Honda’s eight-passenger SUV will take you and your family anywhere you need to go. Will it cost you a fortune in gas?
First introduced in 2003, the Honda Pilot is the largest SUV produced by the legendary Japanese automaker. It was a revolutionary addition to the Honda fleet and was developed primarily for the US market.
It features classic SUV styling that mimics that of things like the Ford Explorer and Chevy Tahoe. Plus, like its American counterparts, it offers third-row seating. The Pilot is a fantastic way to combine all the functionality of an SUV for up to eight people with the legendary reliability and build quality associated with Honda.
If it’s adventure you’re looking for, the Honda Pilot is more than willing to play along. With all-wheel drive and all-wheel drive options available, the Pilot is capable of going virtually anywhere you take it.
Plus, with a towing capacity of up to 4,500 pounds, depending on the year, you can take all your fun toys with you. The Pilot is truly a versatile vehicle that can be used in the city and in the mountains.
During the 18 years of the pilot’s life, he went through three major generational changes. Each redesign brought the Pilot into modern times and updated its engine and transmission technology to keep up with changing emissions and fuel economy standards. While you can’t have high hopes for SUV fuel economy, the Pilot has done a decent job over its three generations.
If you’re looking for a new or used Honda Pilot, you can have one on almost any budget constraint. But does your budget PIlot meet your fuel economy needs? Let’s take a look at the generational changes and the fuel economy ratings of each.
Honda Pilot first generation (2003-2008)
When Honda first introduced the Pilot in 2003, the automaker billed it as the “ultimate family adventure vehicle.” It was initially offered with standard four-wheel drive.
However, the 2006 model year introduced a front-wheel-drive variant. Both versions received the Honda J35 3.5-liter V6. Over the years, the power output of the V6 has varied. Initially, it produced 240 horsepower.
However, 2005 saw a jump to 255 horsepower. Horsepower changed again in 2006, dropping to 244 horsepower, where it remained until the 2008 model year, the final year of the Honda Pilot.
The four-wheel-drive version of the first-generation Honda Pilot was available for all six years of its operation. It was only available with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Throughout the Pilot’s first-generation run, all-wheel-drive models achieved an EPA Combined Fuel Economy rating of 17 mpg. All years have a city rating of 15 mpg, while highway numbers vary by year and are 20 mpg or 21 mpg. Essentially, any year-old four-wheel-drive Pilot from the first generation will give you identical fuel economy.
While the all-wheel drive option is certainly better for off-road and adventure use, the front-drive variant sees slightly better fuel economy. It is rated at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway for an EPA combined rating of 18 mpg. It’s not a drastic improvement.
However, if you only plan to use your Pilot for daily city use, the FWD variant may save you some gas over time.
A budget of $5,000 or more is enough to afford you a well-maintained first-generation Honda Pilot. As always, check the VIN for history and recovery reports.
Honda Pilot second generation (2009-2015)
The second generation of the Honda Pilot is where it would see its greatest growth until it became a modern vehicle. Although it retained some of the design cues of the first generation, the new lines of its body brought it closer to current style standards. It wasn’t just stylistic changes that modernized this era. The engine remained a 3.5-liter V6.
However, the V6 in these passengers has cylinder deactivation technology, meaning it will shut off the cylinders when power is not needed to increase fuel economy. Other modern conveniences would be available in this generation.
The 2012 MY brought the availability of optional Bluetooth and navigation. A backup camera became standard in 2013 and newer models. Just like the first generation, the second generation Pilot is available with front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
The four-wheel-drive version, like the previous generation, was only available with a five-speed automatic transmission during its production. The 3.5-liter V6 produced a healthy 250 horsepower but still managed to improve on the first generation’s fuel economy.
The all-wheel-drive model is EPA-rated at 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 20 mpg. It’s a big improvement over the previous generation.
The front-wheel drive version once again sees slightly more fuel efficiency than the all-wheel drive variant. Although it has the same engine and a five-speed automatic transmission, it gives you an extra mile per gallon, with an EPA rating of 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. However, the 20 mpg combined rating remains the same.
When purchasing a second generation. Pilot, 2013 or later, is definitely the way to go for all modern technology. A budget between $10,000 and $15,000 will be a good example.
Honda Pilot third generation (2016-present)
The third generation of the Honda Pilot brings us to the current model year, 2021. It was initially launched in 2016. This generation shows the biggest change in both the redesign and modernization of the car’s technology. Items like a rear DVD screen, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, Android Auto, and Apple Car Play became available starting with the 2017 model year examples.
They are still available with front-wheel drive. However, the four-wheel drive nomenclature changed to all-wheel drive with this generation. However, the system remains essentially the same. Once again, this generation brought a huge increase in fuel economy.
Both examples still use a 3.5-liter V6, but now offer the choice between a six-speed automatic transmission and a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The all-wheel-drive variant of the third generation Honda Pilot, as before, sees slightly lower fuel efficiency than the front-wheel-drive version. That said, modern technology has taken the Pilot to whole new levels of gas efficiency.
The all-wheel-drive model is EPA-rated at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, for a combined total of 22 mpg with the nine-speed automatic transmission. The six-speed automatic transmission shares the highway rating but has a city rating of 18 mpg and 21 mpg combined.
The front-drive version is also available with both transmissions, with the nine-speed offering slightly better fuel economy than the six-speed. The nine-speed variant is EPA-rated at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway for a combined rating of 23 mpg. Like the all-wheel drive version; the six-speed drops the city and combined rating by one mpg to 19 and 22, respectively.
The third generation really shows the improvement in driving economic growth over the last decade. For all the bells and whistles, a 2018 or newer Honda Pilot is what you should look for for a third generation. Example. Expect to spend more than $25,000 for a low-mileage example.
Driver Efficiency Comparison
While the Pilot has come a long way in its own right, so have its competitors. How does it compare to competing midsize SUVs? To see a direct comparison, we used each competitor’s 2018 model year statistics.
When compared to similarly specced Toyota Highlanders, Chevrolet Traverses, and Ford Explorers, the Pilot holds up quite well.
The Pilot, Highlander, and Explorer use a 3.5-liter V6, while the Traverse has a 3.6-liter V6. Fuel economy ratings are fairly similar, with the Highlander standing out above the rest with a combined fuel economy rating of 23 mpg.
Although the Highlander seems like a clear choice, the price may put you off.
When compared to the Pilot and its American counterparts, the Toyota is priced quite high. Its MSRP is more than $10,000 more than the Honda and more than $8,000 more than its American counterparts. So it seems when comparing purchase price to fuel efficiency, the Honda Pilot is the clear winner.
Honda Pilot 2021: an efficient option in all areas
Although the Pilot in its original form wasn’t all that fuel-efficient by today’s standards, it wasn’t bad for its time. Since its debut, the Honda Pilot, like the 2019 model shown above, has remained a relatively affordable option for just about anything you want to use it for.
If you’re looking for an affordable older SUV that transforms you strictly into a weekend off-road adventurer, the first generation It may be exactly what you are looking for. If you’re looking for a used car you can rely on for road trips and family vacations, but your budget is under $15,000, a second-generation controller is probably all you need.
Finally, if you are looking for a completely new SUV and want a fantastic combination of usability, comfort, practicality, and fuel efficiency, the third generation. The driver is unbeatable for the price. Essentially, no matter what use or budget you have in mind, a Honda Pilot is waiting to meet your needs.