It's actually just a new trim level with more content.
Honda last refreshed its three-row Pilot SUV back in 2019 and then in 2020, it added a new Black Edition trim level. The changes for the 2021 Honda Pilot are not drastic but along with pricing for the new model year, the automaker has announced yet another new trim level. The new trim level will be called the Special Edition (SE) but it won't actually be a limited model, just a trim between the EX-L and Touring.
The Pilot Special Edition builds on the popular EX-L trim but adds a number of important features, which were previously exclusive to the higher trim levels. These include standard dual-zone climate control, 20-inch black wheels, roof rails, a black grille and accents, foot-activated hands-free tailgate, and a wireless phone charger. The Special Edition also gets a standard nine-speed automatic transmission instead of the six-speed and other EX-L features such as leather seats, second-row sunshades, and a power-adjustable driver's seat.
Above the Special Edition sits the Pilot Touring, which still includes luxury features such as a built-in navigation system, Blu-Ray rear-seat entertainment, parking sensors, in-car Wi-Fi, heated second-row seats, and available second-row captain's seats. The Pilot Elite offers captain's chairs as standard and adds a dual moonroof, ventilated front seats, auto-dimming and power-folding side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, and a heated steering wheel.
The Black Edition continues to be the top trim level and includes cool styling features such as black wheels, black exterior accents, red interior lighting, and red highlights in the perforated leather. For 2021, the Black Edition can now be ordered with Platinum White Pearl paint in addition to Crystal Black.
Pricing for the 2021 Honda Passport LX (2WD) starts at $32,250 before a $1,120 destination charge. This is a minor $600 price increase from last year's model. The new Pilot SE model is priced at $38,960 (or $40,960 with AWD), placing it above the EX-L ($38,360 with 2WD) but below the Touring ($42,920 with 2WD). Honda continues to offer only one engine choice in the pilot, a 3.5-liter V6 producing 280 horsepower. The 2021 Pilot should arrive in dealerships this year.
Three years into its tenure since the last major update, the Pilot continues to be a strong seller in the three-row midsize SUV segment. However, with the likes of the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade now in the arena, along with the stellar Toyota Highlander, the Honda may have its work cut out for it. Can a new semi-luxury trim give it the advantage?