Quick Spin: 2019 Honda Pilot Elite, Are We There Yet?

By Author: Harvey Briggs, Date: Mar 14, 2019

Are we there yet? It’s a phrase every parent dreads. When the drive – whether it’s to grandma’s house or the Grand Canyon – drags on too long for the goldfish-like attention span of the fruit of your loins. If road trips with the family are your jam, you might want to consider making the Pilot Elite the vehicle for your trips. That is assuming you’re ready to plunk down a serious chunk of your wages on a Honda.

The 2019 Honda Pilot Elite has a new look front and rear that’s more aggressive and purposeful.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the hottest segment in autodom right now is the three-row crossover/SUV. Everyone’s making them and selling them for what a starter home cost not too long ago. I offer as exhibit A, the 2019 Honda Pilot Elite, an all-wheel drive, seven or eight-passenger, crossover with a sticker price of $49,015.

For 2019 Honda refreshed the exterior design, made improvements to the drivetrain, and added new safety and entertainment technologies to improve the experience for the driver, owner, and passengers. My top-of-the-range Elite model came equipped with every bell and whistle you can imagine including Honda’s intelligent variable torque management system and a recalibrated 9-speed automatic transmission efficiently transferring the power from its 280 horsepower V6 engine to the road regardless of the surface or conditions. 

The 2019 Honda Pilot Elite handles like a smaller SUV thanks to true torque vectoring all-wheel drive.

One of the few benefits of this year’s polar vortex is that I’ve been able to put a few vehicles through their paces in winter conditions we haven’t seen in years. The Pilot was sure footed and surprisingly agile given its dimension and bulk. This is due in large part to the system’s ability to direct power to the wheels that need it most thanks to its hydraulically-actuated rear differential that directs the power front to rear and left to right, depending on inputs from various sensors. The result is enhanced grip in slippery conditions like the persistent ice we had covering our roads as temperatures hovered around 0ºF for the week, or improved handling on dry roads as the power is applied in a way that helps the high-bodied vehicle track through the corners. Combined with the Intelligent Traction Management system which can be set to optimize the settings for snow, sand, and mud, the Pilot is smooth and confident, regardless of where your adventure takes you.

Behind the wheel of the 2019 Honda Pilot

Power is plentiful but not jaw-dropping. Everything is about what you’d expect from its competitors which include the Traverse, Highlander, Sorento, and Explorer. The short first-gear makes it quick off the line when you punch it, for things like drama-free left turns across oncoming traffic. The nine gears are spaced closely enough that getting up to speed on even short on-ramps can be accomplished without breaking a sweat. 262 pound-feet of torque provide up to 5,000 pounds of towing capacity when properly equipped so you can bring your ski boat or family camper on your weekend adventures but that doesn’t really distinguish it from the pack.

The 2019 Honda Pilot Elite is open and airy thanks to all the glass.

Where it stands out is how it treats you and your passengers. The Pilot offers excellent room in the first and second rows. The Elite model features heated and ventilated front seats, heated second row captains chairs, leather trimmed surfaces, and accent details that are borderline luxurious. The cabin feels light and airy, connecting passengers with the outdoors thanks to the tallish greenhouse and a sunroof over both the first and second rows of seats. You can also stay connected to the world at large thanks to technology that now includes 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, satellite radio (with an actual volume knob, hallelujah!), navigation, bluetooth connectivity and Honda’s app suite which allows you to access Pandora and other entertainment.

The 2019 Honda Pilot Elite offers all the tech and plenty off luxury.

Equipped with the 8-inch touch screen the interface is fairly intuitive. Not as easy to use as Hyundai’s best-in-class system, but a far cry better than that of the luxury brand Lexus. One other nice feature is Honda’s CabinTalk, an app that allows you to pause the rear seat entertainment and talk to your kids in the second and third rows using the rear speakers, wireless headphones, or both by pausing their entertainment when you open the app.

The 2019 Honda Pilot Elite has plenty of room in the second row.
The 3rd is for kids under 10 only.

The Honda Pilot Elite looks the part of a serous, go-anywhere, family hauler as well. For 2019 Honda updated the front and rear of their flagship SUV creating a more aggressive lines, incorporating all LED headlights and a more horizontal look, making the Pilot appear wider and more planted. The center “skid garnish” on the bumper gives the illusion of off-road toughness. I, however, wouldn’t plan on taking the Pilot on the Rubicon Trail anytime soon. It’s fine for mountain fire roads and well-maintained two tracks, but there’s not much real protection for the oil-pan or differential. Any encounter with serious rocks and obstructions in the wilderness is likely to result in a catastrophic loss of fluids and you wishing you had a satellite phone in your glove box. But then again, no one buys a luxed up Honda to try to keep up with Jeeps.

The 2019 Honda Pilot Elite can handle mild off-roading with ease

The Honda Pilot Elite is as good as it gets in a category where a gnat’s whisker separates vehicles like the Subaru Ascent, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, and Chevy Traverse. The Honda’s strengths are its comfortable, high-tech interior, rugged yet contemporary good looks, and legendary reliability. With all its updates for 2019 the Honda Pilot Elite answers the question “Are we there yet?” with an emphatic, “We’ve arrived.”

2019 Honda Pilot Elite
Four-door, seven-passenger, all-wheel drive SUV
FWD Honda Pilot Base price: $32,445 includes destination
Price as tested: $49,015 includes destination
Engine: 3.5 Liter, 24-valve, V6 with variable valve timing
Transmission: 9-speed automatic with All-wheel drive
Power: 280 HP @ 6,000 RPM
Torque: 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 RPM
Curb Weight:
Max Towing: 5,000 lbs
EPA MPG: 19 city/26 highway/22 combined

Harvey Briggs

Harvey Briggs is the Founder, Editor, and Publisher of Rides & Drives. He has also written for Car and Driver, Winding Road, and the luxury lifestyle blog, Pursuitist.com. His passions run from fast cars, small planes, boats and motorcycles to music, travel, and sports. When he's not on the road testing the latest cars, he been known to turn up on stage playing rock and blues guitar at clubs around his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Follow Harvey's adventures on Instagram and Twitter @harvey_drives and find him on Facebook. Though keeping up could be a problem. As Harvey says, "If I don't slow down, time can't catch me."

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