2019 Honda Pilot Review

2019 Honda Pilot - Pilot adds safety tech for smoother flight


The 2019 Lexus GS350F Sport AWD is a smooth sporty cruiser

2019 GS350 F Sport AWD 

Price: $54,105

Pros-Upscale. Fast. Roomy. Smooth Ride. Good handling and more distinctive look with optional F Sport package. All-wheel drive.

Cons-Long, heavy front doors. Hard center rear seat. Outdated infotainment system.

Bottom Line-Posh upscale sporty sedan.

The 2019 Lexus GS350 F Sport AWD makes a good argument for buying a sporty, luxurious midsize sedan.

There are various GS models, but the $54,105 GS350 F Sport AWD is among the most attractive. It has a potent, smooth  3.5-liter, 311-horsepower V-6, roomy interior and a calm demeanor under trying circumstances with its optional F Sport tuned adaptive variable suspension and all-wheel-drive system. Lexus calls this model a "sporty sedan" but it's more sporty than "sport," if you know what I mean.

The engine, which has 280 lb.-ft. of torque, shoots power through a responsive 6-speed automatic transmission with a lightning quick manual-shift feature via steering wheel paddle controls.

Estimated fuel economy is 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on highways. Premium fuel is called for to fill the 17.4 gallon tank..

Upgrading to the $290 F Sport package combines "track-tuned" chassis enhancements with exclusive exterior and interior design features for a more striking look and feel.

The package includes the above-mentioned adaptive variable suspension, 19-inch split spoke alloy wheels, Sport Plus drive mode, special instrumentation and sports seats with a 16-way power adjustable driver's seat that includes power side bolsters, thigh support and four-way lumber feature. There's also subtle F Sport badging on the body sides and rear and the tuned adaptive variable suspension.

Styling enhancements include a unique front bumper, revised grille with F Sport inserts and a rear valence with nicely integrated chromed twin  exhaust outlets and a subtle rear lip spoiler. The super-quiet interior has striated aluminum trim, 'F Sport" aluminum pedals and door scuff plates, perforated leather trim and a black headliner. 

My test car's bottom line list price was $58,835 without a $1,025 delivery charge because it had a bunch of options, besides the F Sport package. The extras included an all-weather package, Mark Levinson premium surround sound audio system with 17 speakers, power trunk opener/closer, intuitive park assist and a heated leather steering wheel.

A driver can select various drive modes from "economy" to "sport plus" via a console dial. The GS350 F Sport AWD is such a smooth cruiser that even the Sport Plus mode doesn't cause the car to be uncomfortable on imperfect roads, although this mode sharpens the car's reflexes by controlling the engine, transmission and steering. Lexus recommends this mode for "mountain driving," but no mountains exist in the Chicago area where I tested the car. I found it did fine in "Eco" mode.

The steering is precise in any mode, but a driver should be careful because it's faster than one might think it would be.  At least its connection to the road is moderately good.

My test car's roadability also was helped by a vehicle stability control system and traction control. The nicely calibrated front independent double wishbone and independent multi-link rear suspension help out here.

Safety features include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist and all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, which can warn a driver of a possible collision and initiate automatic braking if necessary. There's also a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and a backup monitor.

The brake pedal has a progressive action, and the brakes have electronic brake force distribution for surer panic stops.

Safety features include 10 air bags and side curtain protection.

The GS350 F Sport AWD's interior has high-quality materials with attractive stitching, easily read gauges and handy dashboard manual temperature controls. There's a one-touch open/close sunroof with a shade but the infotainment system is outdated with a distractive mouselike controller. And there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto functionality.

The large power outside rearview mirrors can be folded against the front windows to help prevent parking area damage, but the window controls on the driver's door can easily mistakenly lower the rear windows instead of the front ones. Also, a driver must get used to the fact that the turn signals don't emit a "click" when their lever is moved to signal a turn. The steering wheel has an automatic tilt/slide feature.  

The front doors are long and heavy, and rear door openings are rather narrow. Even the rear seats offer good side and thigh support, but the center of the rear seat is too stiff for comfort and best used for the pull-down armrest that contains a shallow storage area and pull-out cupholders. There's a fair amount of cabin storage area, but the front door pockets don't hold water bottlers and the console shifter gets partially in the way of the twin front cupholders.

The enormous trunk has a low, wide opening, but there are no folding rear seat backs to enlarge the cargo area-just a narrow ski pass-through.

The hood slides opens on twin struts to reveal a large plastic engine cover and one of the world's longest oil dipsticks. Lexus quality is such that it's doubtful that anyone but Lexus service technicians will ever need to open the hood for routine maintenance.


 Pilot represents Honda's largest crossover with three rows of seating welcoming up to 8 riders in most trims.  Uni-body (car like) underpinnings provide a subtle, comfortable, confident pavement ride while deep wood's, off-roading adventures are best left for truck-based sport utility vehicles. 

Honda's Pilot welcomed a little brother to the auto universe this 2019 model year, the respectable two-row Passport bearing a definite family resemblance to the mature, rather conservative-exteriored older sibling boasting 6.2 inches of extra length.

Worthy Pilot competitors include the Chevrolet Traverse, Toyota Highlander and Mazda CX-9 (among others) sparring with relative newcomers including Volkswagen's Atlas and Kia Telluride.

Pilot debuted in 2003 with a complete second-generation redo in 2009 and a Gen three effort arrived in 2016 of which our 2019 tester is based.  Expect a number of mid-cycle refreshes (including Honda Sensing standard across all trims) as Pilot keeps pace with the growing competition.

All five Pilot trims (LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite) motivate from a 3.5-liter, direct-injected, 24-valve V-6 generating 280 horsepower. Honda also utilizes this workhorse powertrain in the reissued Passport. All boast trims front wheel drive or Midwest-friendly all-wheel drive with the exception of top-level Elite witch comes standard with all-wheel traction. 

The more than capable V-6 offers two automatic transmissions: a six-speed teams with LX, EX and EX-L while an updated, smooth-shifting nine speed (with start/stop technology) assists Touring and Elite.

Fuel-extending start/stop technology now finds itself part of most mainstream automaker's portfolio.  Once the domain of all-electric or gas-electric hybrids, this system shuts down the gas engine at prolonged stops (red lights), springing back to attention once the right foot leaves the brake pedal. Over the past decade, a much less intrusive and seamless switchover has evolved and Pilot fits this description.

Currently, Pilot utilizes a traditional, naturally aspirated internal combustion engine with no all-electric, plug-in hybrid electric or gas-electric hybrid versions.

The sizeable 19.5 gallon fuel tank accepts regular 87-octane gas delivering average fuel economy for this mid-size crossover. When stopping for fill ups, the plastic twist cap is no more, replaced with a fuel lead that self-seals shut once the nozzle pulls away.

The 7.3 inches of ground clearance provides a commanding seating position higher than say, a Honda Accord sedan, allowing good visuals in multiple directions. Touring and Elite trims include larger 20-inch machine-finished alloy wheels teaming with all-season tires while lower trims sport 18-inch varieties. All-wheel-drive editions tow up to 5,000 pounds of weekend fun, above average in this segment and enough oomph to move a decent-sized power boat.

Pilot sales continue strong.  In the 2018 calendar year, 159,615 units left dealerships, a 25.4 percent increase from the previous year's total of 127,279 and qualifying as the fastest growing crossover in its segment.

Starting price for a Pilot LX, with front-wheel drive and six-speed automatic, checks in at $31,450. Our Elite tester,  starts at $48,020.  No options necessary as Elite trims come with just about every bell and whistle reaching a bottom line of $49,015 after adding the $1,045 destination charge.

A circular, push-button electric start comes standard with a dashboard location just right of the steering column. Unlike a mechanical transmission with conventional grab handles or T-bars, Pilot opts for a press or tap of well-marked in-line electronic designates (PRND). Designers purposely dedicated specific finger motions for each choice. For example, Park requires a down push of a rectangular button while Reverse necessitates a tactile tab push. This layout's been tried successfully in other Honda/Acura vehicles and adorns the all-new Passport crossover.

Extra-large inline beverage holders locate to the right while a huge, deep storage bin with slide cover also finds a home between front buckets. Remote push buttons opening the power lift gate and fuel door reside on the driver's side door.

The aforementioned 'Honda Sensing' bundles together five popular radar-enhanced safety features.  Adaptive cruise control allows Pilot to slow and speed up during highway rides based on the distance of the vehicle ahead with three following intervals (short, medium, long). Lane keeping assist assures Pilot stays in its lane (as long as the pavement below includes painted markings). Road departure mitigation, forward collision warning and collision mitigation braking round out the five senses.  Also upgraded for 2019, the side blind-spot information system, previously available in Elite trims exclusively, now comes standard in EX, EX-L and Touring.

A sizeable eight-inch multi-function touch screen comes standard in all trims sans the base LX which gets by with five inches. All trims (sans LX) include satellite radio capabilities along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Smartphone integration, allowing apps and downloads to work with the flat eight-inch screen. Honda took some heat for temporarily removing the audio system's volume dial in favor of push-type.  A twist knob returns in 2019, but could use a second  scroll mate for station tuning.

The instrument panel takes a slight futuristic yet easily interpreted turn.   Analog-inspired half circles flank both ends (right side fuel gauge, left side engine temperature) with a multi-panel digital window between. A dedicated digital speedometer resides above the multi-panel window as does a horizontal, bar-type tachometer.  Panel windows scroll via a steering wheel mounted button.

Our Elite tester included a couple of supportive row-two captain's chairs standard, bringing total capacity to seven. All lower trims include middle row bench seating standard. Only Touring trims offer Row two captain chairs as an optional.

Row three is designated as a three-rider zone.  Best if the trio has yet to reach their teens for optimal enjoyment.   Two seasoned adults ride with optimal comfort thanks to welcome head and optimal knee space.

No matter age or size, maneuvering into the 'way back' presents a challenge. Pilot Elite, with standard second-row captain's chairs, cooperate nicely with "one touch walk in."

A square pull tab  atop seatbacks provide a dual-action sequence of edging forward the back rest while simultaneously jetting the attached cushion forward with minimal human effort. The result: an entry isle wide enough to contort through. When exiting, an outboard lower-level pull tab begins the dual action maneuver creating an exit pathway.

The third-row bench seat includes a 60/40 split, allowing each section to manually fold flat onto seat cushions to increase cargo capacity.  Long black straps help return backs to a prone positon.  EX-L, Touring and Elite trims include a power opting/shutting tail gate with Touring and Elite boasting hands-free access, allowing the door to power up with a foot swipe under the vehicle's lower rear.

Behind the third row resides a shallow under-floor storage area with lift-up panel. All trims include a temporary spare tire located under the vehicle's cargo region and accessible from below the vehicle.

Elite is the sole trim with a standard, long panoramic glass roof stretching over parts all three rows.

2019 Honda Pilot

Price as Tested:  $49,015

Wheelbase:  111.0 inches

Length:  196.5 inches

Width:   78.6 inches

Engine:  3.5-liter V-6

Horsepower:  280

Curb weight: 4,319 pounds

Fuel Economy:  19 mpg city/26 mpg highway

Powertrain warranty: Five year/60,000 miles

Assembly:  Lincoln, Alabama

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.