2023 Honda Pilot range unlikely to see inclusion of Hybrid tech [Update]

  • Honda's only 3-row SUV in the U.S. continues in 7- and 8-seat versions
  • TrailSport trim claimed to be significantly more capable in off-roading
  • No electrified powertrain for now
  • Sales to begin on December 12, 2022, with prices starting at USD 40,445

Update: ‘Electrification on the fourth-gen Honda Pilot,’ ‘Release Date,’ 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 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!

Exterior

Honda’s midsize SUV will continue to be made exclusively in North America. 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.

2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport front three quarter
This shift away from the minivan-like design of the previous Pilot could be driven by the customer preference for tough and rugged SUVs. Image: Honda

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.

2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport rear three quarter
The 2023 Honda Pilot is 3.4 in. longer than the previous model and has a 2.8-in. longer wheelbase. Image: Honda

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.

Interior

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.

2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport interior dashboard
The 2023 Honda Pilot offers 2.4 in. extra legroom in the second-row seats, which passengers can recline up to 10 degrees (+4 degrees) for increased comfort, and 0.6 in. added legroom in the third-row seats. These seats can recline. Image Source: Honda

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.

Safety

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.

First impressions

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.

Video Source: YouTube/Kelly Blue Book

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., and it plans to bring the Civic Hybrid to the country in a few months. Could the Pilot Hybrid follow around 2024?

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

Dave Gardner, executive vice president of National Operations, American Honda, talked about the planned Honda and Acura launches for 2022 with the media (via The Detroit Bureau) in January 2022. Gardner said that the company will move from internal combustion engine vehicles to hybrid electric vehicles, but then, it will “jump directly” to battery electric vehicles (PHEVs are not on Honda’s wishlist). The first of these BEVs is the 2024 Honda Prologue.

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.

Release Date

The 2023 Pilot will begin arriving at U.S. Honda dealers on December 12, 2022. Its prices (incl. USD 1,295 destination charge) start at USD 40,445 and go up to USD 53,325.

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 last year, recording a 15.5% year-over-year growth.

Between January and November 2022, American Honda delivered 90,576 units of the SUV, as it prepared to welcome the new design. Compared to the same period in 2021, that marked a decline of 31.3% in sales (January-November 2021: 131,776 units). The company would hope for a marked improvement in sales in 2023 with the release of the fourth-gen model.

Speaking to Automotive News on January 17, 2022, Gardner said that from 400,000 vehicles in the pipeline, American Honda is considering lowering inventory to 100,000 cars. The company wants customers to pre-order vehicles in their own configurations and wait for newly delivered units instead of following the traditional norm of picking up pre-configured units from dealer lots.

Honda’s electrification strategy

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

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.

TopElectricSUV says

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 will go on sale in the U.S. on December 12, 2022

What will be the 2023 Honda Pilot price?

The 2023 Honda Pilot’s prices range from USD 40,445 to USD 53,325.

Which models will be the 2023 Honda Pilot rivals?

The Pilot will compete with the Toyota Highlander, Kia Telluride, Ford Explorer, Hyundai Palisade, and Chevrolet Traverse.

Featured Image Source: Honda