Honda’s Pilot gets a host of upgrades inside and out for 2012, including squeezing two more miles from a gallon of gas. The big 8-passenger hauler now gets 25 highway mpg, which is pretty remarkable for a vehicle this size. With seats folded flat, the Pilot has a cargo-van-like 87 cubic feet of storage space. With the seats up, the driver and seven passengers can ride in comfort. Even those in the third row won’t be too cramped.

Outside, the Pilot gets a new grille and front fascia that give the vehicle a sleeker look, even though it is exactly the same width as the 2011 model. Inside is where most of the noticeable changes are.

The new Pilot is available in four models: LX, EX, EX-L and Touring. Our test vehicle this week was the top-of-the-line Touring model, which stickered right at $40-grand.

Gauges and controls have been redesigned for 2012, with a new layered design for the center stack. Climate controls are also new, with buttons being replaced by dials. Cluster lighting is now bright white instead of the soft aqua-blue in the previous model.

Standard in the Touring model and available on others is Honda’s Satellite-Linked Navigation system, which has 60 gigs of memory and a traffic feature. The hard drive can store thousands of minutes of music, all accessible with voice commands in Honda’s Song by Voice feature.

The vehicle’s backup camera is one of the industry’s best, with three different views available: wide, normal and from the top down. Infiniti probably makes the best camera system around with its bird’s eye view, but Honda’s runs a close second. And with the big boxy shape of the Pilot, good cameras can really help drivers avoid the dings dolled out by crowed parking lots.

The Pilot is powered by a 6-cylinder engine and its performance is adequate. Remember that whole 25 mpg thing before you get too critical here. The 3.5-liter powerplant generates 250 horsepower and sends 253 lb.-ft. of twist to the 5-speed automatic transmission.

The Pilot’s engine has a variable cylinder management system that allows the vehicle to run on three or four cylinders at highway speeds when less power is needed. The driver and passengers won’t know, though, how many cylinders are active at a time because the changes are imperceptible.

The 2012 Pilot, with three-row side curtain airbags among a host of safety features, gets a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

On the highway, the Pilot has a smooth, refined ride with a noticeably quieter cabin this year. Engineers added acoustic safety glass to the windshield, enhanced body seam sealing, re-tuned rear suspension sub-frame mounts and revised insulation materials to achieve an overall reduction in cabin noise.

Our 5-door Touring test Pilot was equipped with lots of standard cabin extras including leather upholstery, navigation, a rearview camera, a DVD entertainment system with a 9-inch screen (don’t underestimate its value to diminutive passengers), Bluetooth with audio, XM Satellite Radio, tri-zone air, a 10-way driver’s power memory seat with heat and a 115-volt power outlets. The power tailgate has a lift-up glass hatch, and there’s a standard power moon roof with a tilt feature. The test Touring Pilot was also 4WD, meaning it can go where many other SUVs can’t. You sacrifice only 1 mpg for the added traction. City mileage is 17 mpg and highway mileage is 24 mpg.

The Pilot once again is a favorite of families that have to haul people or things around town.


Engin: 3.5-liter V-6

Transmissio: 5-speed automatic

Horsepowe: 250

Test model base pric: $40,820

EPA mileage ratin: 17 mpg city / 24 mpg highway (4WD)