Honda Pilot 2nd Generation 2009-2015 (YF3/YF4) Review

Everything You Need To Know Before Buying A Used Honda Pilot 2nd Gen

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2nd Generation Honda Pilot: What Owners Say

  • Honda owners laud the Pilot for its adult-sized third row.
  • The interior quality is high and, as a result, a used 2nd gen Honda Pilot still feels good.
  • The interior is extremely innovative, even by today's standards. The second-generation Honda Pilot has loads of storage spaces.
  • Owners love the silky-smooth V6 engine.
  • Loads of cargo capacity.
  • The V6 engine is on the thirsty side.
  • Some owners would prefer more power.
  • The center console is an ergonomic nightmare.

Honda Pilot 2nd Generation Facelift

The Honda Pilot 2nd generation has two internal codes: YF3 and YF4. These are simply pre and post-facelift classifications. Honda chose 2012 to introduce the facelifted model. We prefer the 2nd generation's chunky styling over the mundane 3rd-gen Pilot.

2012-2015 Pilot 2nd Gen Facelift Front Changes CarBuzz
2012-2015 Pilot 2nd Gen Facelift Front Changes

At the front the 2012-2015 Pilot has redesigned headlights1 that retain the same overall shape as the old ones. However, the indicator that used to sit in the outside of the cluster up against the side marker light moves to the upper inside position, next to the grille, allowing the main round headlight reflector to move out to the edge. The oddly squared-off grille-within-a-grille2 of the old car is substantially revised, with a far thinner chrome outer grille frame and three chrome slats inside. The darkly contrasting lower fascia that contains the lower air intake now runs the width of the vehicle and the round fog lights are now at its far ends and no longer in squared-off housings in the previous body-color bumper sections that used to reach down into the lower bumper on either side3.

2012-2015 Pilot 2nd Gen Facelift Rear Changes CarBuzz
2012-2015 Pilot 2nd Gen Facelift Rear Changes

The black contrasting lower rear bumper follows the example of the front by extending further to the sides and tapering down more smoothly than the sharp-edged previous one1 . Nothing else changes.

2012-2015 Pilot 2nd Gen Facelift Side Changes CarBuzz
2012-2015 Pilot 2nd Gen Facelift Side Changes

Besides the hardly noticeable changes to the front bumper, the only changes in profile are the new alloy wheels1 on offer.

2012-2015 Pilot 2nd Gen Facelift Interior Changes CarBuzz
2012-2015 Pilot 2nd Gen Facelift Interior Changes

Pilot owners are not fans of the pre-facelift model's center console button fest. So Honda added even more buttons. In all honesty, the facelifted model's center console is a bit easier to work with, but it still feels like a lot. At least Honda replaced the most-used climate-control buttons with dials1, which work a lot better. The facelifted model also has better sound insulation and higher-quality materials. Honda has also upgraded the navigation system2.

Engine, Transmission, and Drivetrain

The Honda Pilot 2nd gen is only available with one engine and gearbox combination. Front-wheel drive is standard, while AWD is an optional extra. This is worth keeping in mind if you live in a cold-weather state, but it doesn't add to the driving experience. The Pilot is equipped with Honda's tried and tested 3.5-liter J35Z4 V6 and here it has a power output of 250 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque. All models send the power to the wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission.

3.5-liter V6 J35Z4
250 hp | 253 lb-ft
250 hp
253 lb-ft
Five-speed automatic transmissionl

This is the only engine available and thankfully it's a good one. Independent tests have shown that the Honda Pilot 2nd gen can get to 60 mph in roughly eight to nine seconds. To us, it feels ample, but some owners stated that they wish it had more power. We're much bigger fans of the silky-smooth power delivery. The maximum torque only arrives at 4,800 rpm and a six-speed gearbox would have been able to get more out of this engine. Having said as much, the brisk five-speed is not a deal-breaker. The Pilot can tow a useful 2,000 lbs. The biggest problem with this engine is the Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system that cuts out three cylinders in low-load running to save fuel, but can also be the cause of excessive oil consumption.

2nd Gen Honda Pilot Real MPG

One of the main complaints owners have is the high fuel consumption. Most of the used cars we review post better fuel consumption figures than the EPA-estimated figures, but the Pilot is not one of them. It seems there is some merit to the complaints about the Honda's thirsty nature. However, this is par for the course for a large-capacity naturally-aspirated V6-engined SUV and compares favorably with like-minded rivals at the time, such as the Toyota Highlander 3.5 V6.

3.5 FWD 5-speed18/25/2018.2-18.9
3.5 AWD 5-speed17/24/2017.4-21

* Real-world mpg and MPGe figures are provided by the EPA. Once a car has been on sale for a significant period of time, the EPA gets real-world figures directly from the customer base. These figures are then provided on the EPA website. Real-world figures are not available for certain models due to a lack of sales, or not enough people partaking in this after-sales survey.


The Pilot is a fairly basic car when it comes to safety. Models with infotainment screens have a rearview camera, but that's it as far as modern technology goes. The rearview camera became standard on all trims for 2013. It does have the basics covered, as all models have ABS, traction and stability control, dual front, side, and curtain airbags.

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

The Pilot scores well in the pre-2011 crash test. This includes a full five stars in every category save for the rollover test. The NHTSA's stricter post-2011 crash test is less kind to the Pilot. Post-2012 models score an overall rating of four out of five stars, thanks to the Pilot scoring four stars in the frontal and rollover tests.

Overall Rating:
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:
Side Crash Rating:
Rollover Rating:
Overall Rating:
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:
Side Crash Rating:
Rollover Rating:

2009-2015 Honda Pilot Trims

Like most Hondas of this era, the Pilot has a simple trim structure. From 2009 to 2015, it is available in LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring specification. During its final year on sale, Honda included the special edition SE trim. Each successive trim has everything the preceding trim has, plus new equipment, so we won't repeat every item for every trim. If a trim receives new features in a certain year, the higher trims also get these features if they didn't already have them before.

3.5-liter V6
Five-speed automatic
FWD (optional AWD)

The LX is the basic rental spec. It has the most essential comfort features, including keyless entry, cruise control, manual air-conditioning for front and rear passengers, second- and third-row benches with a 60/40 split, power locks and windows, and a manually tilting/telescoping steering column. It rides on unattractive 17-inch steelies and has power side mirrors and halogen headlights. Its seven-speaker sound system can play MP3s from either a CD or an AUX input. The standard trailer hitch is a nice addition to the features list, however. The 2011 LX has automatic headlights. For 2013, the LX has HandsFreeLink music player as standard and smartphone Bluetooth connectivity and a USB connection, and it receives an eight-inch color Intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID) in the center stack, as well as three-zone automatic climate control and a backup camera.

3.5-liter V6
Five-speed automatic
FWD (optional AWD)

The EX has 17-inch alloys, fog lights, a 6-disk CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, and three-zone automatic climate control. The driver gets audio buttons on the steering wheel and a power-adjustable seat. Facelifted 2012 models have 18-inch alloys, an upgraded sound system, hands-free Bluetooth phone connectivity, 2 GB of onboard storage for music, and streaming audio, while 2013 models share the 2013 LX's updates. Strangely, only AWD EXs get heated side mirrors.

3.5-liter V6
Five-speed automatic
FWD (optional AWD)

The EX-L trim essentially enhances the interior. On these models, the seats are upholstered in leather, and the front seats are power-adjustable and heated. The standard sunroof also creates the illusion of more space. Before the integrated rearview camera in the center console, the EX-L was equipped with a tiny camera display in the rearview mirror. From 2011, the EX-L had an auto-dimming interior mirror and gained optional access to the Touring's navigation system, so check whether this has been fitted to a used example. In 2012, the EX-L gained a power liftgate, an eight-inch i-MID in the center console, and satellite radio. The rearview camera display was moved from the rearview mirror to the i-MID at the same time. In addition to that, the post-facelift model also has a nicer sound system with Bluetooth connectivity, 2 GB of onboard storage, and a USB port. With the optional navigation fitted, a higher-resolution screen is used and the system comes with a 60-GB hard drive and XM real-time traffic. You can select either this option or the rear-seat entertainment system, but not both.

3.5-liter V6
Five-speed automatic
FWD (optional AWD)

The Touring has all of the niceties included all the way from 2009 to 2015. These include navigation with voice recognition, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and a USB audio interface. It also comes standard with a power tailgate and front and rear parking sensors. The Touring plays tunes via a high-end ten-speaker sound system. The 2010 Touring has integrated sunshades for the rear windows, tire-pressure monitoring, and a memory function for the driver's seat. Unlike the EX-L, you must take the rear-seat entertainment system and navigation together on the Touring and you cannot have them separately.

3.5-liter V6
Five-speed automatic
FWD (optional AWD)

The SE was meant to be one final push before the 2nd gen Pilot went out of production. It has all of the EX's standard features but adds 18-inch model-specific alloys, a sunroof, satellite radio, and a rear-seat entertainment system.

Second Generation Honda Pilot SUV Features

Back-Up CameraSSSSS
Bluetooth ConnectionSSSSS
Leather SeatsN/AN/ASSN/A
Keyless EntrySSSSS
Keyless StartN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Alloy WheelsN/ASSSS

Interior, Trim, And Practicality

Honda Pilot 2nd Gen Interior Overview Honda
Honda Pilot 2nd Gen Interior Overview

The 2nd-gen Pilot is basically a box on wheels, and it's as spacious as it looks. Honda somehow manages to fit three rows large enough for adults, while still retaining a large trunk. The third row has less hip room, but the head- and legroom are superb. The Pilot has the same sort of Magic Seat arrangement made famous by the Honda Fit. The seats don't just fold forward, but they fold completely flat, giving you a huge amount of easily accessible cargo space. With the second and third rows folded flat, you get 87 cubic feet to work with.

Depending on the position of these benches, you get between 16.5 and 18.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity with all the seats up. That's enough to fit all the kids' schoolbags and some weekly groceries, to boot. With the third row stowed, the Pilot has 47.7 cubes. You can easily fit a month's worth of groceries back there. The interior quality is typical Honda. The plastics look and feel hard, but the interior is bolted together properly. You can just feel the quality while riding in a high-mileage 2009 model with zero squeaks and rattles. The facelifted model is even better thanks to material upgrades and more sound dampening. The pre-facelift model doesn't feel like an ox cart full of empty cans, but the difference between the two models is noticeable.

Black/Beige Premium ClothSSN/AN/AS
Black/Beige LeatherN/AN/ASSS

2nd Generation Honda Pilot Maintenance and Cost

Honda has just over 1,000 dealers in the USA, mostly scattered around the major hubs. You won't struggle to find an independent dealer that will look after the car for much cheaper, either.

The Pilot is a fairly affordable car to service with an estimated cost of roughly $7,500 to $8,000 during the first ten years of its life. A basic oil change service will cost roughly $150, while a major annual service is roughly $550.

It's worth noting that Honda's service regimen is fairly strict, as the technicians are trained to start with major inspections at 15,000 miles. Most manufacturers tend to do thorough inspections at 60,000 miles. You can expect a $1,500 service at around 100,000 to 120,000 miles. The 3.5 V6 in the Pilot uses a timing belt, which needs to be replaced at 105,000 miles. It's a labor-intensive job, which is why the bill is so big. You should probably replace the water pump at the same time to save on labor because it runs off the timing belt. The entire job of replacing the timing-belt kit and pump shouldn't cost much more than $550.

2009-2015 Honda Pilot Basic Service

Engine Oil Change Including Filter

Oil capacity: 4.3L (4.5 quarts)

Recommended oil viscosity: 0W-20/5W-20

How often to change: 7,500 miles

Average Price: Around $59


3.5 V6

Part number: 12290-R70-A01

Replacement: Every 90,000 miles

Average Price: $192 for six

Air filter

3.5 V6

Part number: 17220-RN0-A00

Average Price: $26


All models

Standard 12V battery

Part number: N/A

Replacement: Every 3 to 5 years

Average Price: $110

Honda Pilot 2nd Gen Tires

All models 2009 to 2011
Tire Size:
$600-$860 per set
2012 facelifted models, apart from LX
Tire Size:
$613-$1,112 for a set

Check Before You Buy

Technical Service Bulletins according to the NHTSA. Check service book for:

The 2009-2015 Honda pilot problems and recalls are mostly minor. The most well-known is the Takata airbag recall, which also affected several other manufacturers and millions of cars. The airbag problems include missing rivets, incorrect installment, and propellant degradation.

Other common problems and recalls include incorrect seatbelt stitching and improperly tightened left and right front damper brackets. There are only two known engine recalls, though the first is more related to the fueling system. The vent shut float valve in the fuel tank did not meet specifications, and Honda recalled around 9,000 Pilots because of the possible fire risk.

The second engine recall was for premature piston wear due to the incorrect heat treatment during the manufacturing of the pistons. It's also commonly known as the Honda Pilot misfire recall. Honda picked up on the problem quickly and, as a result, only 270 cars had to be recalled.

These are the model year error codes you'll most likely encounter when shopping for a 2nd generation Honda Pilot:

  • Code P0497 is for an EVAP system with a low purge flow, which is a sign of catalytic converter problems. Code P0421 is a warning code from the ECU confirming that the catalytic converter is malfunctioning. If left unchecked, a flawed catalytic converter can easily lead to engine and emissions system issues and problems.
  • Code P0430 and P0420 indicate a problem with the oxygen sensors on the engine banks.
  • Code P0562 is a warning for low system voltage, indicating possible alternator problems.
  • Code P0300 is a warning that one or more of the cylinders are misfiring. Codes P0301, P0302, P0303, P0304, P0305, and P0306 indicate the exact cylinder that is misfiring. This is a less common problem and it's usually a sign of ignition coil problems.
  • Code P0847 relates to a pressure switch on the transmission.
  • Code P0175 is a sign that the airflow ratio is off. In this case, there's too much fuel and too little air. It usually shows up with Code P0171, which indicates low oxygen in the exhaust system.
  • Code P0456 is for a small leak in the EVAP system. Code P0455 is for a large leak in the EVAP system. Code P0498 also indicates a problem with the EVAP vent valve control.
  • Code P0843 and P0842 indicate a pressure problem in the transmission fluid.
  • Code P0404 shows there is a problem with the exhaust gas recirculation valve.
  • Code P0487 and Code P0335 indicate a problem with the camshaft position.
  • Code P0351 shows a problem with the ignition coils.
  • Code P3400 is a faulty rocker cam oil pressure switch.
  • Code P0100 indicates the mass airflow sensor is malfunctioning. This is normally the main reason behind ignition switch, starting, and starter problems.
  • Code P0118 is a warning that the engine coolant temperature is too high. It could also be a faulty sensor, but it's worth checking out.
  • Code P0113 is for a faulty air intake temperature sensor malfunction.

Honda Pilot Common Problems

Engine Problems

Honda has used the J35 engine since 1998. It succeeded the C-series 90-degree V6 used before and the J's narrower 60-degree V and SOHC cylinder heads make it more compact and easier to fit transversely into the engine compartment for FWD cars. According to various owners, the Pilot loves to burn oil. Honda has never issued a recall for this but it's one of those problems that have a domino effect. First, the engine is prone to oil leaks, and oil drops down to the catalytic converter. The engine also burns oil in the combustion chamber, which then has to go through the catalytic converter. Worst case, the cat fails, and since running a car without a catalytic converter in the USA is illegal, you have to replace it.

This issue usually leads to ignition and idling problems. VCM is Honda's acronym for its cylinder-deactivation system and it is mostly VCM problems that cause high oil consumption on the J35Z4 engine. This system is not the most refined either and several owners have complained about vibration problems when it activates and deactivates. Excessive oil consumption leads to fouled spark plugs, which will cause poor running and a loss of power and economy. If the oil level falls dangerously low, friction and heat will increase and the engine can fail. The VCM gaskets may also leak oil. As the VCM unit is located near the alternator, an oil leak from it can also ruin the alternator. Several internet resources show how owners can disable VCM.

Mileage: Excessive oil consumption typically starts at around 80,000-105,000 miles.

Cost: Between $1,700 and $4,000 to do invasive engine repairs such as replacing the piston rings and/or the catalytic converter. More than $7,000, should the engine fail and it must be replaced entirely. VCM gaskets are cheap to buy and you can fit them at home. A ruined alternator costs $500-$900 to replace.

How to spot: While Honda never issued a recall, it sent out a software update for the VCM system, which seems to solve the problem. Otherwise, you simply need to look for signs of a failing catalytic converter. The car won't idle properly, and you'll notice white smoke coming from the exhausts when you start the car or accelerate hard. This is definitely one problem you want to walk away from. Fouled spark plugs due to excessive oil consumption will cause poor idling and misfiring, usually accompanied by a Check Engine light and the relevant fault code(s).

The Brakes

A number of owners have complained about vibration, brake, and brake rotor problems. This is a less common problem, but still worth checking out. From 30,000 to 50,000 miles, the brake rotors can start to warp. It seems the brake pads wear out quickly, which sort of adds up; many motor journalists have noted the Pilot's substandard braking distances. Failing brakes also have a knock-on effect. Worn rotors can lead to the car pulling to one side, leading owners to believe they have steering rack problems. It can also cause the alignment to go out of whack, resulting in uneven tire wear. To save the brakes, rather gear down on long descents, especially when laden or towing, to allow the engine to assist with braking.

Mileage: From around 30,000 miles.

Cost: $400-$1,400, depending on how many of the brake rotors and pads must be replaced.

How to spot: Worn-out brakes make a squealing or scratching noise. The steering wheel also tends to vibrate when braking.

Paint Problems

Though paint problems are not uncommon on many cars, especially those used in rust-belt states, the Pilot's issues are worth noting because quite a few owners complain about chipping and peeling paint, especially in the area between the windshield and the sunroof. Paint complaints reach a high point for the 2013 model year.

Mileage: From around 60,000-70,000 miles.

Cost: Depends on the extent of the repairs/repainting necessary

How to spot: Paint peels especially on the roof just aft of the windshield.

Transmission Problems

Though paint problems are not uncommon on many cars, especially those used in rust-belt states, the Pilot's issues are worth noting because quite a few owners complain about chipping and peeling paint, especially in the area between the windshield and the sunroof. Paint complaints reach a high point for the 2013 model year.

Mileage: In case of lax maintenance or leaks, it can happen at any mileage.

Cost: A transmission overhaul can exceed $2,000.

How to spot: During the test drive, take note of the shifting patterns. If the shifts are sloppy and harsh, walk away. You could bargain with the dealer to fix it before the sale, but there are thousands of Pilots available.

Less Common Problems

The Honda Pilot is generally a robust car, but there are some complaints from owners. We researched every complaint and, in certain cases, it was just two people per year complaining about sunroof, moonroof, and driver's seat problems. The latter was a complaint about an uncomfortable seat, which is an extremely subjective thing. It would not be fair to Honda to call these common flaws, but we put them here anyway so you have a full list of things to look out for. A rare engine problem is the loosening of the bridge bolts holding down the rocker arms, which will develop play and may emit a ticking or chattering sound. They have to be retorqued to the correct value. Wheel bearings can also sometimes wear out, causing a humming sound. These can cost as much as $380 per bearing to replace.

While it's not a typical flaw, at least five people per year complained about air-conditioning - or AC - problems. It seems the AC is not powerful enough for such a big car, but the problem was solved when Honda introduced tri-zone climate control in 2012. Look out for batteries draining too quickly, which is sometimes caused by a sticking AC relay - and is cheap and easy to fix. The odd AC compressor failed beyond 100,000 miles and that costs $1,500 to replace. Owners also reported electric problems. These problems range from rats chewing through the soy-based wiring to door lock problems because of a key fob battery or a blown fuse.

Some 2009-2015 Pilots experience failure of the low-beam headlights, often in short succession of each other. The problem is with the wiring harness connection at the headlight stalk where the lights are switched on and off. This connection overheats and can even melt, causing the headlights to fail. Sometimes, sunroofs just won't open and it's usually the control module powering the sunroof that is at fault. In fact, software reprogramming most often fixes the problem without the module having to be replaced.

Some owners even complained about suspension problems, calling the Honda unwieldy. Since it's a crossover, we don't expect it to handle like an S2000. The handling is also not so bad that it ever feels like it's going to topple over. However, there was an issue with the lower control arms according to TSB 15-045 and Honda extended the warranty of affected Pilot models. These control-arm bushes cost around $600-$700 to replace. The 2nd generation Pilot never had the best infotainment system, so owners complained about the backup camera, radio, and Bluetooth problems. There are also a few tailgate problems. We can't blame Honda for this one, as it's a common problem with almost every used SUV and minivan. The tailgate struts eventually start leaking and then fail. You can buy a set of durable replacement struts for $25. Lastly, the interior trim does not always hold up well and there were several reports of the seat trim and leather upholstery wearing out prematurely and looking shabby.

Which One To Avoid

We'd avoid the pre-facelift models if only because of the trim updates and improved sound dampening. The facelifted models also have more standard features. We wouldn't go for the base LX trim unless you own a taxi company. While it has nice features, the Pilot is only really suitable for a family from EX trim and upwards.

Which One To Buy

The facelift EX trim offers the best balance. It comes with tri-zone climate control, a power-adjustable driver's seat, and a nicer infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity. We'd go the extra mile and look for one of the final year SE models, which add 18-inch model-specific alloys, a sunroof, and a rear-seat entertainment system. The 2015 model year is the least troublesome of all.

2nd Gen Honda Pilot Verdict

The 2009-2015 Honda Pilot is a Honda, which means it will likely outlast you if you take care of it. Most of the common problems mentioned here are easily avoidable by sticking to the regular service intervals. There's no shortage of 2nd-generation Pilots available and the good news is that the initial buyers tended to go for the top-trim models because they were so affordable. Yes, it doesn't have the same modern technology as a new car, but a used Pilot gives you a lot of practicality, space, and comfort at an extremely reasonable price.

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