New Three-Row CUV King? Honda Debuts Ruggedized 2023 Pilot
In the 20 years since its debut in 2003, the Honda Pilot has always been a competent, popular and reliable three-row crossover, but it's never been one with a lot of personality.
But with the explosion of the segment, automakers have been working hard on making their CUVs more than just family transportation, and for the next-gen 2023 Pilot, Honda has injected a big dose of rugged styling and improved off-road capability.
New Looks & More
Despite its anonymous looks, the previous Pilot was already a pretty capable off-roader thanks to Honda's i-VTM4 AWD system—and the new one builds on that in a big way.
To start, the new fourth-generation Pilot is longer than the old version in both wheelbase and overall length, and it is wider as well.
Gone is the generic shape of the old Pilot, replaced with a more chiseled body with longer hood, a larger grille and more pronounced fender flares.
The engine is a familiar 3.5L naturally-aspirated V6, though its been updated to make an impressive 285 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. All 2023 Pilots will also get Honda's ten-speed automatic transmission.
Familiar Pilot trims like Sport, EX-L, Touring and Elite return on the next-gen model, but trail junkies and weekend adventurers will be especially excited about the new Pilot TrailSport.
Enter the TrailSport
More than just a "rugged" appearance package, the TrailSport gets a unique suspension setup with a one-inch lift for improved ground clearance, retuned dampers and sway bars designed for increased articulation.
It also gets skid plates, beefed-up recovery points and a set of unique 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires. Honda says it tested the capability of the Pilot TrailSport at places like Moab, Utah and Glamis in the California desert.
The result of this should be one of the best-performing off-road CUVs to do date, matching up against vehicles like the Ford Bronco Sport and Subaru Outback Wilderness.
The Pilot is also important because it gives a nice preview of what the next-gen Honda Ridgeline pickup should look like, as the two vehicles have shared their underpinnings and basic design.
It will also be interesting to see how this new and improved Pilot does in the ultra-competitive three-row CUV class, which includes vehicles like the ultra-popuiar Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade.
For now, among those who like to take their CUV off-roading, it's looking like the 2023 Pilot TrailSport might be the new benchmark in the class.
One of the nice things about Honda is that unlike some automakers who announce their new models months or even years before they actually hit dealers, the new 2023 Pilot is scheduled to start hitting showrooms next month. Pricing should be announced before then.
More From Driving Line
- Want to know more about what separates the Pilot's AWD system from the rest of the CUV crowd? We break down the power of i-VTM4.