- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

Years ago, in response to a sizzling SUV market, Honda, like many companies, supplemented its home-grown product with other models adapted from other manufacturers.
For 2003, however, the company introduces the new Pilot the first midsize SUV designed, developed and built by Honda for Honda.
With a base sticker price of $26,900, the main distinction between Pilot and other Honda utes, past and present, is size.
Stretching 15 feet, 8 inches long and 77.3 inches wide, Pilot offers three rows of seating and good cargo capacity to boot.
With a full complement of passengers on board, there is 16.1 cubic feet of space for gear. This space can be expanded to as much as 90.3 cubic feet with second- and third-row seats down.
Pilot's width allows for a unique cargo coup: The company boasts that this is the only ute in its segment that can handle standard size, 4-foot-wide sheets of plywood, flat between the wheel wells.
Whether you're carrying plywood or potting soil, access to the back end is via a swing-up hatch door. The one-piece design and low load height mean easy cargo loading, although anyone over 6 feet tall needs to remember to duck under the door.
If cargo fares well, so do people. Honda claims a capacity of eight for Pilot, but seven is more realistic, with the third row being reserved for smaller (and more limber) folk.
In a move sure to be cheered by back-seat drivers everywhere, second-row seats are about half an inch higher than the first row, and the third row sits taller still, by another inch and a half.
Visibility usually a weak spot in SUVs is fine in Pilot, thanks to some thoughtful design work. Front-seat headrests have a donut-like hole inside, the better to see through. Second-row headrests are very compact, and the ubiquitous, rear-mounted spare is not mounted there. The down-under placement helps give the driver an unobstructed look back rare indeed in an SUV.
DVD technology helps the traveler directly and indirectly. First, an optional, satellite-linked DVD navigation system will help the driver chart the path, with audio and visual cues.
The other DVD-based trip saver is the optional entertainment system. A 7-inch, flip-down LCD screen provides back-seat passengers with a number of choices (and diversions), including a DVD player, inputs for video games and cordless headphones.
Power is courtesy of Honda's all-aluminum V-6. The 3.5-liter, 24-valve engine generates 240 horsepower and 242 foot-pounds of torque.
A five-speed automatic transmission provides the interface and it meshes well with the engine's wide power band.
EPA rates Pilot's gas mileage at 17 city/22 highway, which is a bit better than average for a midsize ute.
On the road, Pilot feels decidedly more like a car than a truck.
Ride quality is quite good and the center of gravity, while higher than that of a car, is low enough for manageable handling. As for off-road, the jungles that Pilot is geared toward are more urban than actual. But it can get its feet dirty when needed and has more capacity in this regard than its buyers are likely to ask of it.
Pilot offers 8 inches of ground clearance. Angles of approach and departure are 28 degrees and 21 degrees respectively, with a 21 degree break-over angle. No undercarriage skid plates are provided. Power is automatically channeled to all four wheels when the vehicle is accelerating and also when conditions are slippery.
The more the slip, the more power is shifted to help with grip. Under extremely slick conditions, the driver can get better traction by locking the rear differential with the push of a button. Aside from this, the four-wheel-drive system is transparent to the user, engaging automatically.
Honda's new ute is rated to tow a 3,500-pound trailer or a 4,500-pound boat (the latter can be heavier because it's more slippery.
The Class III tow hitch in the factory-designed dealer-installed option package is a nice application. It installs with no drilling or cutting, and a transmission cooler and wiring for trailer lights are also included.
Sharing lineage with Honda's Odyssey minivan and the well-regarded Acura MDX sport utility, the Pilot certainly has the genes for the job.
Pilot's landing in the lineup should be welcomed by many who have waited for Honda to put its own stamp on a bigger breed of sport ute.

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