2016 Honda Pilot – Angles and Curves

2016 honda pilot
This morning, a major automotive website, and Jalopnik, provided an early showing of the redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot. Where I was instantly in love with the new 2015 Volvo XC90, I am sad to say that this vehicle did not give me the same feeling. At this point I should also say that I have always been a Honda fanboy; I’ve owned about eight different Hondas and I currently own an Acura MDX and an Acura Integra, and so it pains to be critical of their new designs.
First, let’s keep in mind that designing a good family vehicle, which CUV/SUVs have become, is extremely challenging. The market demands that these vehicles must be functional, spacious, comfortable, easy to drive and maneuver, efficient, and safe. In terms of looks, they must appeal equally to men and women, and at the same time have a design edge over the competition. Did Honda get this right?

2016 honda pilot rear
Let’s start off with the good parts; it looks to be the right size, it will probably be more fuel efficient (no tech specs at this point), safer, and more comfortable. It will be priced well, and undoubtedly it will sell in ridiculously high numbers. Honda has always been the leader in packaging of SUVs and minivans, and I don’t see that changing here, although the Pathfinder does a damn fine job of that, too.
2015 honda pilot
It’s the outside looks that bother me. Honda went from having handsome square design (pictured above), one of few in this market segment, to one with a ton of unnecessary curves and angles. It is strictly a personal preference, but I think that square designs go great on SUVs. Square vehicles speak of strength and function, like a brick that they are trying to imitate.
Over their lives, these vehicles will get banged up all the time, and while they are undoubtedly safe and strong (first hand experience), the more aero look and reduction in bumper size does not seem to project that. Until now the Pilot, even if intentionally indistinguishable from other SUVs by so-called enthusiasts, had that. The new car looks like bits and pieces were taken off other cars in the segment, slapped together, and rearranged to look like a bigger CR-V.
2016 honda pilot interior
Modern vehicles, especially SUVs, are filled with toys and gadgets. Keeping the nav, ten audio sources, three-zone HVAC, DVD player, phone, and fancy cruise control organized on the dash is a challenge. Some do this great, like the Range Rover for instance, and others do not, such as this GMC Yukon.
Here Honda is implementing a number of things we have seen on their other models. The most apparent thing is that the Pilot does not utilize the somewhat confusing dual screen of the Odyssey minivan and Acura MDX, which is a good thing. On the other hand, the system is completely devoid of any kind of rotary knobs, which is a really bad thing as knobs are the most intuitive to use. Further, the conventional shifter was replaced with a push button selector seen on top-line Acuras, including the new NSX. I don’t understand why they would do this, it isn’t needed and it seems to take up a lot of console space.
2016 honda pilot seats
The rest of the interior appears to be well-designed, with newly optional individual second row seats, on what looks to be a top-line model. Some people love this kid separation, some want to ability to occasionally place a third person there, but it’s nice to have options. The Honda Odyssey does this brilliantly with its magic seat, but it did not seem to carry over to here. I am also surprised to see that more work has not gone into providing a better access to the large third row seat. Studying other pictures, the interior does seem to have a ton of USB ports, 12v receptacles, cubbies, bins, and cup-holders, which is great.
Functionally, the cargo area appears to be huge and all the seats fold flat. However, the roof rack seems to be completely minimized and standard integrated trailer hitch (most commonly used for bike racks) seems to have disappeared. The pop-up rear window also seems to be gone, much like it disappeared on the Grand Cherokee, which is a damn shame.
2016 honda pilot cargo trunk
Other than that, much like the updated CR-V and the redesigned MDX, do not seem to bring anything new to the table, and that it what bothers me the most. Honda used to be the company that constantly innovated, a company that developed things that send the competition running to the drawing boards, a company was not afraid to do something different. This will be undoubtedly a superior vehicle; well priced, functional, safe, reliable, and efficient. I just don’t think it will be a superior Honda.

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  1. Sjalabais Avatar

    It just looks like a lifted van now. Photoshop it to a normal ride height and it looks like just another iteration of the classic Chrysler van. The outgoing model reminds me of a light, mild Ford Flex-ish design.

  2. topdeadcentre Avatar

    Hmm… looks like it falls just short of being an almost-minivan for people who don't want to be thought of as driving a minivan.
    Decades of certain kinds of marketing first traumatized the station wagon in order to pump up minivan sales, then pushed SUV's at the cost of minivan sales because minivan's don't project a rugged image, then SUV's got a bad reputation for safety and gas consumption, so they push crossovers at the cost of SUV sales because they're "not as bad as SUV's". Now crossovers are too small to be useful to families, so they make a mishmash of minivan, SUV and crossover to try and move some units.
    I'll still drive my Volvo wagons until there are none more available.

  3. Feds_II Avatar

    Looks much more like a jacked up Odyssey. Just give it some sliding doors.
    And I mean that in a good way. Jacked up minivans need to make a comeback:
    <img src="http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5242/5205422587_33e857bcd8_b.jpg&quot; width=500>

  4. PotbellyJoe ★★★★★ Avatar
    PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

    Hollywood is making remakes and sequels because they think the success of the previous movies can be leveraged to garner more in the future.
    Car companies have always done the same thing. Get new, aspiring buyers to buy your cheap stuff. Hope they like it, encourage them to upgrade when they buy again.
    So the Pilot simply is filling its role as the CR-V sequel, now with a bigger budget and a little less character.

  5. Devin Avatar

    It looks sort of like a CR-V that had too many pies.

    1. PotbellyJoe ★★★★★ Avatar
      PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

      On a more frightening side of this logic, what will the Ridgeline version look like?

  6. Devin Avatar

    Not to post twice, but the rear fender is bugging me. Why do the character lines just disappear? It guess it kind of emphasizes the rear wheel, but while you usually do that to emphasize lots of power or the vehicle being rear wheel drive, neither of those things are usually a big deal (or, for that matter, true) in a family SUV. Plus, they just fade out in a really haphazard way, it almost looks like the person designing the rear doors and the person designing the taillights weren't on speaking terms, and rather than dealing with them the person designing the rear fender just ignored them and made their combative character lines disappear.

  7. quattrovalvole Avatar

    What were they thinking when they green-lit that push-button selector? I prefer traditional shifters or even rotary knobs because you know what gear you're in by feeling (e.g. to move from Drive to Reverse, just twist the knob counter-clockwise by 2 notches).
    This however require you to look for the exact button you want. I won't be surprised if people press the wrong button and cause havoc with it.

    1. Devin Avatar

      I don't know if it'll be that bad – it looks like every gear has a uniquely shaped button – but it also appears to take as much space as a lever does anyway, so why not just use a lever?

    2. King of Eldorado Avatar
      King of Eldorado

      If it's like the one in the V6 TLX, there's actually a tactile logic to it, with reverse and the parking brake deeply recessed and requiring a different action than a simple push. Drive is circular with a convex (maybe concave?) shape to it. It's probably one of those things that would seem very natural after a couple of weeks.
      I would be more concerned about how spill-proof the underlying electronic parts are, with the cupholders right next to it. Knowing Honda, they probably thought of that possibility.

      1. quattrovalvole Avatar

        Thanks for the info. The one in the pilot will most likely be the same unit as Acura's so it's nice to know at least they attempt to differentiate the button (unlike Lincoln's)
        Like Devin said above though, there's no space benefit from this so why bother?

  8. ramLlama Avatar

    Back to the Future? It looks like a first gen odyssey updated for modern design sensibilities.
    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/HondaOdyssey-001.jpg&quot; width="500">

  9. Wildcat_445 Avatar

    I have to be the odd one out here–I do like (not love, but like) the styling of this new one. I find the current Pilot to have an ugly front grille, enough to remove it from serious consideration, much like the first-gen MDX, which always looked like it had some silly-arsed grin all the time. I actually prefer the styling of the first gen Pilot, to be honest. All this new Pilot style does is join the same "family" in terms of front-end styling. No problem with that, although I do think the models start to look a little too indistinguishable when they all take on a common family styling element.
    I do prefer the more curved body style though. I am not overy fond of the blocky overweight look of some other SUVs (like the current Pilot)–this one I think looks svelte in comparison, similar to how some of the lines of the current Odyssey make it look less like a big, clunky minivan. The rear is similar to the Acura MDX, but I wonder if part of that is due to having shared chassis parts. Having said that, it is a bit ambiguous, is it not? Aside from the front and rear treatments, I cannot really tell it's a Honda from the side view. Taste is all a matter of personal preference anyway, so take this with a grain of salt.
    The separate second row seats, yes, would be a major plus for parents with two quarreling kids. A three inch thick wall of plexiglass between the two would be even more helpful in that regard. 😉 To be honest, I have no use whatsoever for third row seats–I'd honestly rather have more hidden storage than seats I'll never open up.
    The shifter (can we even call it that, now?) is not the greatest thing on the planet but today, the way most transmissions operate, gear selection is pretty much an electronic process anyway. But consider this. I got my ancient 18 year old CR-V ("Ol' Reliable") stuck in the snow for the first time a week ago–I clipped the curb too closely (rear wheel on the wrong side of the bulge of the driveway curb, and the front against the curb in the street) and got hung up in a foot and a half of snow right at the bottom of my own driveway. With the old column shifter, I could rock it back and forth to work my way out, as I used to do on my older cars. I don't see this being so easy or intuitive with a set of buttons. Give me back a real shifter.
    I do bemoan all recent cars, though, which have taken away rotary knobs and in their place, have used joysticks or pushbuttons primarily. I'd rather have *no* screens in a car either. I can operate any control on my antique CR-V by feel alone. We've lost that in many current cars.
    Overall I like the new Pilot, but I am not exactly jumping out of my skin with excitement like I have some past models.

  10. neight428 Avatar

    Blitzed right by this story the first time since I thought it was about CR-V's, and it is difficult for me to care about CR-V's at all. Pilots are (or at least were) middlingly more interesting.

  11. Naengmyeon Avatar

    Brutal. Why don't Honda and Ssangyong just admit they share the same design team?

  12. Preludacris Avatar

    And new Hondas continue to do what they do best, which is make the previous generation look really good.

  13. gerberbaby Avatar

    I still really like the styling on my first gen MDX, including the silly arse grin, but the front seats aren't even from the same planet as my V70. It appears the apple fell from the same tree in the new Pilot. Flat and mildly supportive

  14. Hank Avatar

    This is the first review that actually considers the aspect of “sport utility” when looking at these vehicles, rather than imagining them as shaped grocery carts. We use our 2009 Pilot for camping, pulling a small trailer, hitching mountain bikes, ski trips and, hauling soccer kids, mother in law and after the car wash, going to executive events. It’s been everywhere including some light off-reading. Awesome in snow. Our Pilot has high mileage and we’re looking to buy new…we are very sad the new version lost so many of the important features (rear window hatch, front storage, analogue instrument gauge, hitch access, etc). How dumb.