2021 Honda PilotThe 2021 Honda Pilot is a major player in the midsize 3-row crossover-SUV scene. It competes with rivals like the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, Toyota Highlander, and Ford Explorer.


There are many things in the 2021 Pilot’s favor. The cabin is roomy and versatile, able to seat up to eight occupants (depending on trim level) or provide up to 109.2 cubic feet of the cargo area. Although most buyers probably won’t venture too far into the wilderness, the Pilot has more than a smattering of off-road talent. Factor in the comfortable ride, strong-yet-refined V6 engine, plus enviable resale values, and recommending the 2021 Pilot becomes an easy decision.



Driving the 2021 Honda Pilot

Enthusiasts don’t get all misty-eyed when thinking about the 2021 Pilot. But that’s OK. Its main task is to provide comfortable, family-friendly motoring, which it performs with quiet efficiency and a certain grace.


A dirt road should also present no problems. The Pilot’s all-wheel-drive system brings extra off-road talent, thanks to selectable terrain modes (Snow, Mud, Sand). A Pilot with this hardware can negotiate rocks, crawl up a nearly 30-degree incline, and tackle sand. Up to 70 percent of power can go to the rear wheels.


It also has a torque-vectoring feature that improves handling — the outside wheels can turn quicker than the inside wheels, pulling the Pilot around a corner faster and more decisively.



Favorite Features


The Pilot’s sophisticated torque-vectoring feature of its all-wheel-drive system is similar to that used by Acura, Honda’s luxury division. The amount of power going to each rear wheel is variable, favoring the wheel with the most grip. The driver switches between modes, but the Pilot is smart enough to do the rest.



Standard in all versions of the 2021 Honda Pilot, this array of active safety and driver-assistance features is among the best in the mainstream class. Functions include automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assistance.



2021 Honda Pilot Interior

The Pilot has a roomy cabin with more overall space than a Toyota Highlander. Little details like the integrated front-seat armrests and 15 cup holders can make a big difference on longer trips.


The entry-level LX trim is indeed pretty basic, coming with cloth-covered seats and just a 5-inch infotainment display. Leather upholstery in the most popular EX-L trim brings a more upscale feel.


Most versions of the Honda Pilot accommodate eight occupants over three seating rows. Once we get to the Touring trim, buyers may order a pair of heated captain’s chairs for the second row, bringing accommodations down to seven, but also adding greater comfort and easier access to the third row. The Elite trim comes with this upgrade as standard.



2021 Honda Pilot Exterior

It can’t be easy to make a midsize 3-row crossover SUV a joy to behold. Everyone will have their own take on the Honda Pilot’s styling, so we’ll refrain from making any subjective judgments. Roof rails are optional on the lower trims then standard on the new-for-2021 Pilot SE, which is also when 20-inch alloy wheels come into the picture.


A power-operated tailgate is a good reason to investigate and aspire to the EX-L trim. The hands-free tailgate variation (a sensor picks up foot movement) becomes standard at the SE level.



2021 Honda Pilot Standard Features

The least expensive 2021 Honda Pilot, the LX, includes 18-inch alloy wheels, Honda Sensing, automatic high beams, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone/audio, USB port, and a 5-inch color display.


EX trim adds features like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, remote engine start, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, 8-inch touchscreen, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, one-touch folding 2nd-row seats, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, illuminated vanity mirrors, and satellite radio. EX’s also include Honda’s CabinControl, which allows passengers to adjust things like audio and climate settings using a smartphone app.



2021 Honda Pilot Options

Apart from all-wheel drive and things like rear parking sensors or attachments for kayaks/bikes/snowboards, etc., the main method for cramming more equipment into a new Honda Pilot is to ascend the trim-level ladder. EX-L adds leather upholstery, moonroof, powered tailgate, power-adjustable front-passenger seat, an acoustic windshield, universal garage-door opener, and the CabinTalk feature that lets drivers speak to the kids in the back through their headphones.


SE trim adds a hands-free tailgate, roof rails, 20-inch alloy wheels, and wireless charging. SE replaces 2020’s clumsily named EX-L Nav/RES, but some equipment shifts around so that the next-up Touring trim receives navigation and the Blu-Ray rear entertainment system.


Touring also includes a 590-watt premium audio system, front/rear parking sensors, blue ambient interior lighting, heated 2nd-row seats, and Wi-Fi (which requires an AT&T data plan). The Elite has all-wheel drive as standard, 7-passenger seating, panoramic roof, ventilated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, and a heated steering wheel. The Black Edition is essentially the Elite model with extra cosmetic additions — no prizes for guessing the dominant color.



2021 Honda Pilot Engine

Every 2021 Honda Pilot employs a sweetly refined 3.5-liter V6 engine making a healthy 280 horsepower and linked to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive (FWD) is standard in most trims, with all-wheel drive (AWD) as an option. On all but the LX trim, the AWD alternative also comes with a terrain-management system.


All 2021 Pilot models now have the stop/start feature that turns off the engine at idle. If this becomes irritating, it can be disabled easily enough. There’s also an automatic cylinder deactivation function.


The 2021 Pilot is rated to tow 5,000 pounds for AWD models or 3,500 for front-drivers.


3.5-liter V6

280 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm

262 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 mpg (FWD), 19/26 mpg (AWD)



How Much Does the 2021 Honda Pilot Cost?

A front-drive, entry-level 2021 Pilot LX has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $32,250, plus a destination charge of $1,120, making $33,370.


However, it’s a smarter idea to consider at least the next level — the EX from $36,050 — since it comes with more safety features and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration.


Touring trim (from $44,040) adds more luxury, along with the option of a pair of captain’s chairs in the second row ($300 extra). Elite comes in at $49,540, while the 2021 Pilot Black Edition tops out at $51,040. The top two trims come with all-wheel drive as standard; the rest offer it as a $2,000 option.


These prices put the Pilot virtually in the same area as the Toyota Highlander, slightly below the Ford Explorer, and a touch higher than the Kia Telluride (one of our favorites) and Chevrolet. Resale values are among the best in the class.



Which 2021 Honda Pilot Model is Right for Me?

2021 Honda Pilot LX

LED daytime running lights/low beams/taillights

Honda Sensing

15 cup holders

18-inch alloy wheels

215-watt/7-speaker audio system



2021 Honda Pilot EX

Blind-spot monitoring

10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat

8-inch touchscreen

Heated front seats

One-touch 2nd-row seats

LED fog lights

Terrain-management system (AWD)



2021 Honda Pilot EX-L

Leather upholstery

Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob

Powered tailgate

4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat

One-touch powered moonroof

Self-dimming rearview mirror



2021 Honda Pilot SE

20-inch alloy wheels

Hands-free tailgate

Wireless charging

Roof rails



2021 Honda Pilot Touring

LED headlights

Heated 2nd-row seats



Rear-seat entertainment system

115-volt outlet

Acoustic glass for the front-side windows

590-watt/10-speaker audio system




2021 Honda Pilot Elite

Torque vectoring

Second-row captain’s chairs

Rain-sensing wipers

Self-dimming side mirrors

Panoramic roof

Heated steering wheel



2021 Honda Pilot Black Edition

Crystal Black Pearl or Platinum White Pearl paintwork

Black-finished 20-inch alloy wheels

Red cabin accent lighting

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