Update: ‘Electrification on the fourth-gen Honda Pilot’ and ‘Honda Pilot sales in the U.S.’ sections updated.
Introduced in June 2002 as a 2003 model, the Honda Pilot has lived through three generations and more than twenty years in the market. After over two million units sold worldwide, “the Ultimate American Family Adventure Vehicle,” developed on a car-like unibody platform, has been reinvented for its fourth generation.
The 2023 Honda Pilot was expected to hit dealer showrooms with an optional hybrid variant. The first-ever Honda Pilot Hybrid would’ve made the midsize SUV appealing to fuel economy- and environment-conscious customers. However, it turns out, Honda will take its time to electrify the Pilot, and is not ready with a hybrid yet.
Honda’s midsize SUV continues to be designed primarily for North America customers. Compared to the previous vehicle, the 2023 Honda Pilot has a bolder and more striking design. The 2023 Pilot features an upright front-end with a flatter hood. It has a new, hexagonal radiator grille with a honeycomb mesh pattern, more assertive multi-reflector all-LED headlamps, a wider lower air intake, and new, squarish fog lamps.
At the rear, the 2023 Pilot features a tailgate applique with the model’s name inscribed in block letters and chunky tail lamps. The new tailgate offers a wider license plate area as well. Here, too, the bumper is a new piece.
The 2023 Honda Pilot is the brand’s most rugged and capable SUV. Like the current model, it is available in a TrailSport trim designed and engineered for customers who prefer extra ruggedness, both aesthetically and performance-wise.
The TrailSport trim puts on black grille ORVMs, and tailgate applique, skid plates, roof rails, and roof crossbars. It has larger tires, increased track width, an off-road-tuned suspension, higher ground clearance, and unique stabilizer bars that make it more capable off the road.
The Pilot TrailSport is for families who occasionally drive to places with rough terrain. A hardcore SUV like the Jeep Wrangler would be an overkill, not to mention a compromise on seating capacity and comfort, for this application. Nevertheless, Honda is able to attract a different type of buyer with the rugged TrailSport line.
As for the dimensional changes, the new Pilot is 3.4 in. longer and has a 2.8-in. longer wheelbase. Depending on the trim, it measures 199.9 or 200.2 in. in length, 78.5 in. in width, and 70.9, 71.0, or 72.0 in. in height. The redesigned model has a 113.8 in. wheelbase.
The 2023 Honda Pilot interior embodies the new design philosophy that debuted in the new Civic – Simplicity and Something. It has a clean interior styling with a slimmer and simplified dashboard that frees the cabin of visual clutter. It is roomier than the 2022 model, offering 2.4 in. more legroom in the second row and 0.6 in. more legroom in the third row.
The steering wheel and the center console have a neat design and are in line with the minimalist theme of the interior. A configurable 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster and a brand-new 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, new graphics, fewer menus, and a faster processor make the midsize SUV more attractive for tech-savvy customers.
The 2023 Honda Pilot has an updated Honda Sensing safety suite, which uses a new camera with a wider, 90-degree field of view and a wide-angle radar with a 120-degree field of view. The increased field of view improves the vehicle’s ability to recognize attributes of objects as well as white lines and road boundaries.
Unlike the previous model, the new model comes with Traffic Jam Assist (TJA) and Traffic Sign Recognition, both part of standard safety features. Also new are standard Rear Seatbelt Reminder and Rear Seat Reminder systems. Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow and Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS) work better in the new model, offering more natural responses. The Blind Spot Information (BSI) system is also an improved one, with an increased, 82 feet of radar range.
Honda offered the media an off-road drive in the 2023 Pilot to let them experience the model’s capabilities in its TrailSport trim early on. Kelly Blue Book Video Editor Lyn Woodward drove a prototype and shared her first impressions on YouTube.
TrailSport is a mid-level trim and pack off-road wheels, Continental Terrain Contact all-terrain tires, steel skid plates, full-size spare wheel, recovery hooks, and an off-road suspension. There are seven drive modes, including a new ‘Trail’ mode. Engaging the Trail mode enables a new feature called ‘Trail Watch’ that shows a live feed from the front and side cameras on the touchscreen infotainment system.
It’s not possible to disengage the 2023 Pilot TrailSport’s stabilizer bars completely, although Honda has optimized it for greater articulation and comfort. Woodward didn’t feel much jostling even on some of the big and rocky climbs. The ride on off-road trails is pretty comfortable, thanks to the specially tuned suspension. In the case of wheelspin at the front, the brake-based torque vectoring system gets into action instantly. The AWD system is more advanced and allows directing 75% of the torque to the rear wheel with more traction and is quite responsive.
Electrification on the fourth-gen Honda Pilot
The Honda Pilot has traditionally come with a large gasoline engine, but there’s no evading electrification this decade. The midsize SUV should get a hybrid powertrain (self-charging) as an option in the future. Honda has promised hybrid variants of core models in the near term but has not spelled out plans for the new Pilot.
Honda has introduced the all-new CR-V Hybrid and all-new Accord Hybrid in the U.S. On January 24, 2023, it announced that it plans to bring the Civic Hybrid to the country in hatchback and sedan versions in 2024. A Pilot Hybrid could also follow around that time.
Our strategy is focused on introducing a higher percentage of hybrids in core models in the near term, making a committed effort to achieve higher volume leading to the introduction of our Honda Prologue.Dave Gardner, executive vice president of National Operations, American Honda, announcing the Honda Prologue in June 2021
AutoPacific President and chief analyst Ed Kim is also expecting Honda to electrify the Pilot. Speaking to Newsweek in January 2023, Kim suggested that the company has seen delays in achieving its electrification milestones. The Civic Hybrid won’t come to the U.S. until 2024, and hybrid variants of other core models like the Pilot and Odyssey are yet to appear, Kim noted.
The Pilot competes with the Toyota Highlander, Kia Telluride, VW Atlas, Hyundai Palisade, Ford Explorer, and the Chevrolet Traverse. It has an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 19 city/27 highway/22 combined in FWD configurations and up to 19 city/25 highway/21 combined in AWD configurations. The Toyota Highlander AWD and the Ford Explorer AWD achieve better fuel economy, thanks to the availability of a hybrid. EPA estimates the hybrid variants to deliver 35 city/35 highway/35 combined and 23 city/26 highway/25 combined, respectively.
Honda not pursuing plug-in hybrids
Dave Gardner, executive vice president of National Operations, American Honda, talked about the planned Honda and Acura launches with the media (via The Detroit Bureau) in January 2022. Gardner stated that the company will move from internal combustion engine vehicles to hybrid electric vehicles, but then, it will “jump directly” to battery electric vehicles. The first of these BEVs is the 2024 Honda Prologue.
On December 15, 2022, Honda’s Alabama Auto Plant (AAP) commenced mass production of the all-new 2023 Honda Pilot. This vast facility in Lincoln is the brand’s exclusive global production source for the Pilot, with more than 2 million units having been rolled out since the model’s introduction way back in 2006. It’s one of five Honda manufacturing plants in the U.S., with an annual production capacity of 680,000 vehicles.
Since its new platform boasts a wider frame, the production of the 2023 Pilot required the Alabama plant to expand its welding operations. Moreover, while the front-end module (FEM) concept is found on most Honda models, it’s new for this plant. Therefore, a new crescent-shaped sub-assembly process was created for the module, before it was moved to the main assembly line for installation on each vehicle. In a first for the Pilot’s production line, the application of acoustic spray foam has been introduced for improved cabin insulation from road noise.
Price & Release Date
The 2023 Honda Pilot’s prices in the U.S. start at USD 39,150 and go up to USD 52,030. A USD 1,345 destination charge is applicable to all its configurations.
The 2023 Pilot has started arriving at U.S. Honda dealers. We’ve seen it in stock at DCH Paramus Honda in Paramus, New Jersey, Steve Padgett’s Honda Of Lake Murray in Irmo, South Carolina, Honda of Chantilly in Chantilly, Virginia, Penske Honda in Indianapolis, Indiana, and many other outlets already.
Honda Pilot sales in the U.S.
The Honda Pilot sales in the U.S. fell from 135,008 units in 2019 to 123,813 units in 2020, the year when the COVID-19 pandemic jolted the car market. In 2021, sales recovered to beat 2019, despite the shortage of semiconductor chips. American Honda sold 143,062 units of the midsize SUV that year, recording a 15.5% year-over-year growth.
In 2022, the Pilot’s sales fell again, this time 30.4%, to 99,567 units. With the redesigned model on sale, and supply chain issues easing, 2023 could be a year of increase in sales. In the first month, the growth chart was nearly flat. Honda delivered 6,950 Pilots in January 2023, just 0.7% lower than in January 2022 (6,998).
Honda’s electrification strategy
Honda, which sold the most electrified vehicles in its history in the United States in 2021 (topping 100,000 units), aims for a 40% EV/FCV unit sales ratio in North America by 2030. The company has said that it will increase this number to 80% by 2035, and by 2040, it would discontinue gas-powered vehicles to become a 100% zero-emission brand. A strong performer like the Pilot, which sells 10,000+ units/year usually, should be among the cars to be electrified in the foreseeable future for Honda to reach its interim emissions target.
Hybrid-electric vehicles are effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and are a critical pathway toward Honda’s vision for 100% zero-emission vehicle sales in North America by 2040.Mamadou Diallo, vice president of Auto Sales at American Honda Motor Co., Inc, on April 14, 2022
An electrified powertrain isn’t currently available for the Honda Pilot, which is disappointing given that many automakers are switching to hybrid and pure-electric powertrains at large.
2023 Honda Pilot FAQs
What is the 2023 Honda Pilot release date?
The gas-powered 2023 Honda Pilot has started reaching U.S. dealerships.
What is the 2023 Honda Pilot price?
The 2023 Honda Pilot’s prices range from USD 39,150 and go up to USD 52,030.
Which models are the 2023 Honda Pilot rivals?
The Pilot competes with the Toyota Highlander, Kia Telluride, Ford Explorer, Hyundai Palisade, and Chevrolet Traverse.
Featured Image Source: Honda