Honda redesigned the Pilot for 2023, giving it more refined styling, better tech, and a new TrailSport model with better off-road capability. The new fourth-generation SUV retains its venerable V6 engine and gets a ten-speed automatic transmission that should help improve fuel economy on the highway. I spent a week testing the new TrailSport model, and while I didn’t get to tackle any deep-woods trails, we did get a late-season snowstorm here in Maine that allowed me to put it to the test.
Powertrain and performance
The 2023 Pilot has a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 285 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Though there’s more power this year – a five horsepower improvement – the three-row SUV could use more grunt. Acceleration takes effort, and the transmission sometimes hunts for gears, but the powertrain is smooth and refined. It’s also quiet in everyday operations but can make a throaty roar under heavy acceleration. Honda’s excellent i-VTM4 all-wheel drive system offers torque vectoring that can shift torque between the wheels that need it most, and the TrailSport model adds a trail torque logic system that improves traction on loose terrain.
Seven drive modes are available, enabling towing and offering snow, dirt, and sand settings. Speaking from experience, the softened throttle response and traction control settings in the snow mode really do improve traction and confidence in slippery conditions. It takes a moment to adjust your muscle memory to the settings, but once that’s passed, the Pilot can handle some severe conditions when asked.
Though it can tackle some surprisingly challenging off-road terrain, the Pilot is perfectly well-mannered on the road. That fits with its family-friendly attitude and makes it an excellent companion for school drop-offs, grocery runs, and the occasional camping trip. The suspension soaks up all but the worst road conditions, and though light, the steering inspires confidence.
Interior and tech
Honda’s interiors often lean toward function over form, but recent changes have brought more stylish cabins to models across its lineup. The Pilot has nice materials throughout and a handsome cabin design that borrows a few elements from the newly-redesigned Civic. The front seats are deep and well-padded and offer great support that lasts for long-haul drives. A bench seat comes standard in the second row, but my TrailSport tester came with captain’s chairs. Though there’s not much more space between the outboard seats, I’ve found that the split bucket seats give kids more room and help keep them separated, a significant benefit for parents on road trips.
Honda equips a 7-inch touchscreen as standard, but my test SUV came with the available 9-inch unit. Honda’s infotainment interface is generally easy to use, and menus are clearly labeled. However, most people will use the wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability with the larger display, so the base Honda interface won’t be the most-used function. Both screens bring great standard features, including Bluetooth, power outlets, multiple speakers, SiriusXM radio, and HD radio. The available CabinTalk in-car PA system is a wonderfully helpful feature that makes it much easier to yell at kids in the third-row seat, as it overrides connected headphones and audio functions in the car.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety hasn’t rated the 2023 Pilot, but the previous model-year SUV earned mixed results in testing. Looking at improvements to safety equipment and the structural redesign, I’m hopeful that the 2023 model will improve on its predecessor’s performance. It comes standard with a generous list of standard safety kit, including:
- Automatic emergency braking
- Forward collision warnings
- Lane departure warnings
- Lane keep assist
- Traffic jam assist
- Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts
- Automatic high beams
- Driver attention monitoring
- Traffic sign recognition
- Adaptive cruise control
Would I buy the 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport?
In terms of value, we’re not talking about a cheap SUV here, but to be fair, nothing today is cheap. The Pilot starts at just under $36,000, and my loaded-up TrailSport reached $48,805. That’s about the price of a nearly-loaded Kia Telluride or Hyundai Palisade, and it’s competitive with the Toyota Highlander. Would I choose the Pilot over one of the others? I think so. The new design is compelling, and the styling alone is a significant improvement over previous models. Pilot buyers get cavernous interior space and a tried-and-true powertrain, but the segment has more engaging and efficient options. However, if you’re looking for a little off-road capability and don’t want to go to a full-on off-roader, the Pilot TrailSport is a solid option.