New Car Review: 2020 Honda Pilot, tangled up in black

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By James Raia
The Honda Pilot is in its 19th year as the manufacturer’s biggest, most versatile and most expensive sport utility vehicle. It’s also among seven utility vehicles Honda makes. All fulfill a niche for the ever-increasing percentage of consumers buying cars, trucks, SUVs and vans.

As Honda’s only three-row vehicle, the Pilot combines the brand’s reputation and reliability with keen family and cargo capabilities. With its all-wheel-drive option, the Pilot has a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.

The 2020 Honda Pilot has an expensive Black Edition.
The 2020 Honda Pilot has an expensive Black Edition.

Available in LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, Elite and Black Edition trims, all 2020 Pilots are equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 with 280 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard for the LX, EX and EX-L trims; a nine-speed transmission is included in the Touring Elite and Black Edition trim.

Honda Pilot has six trim levels

Front-wheel drive is standard on lower trims; all-wheel drive is standard on Elite and Black Edition models and optional on other trims.

The Black Edition, new for 2020, is a niche marketing approach. It’s the top-line Elite trim, but with black exterior features — special lettering to wheels — and red interior trim. Specifically, the paint-it-black theme extends to the grille, headlight trim, and fog light accents to the side trim, door handles, window trim and 20-inch alloy wheels.

Black Edition logos are included on the front seats and floor mats and same-theme badges are positioned on the tailgate and grille. The contrasting red trim is attractive and prominent. It’s featured as lighting on the dashboard, doors and center console. There’s also red stitching on the steering wheel and door panels.

Honda isn’t the first manufacturer to offer a Black Edition, and the reasons for the trend seem contradictory. Instead of opting for the highest trim levels with more bling, Black Edition owners desire a more stealth appearance. But the style only brings more attention to the vehicle.

As the flagship offering, the Elite trim includes most of the standard features on less expensive models. But it’s offered standard with the second-row captain’s chairs and a handful of upper-scale items. Auto-dimming and power-folding side mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and a wireless charging pad are all worthy. The second-row captain’s chairs on the Elite and Black Edition trims reduce seating from eight to seven.

Plenty of other features are also included, a signature of Honda’s long-standing quality-in-quantity approach. The list includes: roof rails, sound-reducing front door glass, front and rear parking sensors, hands-free operation for the liftgate, heated rear seats, a Wi-Fi hotspot and a 10-speaker premium audio system and a rear entertainment system.

Honda Pilot: Black Edition pricey

The Pilot drives similarly to its SUV, trucks and van siblings. It’s a steady, confident and largely quiet ride. On mountain roads, the Pilot advances without hesitation and can pass slower vehicles despite its V6 engine. Gas mileage averages are disappointing: 19 miles per gallon in city driving, 26 mpg on the highway.

When its easy-to-maneuver seating is positioned with the second and third rows down, the Pilot has a cavernous cargo area. It easily stores two bicycles and would easily provide makeshift sleeping quarters.

With its lengthy list of standard features and blackened appearance, the Black Edition is the most expensive SUV in the Honda lineup at $50,715.

Beyond the always top-selling HR-V, the Pilot was Honda’s second-best-selling SUV in 2019 at slightly more than 135,000 units. The Black Edition has its audience, but with a new selling price of more than $50,000, its biggest competition is likely its own automotive family. Less Honda is more Honda.

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James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: james@jamesraia.com.

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JTM402
1 month ago

We love our 2019 Pilot Touring, but keep the F150 for towing, and I feel the article should mention to get the 5000 lb towing capacity in the Pilot you have to get the AWD version and add an extra transmission cooler.

Donald N Wright
1 month ago

Black paint is popular, but here in Texas, black paint makes it a solar oven. A 5000# towing ability will make it a great tow vehicle.