- The Washington Times - Friday, July 26, 2002

Honda delayed its entry into the hotly contested minivan field, studying and evaluating the market, then developed and delivered what, to many, is today's benchmark minivan. The same holds true for the popular sport utility vehicle category Honda held back, carefully surveying what was offered and what could be offered to serve the needs and desires of SUV buyers.
The result of those studies is the all-new Honda Pilot, whose objective was to maintain the traditional strong points of SUVs and create solutions for weak points encountered in other SUV brands.
The majority of SUVs in today's marketplace provide adequate power, the ability to wander off the beaten path and sufficient room to haul lifestyle accessories to accommodate family interests, but they don't always deliver good fuel economy, or carlike fit and finish, interior ambience and comfort or ride quality and handling characteristics.
The Honda Pilot seems to deliver on all points, Honda having done its homework well, and then implementing what it learned. The Pilot is a five-door, family-sized SUV capable of seating up to eight passengers in a second- and third-row theater-style arrangement.
Pilot is offered in two trim levels: the LX and the even more upscale EX. Both will be powered by the same 3.5-liter single-overhead camshaft, 24-valve, VTEC V-6 engine that generates 240 horsepower and 242 foot-pounds of torque, which is coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission with Honda Grade Logic Control, transferring power to the standard VTM-4 (vehicle torque management, four-wheel-drive) system. The VTM-4 system provides increased traction and stability on wet or snow-covered road surfaces, transfers traction to the rear wheels for off-road excursions and offers a lock feature for freeing the vehicle when it is "stuck."
Pilot projects a sporty, high-tech image in a tough and durable package with lots of versatility and planned functionality. The basic form is bold with a blend of contemporary treatment. My test Pilot was an EX-L RES model, which means that it was executed in EX trim with leather seating and a rear entertainment system. It had a base price of $32,020. There were no extra charges aside from the destination and handling fee of $460. The LX model starts at $26,900. The starter version of the EX level is base-priced at $29,270 with a cloth interior while others are available with leather and the rear entertainment system or leather with a navigation system that adds $500 to the price of my test unit.
The Honda Pilot EX-L RES may well be the ultimate vehicle for a family adventure vacation. The ride quality is extremely smooth and comfortable. In a blindfold situation, the Pilot could very well pass for an entry-level luxury sedan. The handling characteristics fall into that category as well.
Power is more than adequate with a broad torque range for doing mid-duty off-road ventures. The 60/40 split rear seatbacks of the second- and third-row seats fold flat, providing optimum versatility in accommodating cargo and passengers (cargo capacity is the largest in the segment). Should one need more capacity, a trailer would be an alternative with the Pilot's load-towing capability boosted to 4,500 pounds by the optional towing package.
The rear entertainment system features a fold-down light-emitting diode screen with rear headphones for DVD-based entertainment to keep younger family members occupied during long trips. The DVDs load up front in the dash for parental control. The sound system provides AM/FM stereo, cassette and CD flexibility, separate from the rear DVD format so that everyone can be happy.
I found only one bone of contention to pick the gearshift lever arced into the way of my long legs when I was selecting lower gears, which for anyone over 6 feet, 4 inches might become an issue, but not a major one. Overall, the Pilot is an exceptional vehicle, capable of serving in a variety of transportational roles in an economically and environmentally sound package.

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