- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2003

ATLANTA — A midsize sport-utility vehicle based on the significantly pricier Acura MDX, the 2003 Honda Pilot competently displays the positive qualities associated with the brand. It has affordability, good standard features, comfort and, presumably, typical Honda durability.

The test Pilot was a 2003 EX-L (the L denotes leather seating with a DVD entertainment system or navigation system or both). It had no options, so the bottom line was $32,480 once the $460 delivery fee was tacked onto the $32,020 base price.

Its size, features and price put the Pilot in competition with the likes of the Ford Explorer, GMC Envoy and Toyota Highlander, and it comes off very well by comparison.

In about 1,000 miles of testing that included two-lane, interstate and a tad of off-road venturing, the test Pilot exhibited few annoyances or weak spots. There were occasions when it seemed slow to downshift its five-speed automatic transmission, but decisively pressing the accelerator cured that.

Stability is good, even when being passed by big trucks or harassed by side winds. Reasons include a good suspension and the Pilot’s width of 77.3 inches, which is among the widest in its class.

The 240-horsepower V-6 generated 242 foot-pounds of torque and that is certainly adequate for the 4,400-pound Pilot. Various reviewers and Honda credit it with zero-to-60 mph times of about eight seconds, making it slightly quicker than some competitors with V-8s.

The tester lived up to its EPA figures of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 22 on the highway, although currently acceptable interstate speeds and a sizable load will drag down that figure.

Other likable features include visibility, although the front pillars can reduce right and left front visibility in some situations. Instrumentation and controls are typically Honda-convenient and simple. The Pilot has the expected power features and the seven-speaker cassette/CD stereo with subwoofer will please anyone except picky audiophiles.

The EX-L’s leather seating is great for the driver (an eight-way power-adjustable seat with lumbar support), good for the front passenger and for two adults in the second row. The third row, although reasonably accessible, is kiddie space.

Cargo space is good, and Honda provides lots of storage bins and niches. The split, flat-folding second- and third-row seats permit Honda to claim a class-leading cargo room of 90 cubic feet. That’s not that much better than the Pilot’s competitors.

Overall, the Pilot, which gives most power to its front wheels most of the time, gets good reviews and strong recommendations.

And it’s a marked improvement over the Passport, actually a rebadged Isuzu Rodeo.

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