In 1903, Henry Ford started a company that would become synonymous with American vehicles. Ford has been around for over 100 years, producing cars, trucks, and SUVs for the American public as well as their overseas fans. However, Ford does have rivals, especially in the Asian market, where a plethora of brands like Nissan, Kia, Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai, and—of course—Honda have a built-in fanbase.
Honda is newer than the Ford brand by 45 years, which gave Ford a considerable head start—and it wasn’t wasted. People today still love driving their Ford and have fond memories of when their parents and grandparents drove them around in the Blue Oval’s older models. But Honda has made an impact—enough so that when people compare the 2023 Ford Explorer vs 2023 Honda Pilot, it can be difficult to find big differences. Which brand does best in the Asian market? What about the American market? And how can that help you determine which one to buy?
When we look at rivalries, we can see the weaknesses of each as well as their strengths. There’s no such thing as a perfect vehicle, but there are vehicles that are better suited for certain jobs, climates, and drivers, which is why we wanted to compare—to highlight the benefits and drawbacks of various vehicles—to help you determine which ones you’d like to look at and potentially buy.
We know that both Ford and Honda have excellent ratings when it comes to performance, but there MUST be differences between the two, particularly when comparing individual models. What can these vehicles’ performance ratings tell us about their similarities and differences?
Consider where these automakers come from. Ford’s Explorer was created in the United States to suit its long, winding highways, diverse terrain types, and all kinds of weather. This resulted in the 2023 Ford Explorer having plenty of horsepower to climb mountains and hills, even with a trailer or camper. The lower trim levels of the Explorer are equipped with a 300 hp four-cylinder engine, while the higher trim levels come with a V6 engine that produces 400 hp. There’s also a hybrid model, with a V6 engine and a motor, together producing almost 320 hp. They all come with a standard ten-speed transmission, as well as the ability to tow over 5,500 lbs.
The Honda Pilot, on the other hand, was made for city life, with less power and presence, so as to blend in and not offend the neighbors. A quieter vehicle, to be sure, with less horsepower than the Explorer, topping out at 285 hp. It also comes with a ten-speed transmission but doesn’t have a hybrid option or even another engine option; this allows everyone to be on the same level as far as performance is concerned, but it doesn’t allow for improvement. It tows way less than the Explorer, anywhere from 3,500 to 5,000 lbs. While it might be suited for city life, the Honda is no match for Ford in the realm of performance.
Beauty isn’t everything, but the materials used and attention to detail are quite important. When you drive a vehicle every day, you want to make sure that it is solid, supportive, and that it comes with the creature comforts you crave. Do you want leather or cloth seating arrangements? Are you interested in a specific color, or do you care more about the design elements of the exterior? When comparing the Explorer and the Pilot, it can be quite a challenge to figure out your wants and how these vehicles stack up against them.
Honda’s Pilot has a more utilitarian look than the Explorer, with simple lines and unobtrusive styling. It’s somewhat plain, even, potentially because Honda knows that while design elements are important, there’s something to be said for simplicity. Of the eight paint colors available, half of them are truly neutral, and the others are understated tones in the blue and red spectrums. Overall, it looks a little dowdy. As far as the interior goes—depending on the trim level you go with—you have a choice of cloth, synthetic leather, or real leather; only the highest trim levels offer a truly luxurious experience, with heated seats and a power front seat that pairs with a driver “memory” program to remember your preferences and adjust accordingly.
Ford’s Explorer, on the other hand, looks ready to show. Sleek and chic, this designer vehicle demands attention to its elegant lines and modern appearance. If the Pilot is designed to blend in, the Explorer is made to stand out. It also has eight colors to choose from for its exterior, though it has fewer neutrals and more rich tones in blue, green, and red. Inside the Explorer, the available Active Motion front seats massage your back, neck, and shoulders so that you can enjoy the ride the entire time. Multi-color ambient lighting, a cargo management system, and a twin-panel moonroof make the Explorer the perfect road trip vehicle.
This is where Honda’s vehicles typically shine, and the Pilot is no exception. When you get inside the Pilot, you’ll see a 7.0-inch infotainment interface that can pair to your smartphone via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. If you go up a few trim levels, you’ll get a bigger infotainment center as well as a 12-speaker Bose stereo system. If you don’t want to pay a higher price tag, you could get the base trim level, which comes with the 7.0-inch infotainment interface but not the Bose stereo system.
If you do care about such things, it’s important to know that each trim level comes with something slightly different. Base trim levels typically have smaller infotainment screens, fewer speakers, and generally not as many safety tools. The Pilot’s lower trim levels include things like adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, and lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, but there is no wireless charging pad, no wide infotainment center, and fewer safety features.
In comparison, the Ford Explorer comes with an infotainment center that is one inch larger than the base trim level of the Pilot, and it comes with a Wi-Fi hotspot capability that works well for keeping your passengers occupied. Each trim level also comes with a rear seat entertainment system—an almost unheard-of standard feature. The Explorer also provides its driver and passengers with the same 12-speaker Bose stereo system, except the only trim level that doesn’t come equipped with this is the base trim. The Explorer also has a better safety package, including a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, and a forward collision warning. While Ford seems to focus on prevention, Honda appears more concerned with the here-and-now of safety measures—something that might make less confident drivers nervous.
Where You Live Determines What You Buy
Do you live on the outskirts of the city, in a mild, temperate climate? Or do you live in the suburbs or on a farm, where you need your vehicle to be able to handle inclement weather, mud, and some rough terrain? When you compare the 2023 Ford Explorer against the 2023 Honda Pilot, it’s obvious that the Ford was made to help out with heavy chores, as well as to encourage us to take steps toward the future.
Honda’s attempt at an SUV falls flat in comparison, and it’s no wonder that—in America, at least—the market preference clearly favors Ford, especially when it comes to larger vehicles. In Asia, however, this rivalry is more heated, depending on where you live—either in the country, where you need something a bit bigger and tougher, or in the city, where you have narrower streets and need a quieter profile. Do you want a powerful, richly appointed vehicle with the newest technology and safety features? Or do you want a dowdy, low-powered vehicle that can’t quite keep up? When ranking these two vehicles, the answer is rather obvious.