent fuel economy all at once. According to the EPA, the 2021 Honda Pilot will use 20/27/23 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycle in FWD configuration, while the AWD cars will manage 19/26/22 mpg. The FWD Kia Telluride manages to offer a comparable figure of 20/26/23 mpg. With a 19.5-gallon fuel tank on board, the Pilot should offer a total mileage range of around 429 and 448 miles when filled up.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    19.5 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 20/27 mpg
* 2021 Honda Pilot LX 2WD

Pilot Interior

You won't be surprised by anything inside the cabin of the 2021 Honda Pilot: it's all pretty standard stuff, but before we get into that, it should be worth mentioning that getting in and out of the Pilot is a pleasure due to its moderate ride height and wide-opening doors. Once inside, you're greeted by a logical space. Everything falls to hand easily, and it's clear that Honda designed the space with family-friendly ergonomics in mind. The interior doesn't feel as upmarket as the Kia, but there's a feeling of quality that is noticeable around the cabin, which is a classic Honda trait. Sitting high up in the front is a boon for forward visibility, and in fact, visibility is great all round. Higher spec cars get a sunroof or panoramic roof, which helps lift an otherwise dark interior. It's a solid effort overall if a bit dull, but the level of quality seals the deal.

2021 Honda Pilot Dashboard Honda
2021 Honda Pilot Steering Wheel Honda
2021 Honda Pilot Steering Wheel Controls Honda
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Seating and Interior Space

The Pilot is all about maximizing interior space; after all, its primary purpose in life will be to cart youngsters and teenagers to school and back. It also helps that Honda is a master at configuring interiors for maximum practicality with the Touring able to seat 7 passengers or 8 passengers. The majority of trim levels offer a three-across second-row bench and come in an 8-seater configuration, but higher up in the range, this setup is ditched in favor of two captain's chairs. As with most midsize SUVs, the front and second row is prioritized in terms of overall space, and the 3rd row is best left to kids and small adults. The headroom comes in at 40.1 inches in the front for the lower two trims and is 39.5 inches for the rest, 40.2 inches in the middle (or 39.9 for the upper trims), and 38.9 inches in the rear. Legroom is measured at 40.9 inches in the front, 38.4 inches for the second row, and 31.9 inches in the back.

  • Seating capacity
    8-seater
  • Front Leg Room 40.9 in
  • Front Head Room 40.1 in
  • Rear Leg Room 38.4 in
  • Rear Head Room 40.2 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The life of a Honda Pilot isn't a glamorous one. Most of the time, its interior will have to deal with all the spills and thrills of family life, so it takes some seriously hard-wearing materials to keep things looking semi-decent in the long run. In the case of the base model, Honda gives you a single option: Gray or Black cloth. This option feels durable to the touch and should stand up to years of abuse. The EX-L is the first in the lineup to be offered with leather seats, and the Elite is offered with your choice of Gray, Beige, or Black perforated leather seats. Color availability changes based on your chosen exterior color. While there is a fair amount of plastic inside the cabin, everything feels well put together, and we did not experience any annoying rattles.

Pilot Trunk and Cargo Space

Ask anyone who drives a Honda Pilot or Fit what one of their favorite features of these cars are, and they're most likely going to tell you that it's the practical trunk and overall cargo space. The 2021 Pilot continues this legacy of superior practicality by offering a cavernous cargo area and a bunch of small storage nooks for added convenience. The Pilot is amongst the most spacious in its class. Cargo capacity varies between 7-seater and 8-seater cars, as the Elite and Touring models have a second-row console that cannot be removed. The Pilot's party trick is its adjustable cargo floor that can be configured to offer maximum storage space or to create an underfloor storage compartment. Cargo volume behind the third row is 16.5 cubic feet but drops to 16 cubic feet on seven-seater models. Behind the second row, you get 46.8 cu ft, dropping to 46 for seven-seaters. With all the seats folded, you get a spacious 83.8 cu ft (83.9 for the base model), dropping to 82.1 for seven-seaters. There's a myriad of small-item storage spots scattered around the interior, with the main ones being the large center console storage bin in the front, and the glove compartment. There are two cupholders in the front.

2021 Honda Pilot Luggage Space Honda
2021 Honda Pilot Trunk Space Honda
2021 Honda Pilot Interior Overview Honda

Pilot Infotainment and Features

Features

With so many trim levels on offer, listing all the standard features gets a bit complicated, so let's start with the base model LX and work our way up the ladder. On the LX, you can expect to find standard tri-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, and cruise control. Next up is the EX, which adds second-row controls for the climate control system, driver's and front passenger's seatback pockets, as well as illuminated vanity mirrors. The EX-L throws in a HomeLink remote system, integrated sunshades for the second row, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Special Edition car shares the same features. The Touring model adds courtesy door lights and blue ambient interior lighting, while the Honda Pilot Elite gets a heated leather steering wheel. All models are equipped with collision mitigation braking, road departure assist, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. EX models and upward benefit from blind spot monitoring and all models get auto high beam headlights.

Infotainment

You can't win them all, they say. The central touchscreen on the 2021 Honda Pilot is one of the features that disappoints. The base model gets a measly five-inch display, while EX models and above get a more contemporary eight-inch unit. All trims get Bluetooth streaming, an MP3/aux input, and speed-sensitive volume compensation. All models up to the Special Edition get a 215-watt sound system with seven speakers, including a subwoofer. After that, you get a 590-watt premium audio system with ten speakers. Special features such as HondaLink, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM satellite radio are only available on the EX and upwards. The Special Edition, Elite, and Black Edition all come with wireless phone charging, while Touring, Elite, and Black Edition models are offered with navigation and a rear entertainment system that features a 10.2-inch display and a Blu-ray player. The top three trims also offer Wi-Fi hotspot capability. The larger eight-inch display works well and is easy to get used to, and the overall experience is not the worst, but Honda needs to step up its game in this department.

Pilot SUV Common Problems and Reliability

Reliability reviews of the 2021 Pilot are a mixed bag; it has had its fair share of problems in the past two years and earns a 78 out of 100 from JD Power. However, in 2019, the Pilot was recalled for incorrect pillar mounting holes, a timing belt issue, as well as incomplete body welding that also affected 2020 Honda Pilot models. In 2020, the Pilot saw a recall for a rather bureaucratic reason: the certification label's ink could wipe away, increasing the likelihood that the Pilot could be overloaded beyond its permitted capacity.

If reliability is a concern, Honda will cover the 2021 Pilot with a basic three-year/36,000-mile warranty, a five-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, and three years or 36,000 miles worth of roadside assistance.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

Pilot Safety

Honda has made a massive push in recent years to get its cars up to the levels of safety provided by much more expensive machinery, and it has paid big dividends. The Honda Pilot, which is a fully-fledged people mover, has to be a safe car seeing as it carries a large amount of precious cargo, and thankfully it pulls through with an excellent safety record. The NHTSA has awarded the 2020 car with a full five out of five stars subsequent to its review of the Honda Pilot. For the IIHS's review of the Pilot models, a spread of Good scores was given. In 2019, it was awarded a Top Safety Pick title. Excellent safety ratings are one of the Honda's biggest advantages.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

2021 Honda Pilot Key Safety features

With all those safety accolades behind its name, you can be sure that the 2021 Honda Pilot is packed with some serious safety features. Traditional equipment includes front airbags, front side airbags, as well as three-row side curtain airbags. The Honda Pilot impresses with its driver assistance package, which includes collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning, as well as lane departure warning across the range. EX models and upwards get blind spot warning, and all models benefit from auto high-beam headlights.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Honda Pilot a good car?

We like the new Honda Pilot for many reasons, the main one being the fact that it does exactly what it says on the label: it's a relatively affordable people carrier with enough room to fit eight people and their stuff, and it does so with high levels of comfort and enough power, while not using too much fuel. The exterior of the Pilot is a sore point: we think it looks dreary when compared to the competition, but it's what's inside that counts. The interior is a basic setup, but it's perfect for what this Pilot is good at, which is driving around loads of people on a regular basis. The engine and transmission combination is also a good one, with the 3.5-liter V6 offering strong performance. With such a broad lineup of trim levels, it is easy to find one that's perfect for you, and there's also a pretty long list of features if you want even more individuality. We wish the infotainment system was more intuitive, but the larger eight-inch screen does a serviceable job. At the end of the day, you can't really go wrong with buying one of these.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 Honda Pilot?

For what you get, the Pilot is quite the catch and is well priced against competitors such as the Kia Telluride and Toyota Highlander, all of which start out in the low 30k range. The price of the Honda Pilot's base model starts at an MSRP of $32,250. Honda Pilot prices quoted here do not include tax, registration, and a destination fee of $1,120. Next up is the EX, which goes on sale for a cool $34,930, which is a good deal when you consider the extras you're getting (Apple CarPlay, blind spot monitoring, etc.). The next trim is the EX-L, which pushes the price up to $38,360. After that, you get the Special Edition, which will set you back $38,960. The Touring costs $42,920 and the Elite will set you back a pricey $48,420. For the top of the range Black Edition, expect to pay $49,920. Upgrading from FWD to AWD will add an additional $2,000 to the Honda Pilot's cost.

2021 Honda Pilot Models

In total, there are seven trims of varying specs to choose from. Yes, you read that right. If you can't find a Pilot you like, you need to come back down to Earth. These trims are the LX, EX, EX-L, Special Edition, Touring, Elite, and Black Edition.

We start off with the LX, which shares its 280-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission with the rest of the range. The exterior features LED low-beam headlights and rear privacy glass. On the inside, you get a five-inch LCD display with a seven-speaker sound system, tri-zone climate control, cruise control, and illuminated steering wheel-mounted controls, amongst others. Standard driver assistance systems include collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, as well as lane departure warning.

The Honda Pilot's EX models get LED foglights, driver's and front passenger's seatback pockets, an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and blind spot monitoring.

EX-L models add a power moonroof and power tailgate on the outside while the interior gains HomeLink, integrated second-row sunshades, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and seats. You also get a four-way power-adjustable passenger seat and three USB charging ports.

The new Special Edition has a power tailgate with hands-free access, roof rails, and 20-inch black alloy wheels. Inside, it is equipped with wireless phone charging.

The Touring model gets front and rear parking sensors and LED headlights. The infotainment system gets navigation, an advanced back seat infotainment system, and second-row HDMI interfaces, while the sound system gets an upgrade to a 10-speaker system.

Elite models offer rain-sensing window wipers and a panoramic roof on the outside. The interior gets a heated steering wheel.

Finally, the Black Edition tops the range and has sporty red ambient LED lighting. The exterior features gloss black door handles and a panoramic roof, as well as black wheels and other black exterior accents.

See All 2021 Honda Pilot Trims and Specs

2021 Honda Pilot Additional Options

Overall, Honda doesn't offer any comprehensive packages since the seven trims should cater to most buyers' needs. The base model comes with a few basic package deals, mainly of protective gear for the exterior and cargo areas. Honda also offers smaller accessories such as back-up parking sensors for $500. The Touring trim can be had with perforated and heated second-row captain's chairs for an additional $300.

🚗Which 2021 Honda Pilot SUV should I buy?

The Pilot was never intended to be a premium luxury vehicle, and it shows: the sedate exterior styling and basic interior design are all built around the idea that the Pilot will serve as a hard-working family SUV. For this reason, we're going to look at the lower half of the range. The base model is a bit, well, basic, and doesn't feature modern essentials such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so we'll give that one a skip. At the top end of the range, the Black Edition tries too hard to be a premium and sporty car, and we're not convinced, so we'll give that a skip as well. If it were up to us, we would go with the budget-friendly EX, which sits right above the base model. The EX adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, along with an eight-inch infotainment display and safety features such as LED fog lights and blind-spot monitoring, all for a price increase of only $2,680.

2021 Honda Pilot Comparisons

Kia Telluride CarBuzz
Toyota Highlander Toyota
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Honda Pilot280 hp20/27 mpg$32,250
Kia Telluride 291 hp20/26 mpg$31,990
Toyota Highlander 295 hp21/29 mpg$34,600

2021 Honda Pilot vs Kia Telluride

The Telluride is a highly competent product from Korean car manufacturer Kia, and at first glance is the more handsome car. By a mile. The Telluride looks fresh and combines stylistic elements of the Volvo XC90 and Range Rover in a midsize package, which works really well. Power is provided by a 3.8-liter V6 unit that produces 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque, which is sent to either the front or all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. We love its smooth V6 engine, and large families will definitely appreciate the generous interior space with 7 seats, which we might add is more stylish than the Pilot. The ride is beautifully set up, and as is usual with Kia products, you get a ton of standard features. Unfortunately, it's not as fleet-footed as the Pilot. We would still take it over the Honda, though.

See Kia Telluride Review

2021 Honda Pilot vs Toyota Highlander

The Highlander has been around in one form or another for over two decades, and Americans are still buying them in droves, which surely means that it's good, right? That answer is not that simple: the Highlander gets a lot of things right but fails at a few as well. The Toyota is motivated by a 3.5-liter V6 offering 295 hp and 263 lb-ft of torque. Power gets channeled to the front, or all fours via an eight-speed auto transmission. We appreciate its highly configurable seating arrangement that is perfect for large families on the go, with a total of 8 passengers accommodated. It also comes with a good amount of standard features and a long list of safety tech. On the road, it is composed and quiet, but the Honda is the better car in this regard. On the other hand, the third-row seating is very tight, and we aren't impressed with the cluttered dashboard. We'll take the Honda.

See Toyota Highlander Review

Honda Pilot Popular Comparisons

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2021 Honda Pilot Video Review

Check out some informative Honda Pilot video reviews below.

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Photos
$32,250 - $49,920
Price Range (MSRP)
Honda Pilot