The midsize SUV market is filled with people looking for a comfortable ride for their big families, and none impress these prospective buyers like the 2018 Honda Pilot. The Pilot has been one of the top midsize SUVs for years now and is even picked as a Top Safety Pick by IIHS. With a roomy cabin, plenty of cargo storage, and an impressively quick engine and transmission, the Pilot has more to offer than what it asks for.
But the Pilot is not a clear pack leader. Competitors like the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander have a lot to offer, and even make up for some of Pilot's flaws. But still, Pilot is one of the most well rounded midsize SUV you can pick for your family.
Starting at $30,900 and going up to $ 47,500, the Pilot spreads its qualities over a large price range to accommodate buyers with varying budgets. There is only one engine choice: a 3.5 liter V6 that generates 280hp and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. There are two transmission options, though. The LX, EX, and EX-L trim make do with a 6-speed automatic transmission, while the top two trims use a 9 speed automatic. FWD is standard, while AWD can be had for an additional $1,900.
2018 Honda Pilot Features
The 2018 Honda Pilot comes in 5 trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and Elite. All the trims are powered by a 3.5 liter naturally aspirated V6 engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission in LX, EX, and EX-L trims and a 9-speed automatic transmission in Touring, and Elite. FWD is standard on all trims except for Elite, which is only available with AWD. All other trims have an option of upgrading to AWD for a price of $1,900.
Multi-Angle Rearview Camera
5-inch display screen
Honda lane watch
Remote engine start
8-inch Display audio touchscreen
Tri-zone automatic climate control
One-touch 2nd-row seats
Available rear entertainment system(RES)
Available Honda sensing
9-speed automatic transmission
Honda satellite-linked navigation
20-inch alloy wheels
Heated 2nd-row captain’s chair
Blind spot information system(BSI)
LED Headlights w/auto on-off
Although the Pilot provides enough features in the base trim to satisfy most buyers, the EX-L trim seems like a worthwhile upgrade. Not only does it replaces the tiny 5-inch display screen for a wider 9 inches one, but it also adds other features like a leather-trimmed interior, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a sunroof, a power tailgate, heated front seats, and one-touch sliding second-row seats.
Apart from that, the EX-L uses the 6-speed manual transmission.
2018 Honda Pilot Engine
"Pilot’s standard 3.5-liter V-6 is a strong performer, providing unexpectedly spry acceleration for such a large vehicle. Its fuel-economy numbers are at the top of its class, too" - Caranddriver.com
Engine and Transmission
The standard powertrain of the 2018 Honda Pilot comprises of a 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission in LX, EX, and EX-L trims, and a 9-speed automatic transmission in Touring and Elite. The 6-speed transmission is smooth, while the 9-speed transmission tends to flicker and jitter at times.
280hp @ 6000 rpm
185hp @ 5800 rpm
290hp @ 6500 rpm
284hp @ 6400 rpm
262 ft.-lbs. @ 4700 rpm
184 ft.-lbs. @ 4200 rpm
255 ft.-lbs. @ 4000 rpm
259 ft.-lbs. @ 4800 rpm
Pilot’s 280hp generating V6 is not the most powerful, but it does well to power the Pilot. It also generates the most torque. Ford Explorer’s 290hp generating V6 is the most powerful, but it also costs a $1,000 more than the Pilot. Although Highlander is the most expensive option amongst these rivals, it uses a small 2.7-liter engine that doesn’t match the performance of the 3.5-liter engines of the rest.
The Pilot doesn’t really have much competition in the swiftness department. It propels to a speed of 60mph from zero in just 6.8 seconds, which is quite impressive for this class. The closest to Pilot’s numbers is the Highlander, which is still half a second behind. At the quarter mile mark, Pilot’s lead is further extended, as it reaches the quarter mile 1.4 seconds faster than the closest competitor, the Explorer. The slowest to reach 60mph speed is the Pathfinder, but it picks up the pace a little and finishes a millisecond before the Highlander at the quarter-mile test.
14.6 sec @ 95 mph
16.7 sec @ 81.3 mph
16.0 sec @ 90.0 mph
16.6 sec @ 85 mph
Emission (Tons/yr of CO2 Emissions @ 15K mi/year)
Handling and Steering
Honda Pilot offers a steering wheel that has manual tilt and telescopic action. It is quite precise and feels steady to hold. Though steady and precise, the wheel doesn’t provide as much road feel as desirable. Expecting light and agile handling from a 3 row SUV is a bit too much to ask, but Pilot is surprisingly nimble than many of its competitors. Swapping between lanes is easy, and its stability control doesn’t dampen the experience of an aggressive drive.
The braking power of the Honda Pilot matches its accelerating power. It is solid and firm, with a predictable response from the pedal. For a vehicle this size, Pilot’s brakes work better than the class average. Amongst the main competitors, the Pilot is the quickest to come to a stop. With a stopping distance of 119 feet from a speed of 60mph.
Brake front (in)
Brake Rear (in)
Curb weight (lbs.)
60-0 MPH (ft.)
Pilot stops almost 6 feet shorter than the Pathfinder. The Explorer is the heaviest among the rivals, yet it takes just a foot more than the Pilot to come to a halt. Highlander weighs the least amongst these rivals, yet it takes almost the same distance to stop as the Pathfinder.
2018 Honda Pilot Fuel Economy
The fuel economy of the Honda Pilot is about the average for its class. It gets 19/27 mpg in city/hwy with 6-speed manual transmission and gets 20/27 mpg in city/hwy with the 9-speed automatic transmission. Opting for the AWD would lower each of these stats by 1.
Rivals like Toyota Highlander and Nissan Pathfinder perform better than Pilot in the city, but Pilot puts up impressive economy numbers on the highway which increase its average above the rest. The Pathfinder performs better than Pilot overall, but Pilot stays close. The Explorer, however, is nowhere near the rest. With a combined economy of just 19 mpg, Explorer would be a costlier choice in the long run, be it a city drive or an open road one.
2018 Honda Pilot Interior
"Though it's spacious and comfortable, the Pilot's cabin doesn't quite have the same modern, upscale feel as some class rivals. Overall though, this is a nice cabin." -cars.usnews.com
Honda Pilot is just as big and roomy inside as it feels from the outside. There are only three color options for the Pilot: beige, black, and grey. Overall, the design didn’t change much from the previous year models.
When you start up the Pilot with the standard push-button start, an 8-inch display screen will fire up. This screen is a tiny 5 incher in the base model. Each trim gets a 4.2-inch multi-display screen in the instrument cluster. The steering is manually adjusting.
When it comes to cabin storage, 2018 Honda Pilot is just as accommodating as the Odyssey. The center console is huge, easily fitting a small laptop or a bag. It also has a USB, Aux, and a 12V outlet inside. The 9-speed automatic models get an electronic shifter, while 6-speed automatic models get the traditional gear selector. The Touring and Elite trims also get paddle shifters. A moonroof is also standard in EX-L and up. The Elite trim gets two moonroofs, separated by the rear entertainment unit.
Seating and Comfort
The 2018 Honda Pilot can seat up to 8 people in its 3 rows, except for the Elite trim which has captain’s chairs in the second row, reducing seating capacity to 7. The LX and EX get cloth upholstery, EX-L, and Touring get leather, and the Elite gets perforated leather. The driver’s seats are highly adjustable, with 10-way power adjustability and 2-way lumbar support in all but the base trim. The base trim gets 6-way manual adjusting driver’s seat.
Passenger Volume (ft.3)
Front (Head/Shoulder/Leg) (In.)
Second (Head/Shoulder/Leg) (In.)
Third (Head/Shoulder/Leg) (In.)
The EX-L, Touring, and Elite trims get 3-way heated seats. Elite also gets 3 way ventilated seats. Overall, the seats are roomy and comfortable. They provide good support and padding which makes long rides a breeze. It is also extremely easy to get to the third rows, with the available one-touch second-row seats, the seats fold and slide forward to provide a passage to the third row.
2018 Honda Pilot uses an 8-inch touchscreen for its infotainment system. However, the base trim uses a petite 5 inches display screen. The LX uses a 200 watt 7 speaker system, the EX and EX-L use 225 watts 7 speaker system, and the Touring and Elite use a 540 watt 10 speaker sound system.
In Touring and Elite trims, there is a rear entertainment unit that can play blu-ray discs. It is available as an option in the EX-L trim. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available as upgrades.
2018 Honda Pilot extends its roomy persona to its cargo volume as well. With a storage volume of 16.5 Ft.3, which extends to a mammoth 83.9 Ft.3. A power tailgate is standard on all trims except LX and EX.
Behind 3ndRow (ft3)
With 3rd row folded (ft3)
With All Seats folded (ft3)
Pilot’s cargo space with all seats up is not a class leader, but once the seats are down, only the Toyota Highlander comes close to its massive 83.9 cubic feet of space. When all seats are up, the Ford Explorer puts up the best numbers. The Pathfinder is the pack leader when only the third row is folded, providing a cubic foot of extra space than the Pilot.
2018 Honda Pilot Exterior
"The Pilot is no extrovert; it doesn’t offer any eye-popping colors or snazzy trim. The 20-inch wheels on the Touring and Elite models spice things up compared with the standard 18-inchers, and those upper-end models also come with extra chrome trim"- Caranddriver.com
As you’d expect from a vehicle in this class, style is not a top priority. The Pilot, too, is on the modest side of things. There is a basic trapezoidal grille in the front with three chrome lines running through it. The top chrome line extends and merges into the headlights, which are LED in Elite and halogens in the rest. Below, there are separate turn signals and fog lamps in all but the base trim.
Curb Weight (lbs.)
Ground clearance (in)
Track width (in) F/R
When looked from the side, the roomy size of the Pilot becomes more apparent. It is bigger than Toyota Highlander but smaller than Nissan Pathfinder. 2018 Honda Pilot’s basic and simple design is reflected in the back as well. The only eye-catching element is the LED taillights, which are standard in every trim.
With a rating of a mere 3,500 pounds, the base towing capabilities of the 2018 Honda Pilot with 2WD are well below average. Thankfully, upgrading to AWD elevates the towing capacity to a respectable 5,000 pounds, which is more in line with what most rivals supply.
Most vehicles in this class oscillate around the 5,000-pound mark in the towing department. The only exception is the Nissan Pathfinder. Although it, too, uses a 3.5 L engine with AWD, it is able to tow an impressive 6,000 pounds.
2018 Honda Pilot Safety
Most cars in the midsize SUV segment do quite well in the safety ratings, and the 2018 Honda Pilot does even better than them. It gets 5 out of 5 stars overall in NHTSA crash tests.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Safety Ratings
5 out of 5
4 out of 5
5 out of 5
4 out of 5
The IIHS named the 2018 Honda Pilot as a Top Safety Pick. It gets the highest scores in all the crash tests. When equipped with the driver assistance tech, it earns a ‘Superior’ rating in frontal crash prevention. The headlights could use some work, though, as they earn their second-highest rating of ‘Acceptable’.
International Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Ratings
Small Overlap Front
Moderate Overlap Front
Head Restraints and Seats
Frontal Crash Prevention
Superior (with optional equipment)
The base model doesn’t have many safety features, having only a multi-angle rearview camera. Upper trims add features like:
Forward collision warning
Automatic emergency braking
Road departure mitigation system
Lane departure warning
Lane keep assist
Adaptive cruise control
Front and rear parking sensors
Blind spot monitoring
Rear cross traffic alert
Automatic high beams
Rain-sensing windshield wipers
2018 Honda Pilot Competition
Honda Pilot vs Toyota Highlander
Toyota Highlander is a couple of thousand dollars more expensive than the Honda Pilot. The Highlander provides more standard safety features like forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control.
But that’s as far as Highlander’s advantage goes. 2018 Honda pilot offers a stronger engine, spacious cabin, and more cargo storage. All this and the reliability of Honda at a more affordable price make Honda pilot a better choice.
Honda Pilot vs Nissan Pathfinder
Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder are two SUVs that don't focus much on off-road capabilities. Instead, these SUVs offer more features that are best suited for family duties. In many ways, these two vehicles appear to be virtually tied up in performance, but there are subtle differences which give the Pilot an edge on Pathfinder.
The Pilot looks slightly roomier when looked from outside, but inside, it is closely matched to Pathfinder. The Pathfinder’s interiors are simple and functional, while Pilot has a little sportier. But the Pilot makes more use of its cabin, with a low floor and high roofline, the Pilot feels comfortable and spacious. The Pilot also has an edge on safety. It has been named the Top Safety Pick by IIHS thanks to its many safety features.
Honda Pilot vs Ford Explorer
The Explorer has been one of people’s favorite 3 row SUVs ever since it came out in 1991, and the years have only made it better. There is no doubt that the Explorer is capable of carrying you and your family around in style and comfort.
The Plot does have a few advantages. A slightly lower starting price, better acceleration, and a slightly roomier cabin. Both cars provide plenty of safety and infotainment features. These are slight nitpicking, though. Both cars offer plenty at almost the same asking price. Choosing between the two comes down to personal preference.
2018 Honda Pilot Final Verdict
Honda Pilot is one of those vehicles that seem to check all the right boxes for a family SUV. It offers generous cabin space as well as rear cargo storage, it is comfortable and powerful, and it is a Top Safety Pick thanks to its long list of safety features. If you want a safe and luxurious ride for your big family, then keeping Honda Pilot on your watch list is highly recommended.
But Pilot did not cover all grounds, and keeping some key rivals in your list is equally recommended, too. The Toyota Highlander, for example, has more standard safety features. Also, Pilot’s infotainment system relies too much on touch controls, which is a problem when you wanna keep all your attention on the road. With that being said, Pilot is still one of the best family SUVs in the market.