A blue 2021 Honda Pilot is parked in front of a pond with a luggage carrier on top.

Honda Reliability Meets SUV Versatility With the 2021 Pilot

The Honda brand is well-known in the United States due to the success of sedans, such as the Honda Accord and the Honda Civic. These smaller, economical vehicles have rightfully established a tried-and-true reputation for being reliable, dependable, and easy on the wallet. Still, as American tastes trend towards SUVs, many auto manufacturers are finding that they must produce larger automobiles in order to maintain public approval. The 2021 Honda Pilot manages to merge the need for an eight-seat large SUV, a vehicle with the same carefree spirit as the Accord and Civic, and a full suite of safety and technology features to keep passengers and drivers comfortable for the duration of any trip.

The Honda Pilot hit US markets in 2002, just in time for the full trend transition from vans to SUVs. The 2021 Pilot is the latest model in the third generation, which was introduced in 2016. While the eight-passenger segment of the SUV market has plenty of options, the Pilot stands apart from the crowd for its practicality and overall space. It can provide comfortable seating for up to eight adults while having a usable amount of cargo space and maintaining a decent towing capacity. It’s also intelligently designed with a full suite of standard safety features, and plenty of “fun” to keep the whole family distracted during long road trips. The 2021 Honda Pilot is an all-around family-friendly, fun-to-drive full-sized SUV.

A man is loading gear into a grey 2021 Honda Pilot on a football field next to a woman and son who is in football uniform.

A Practical Amount of Power

The 2021 Honda Pilot is designed to be your daily driver, people mover, and stuff-hauler, all in one. It isn’t interested in off-road adventures. It has no aspirations of taking the place of your heavy-duty truck. It’s here to exploring the known roadways with your friends and family, and maybe help a few folks move on the weekend. But that’s not to say you can’t have a lot of fun with it!

Under the hood of the 2021 Pilot is a 3.5L V6 engine, which supplies a very respectful 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. The engine is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission, and drivers of most trims have the choice of standard front-wheel-drive or optional all-wheel drive. The exceptions are the Elite and Black Edition, which include all-wheel drive as standard.

With this engine, the front-wheel-drive versions of the Pilot can tow up to 3,500 pounds, while the towing maximum on all-wheel drive is an impressive 5,000 pounds. Cargo room is another area where the Pilot can brag, with 16.5 cubic feet of space with all seats occupied, and 83.9 cubic feet of room with the second and third rows stowed.

The 2021 Honda Pilot is advertised as an eight-passenger vehicle, which is true with just a few exceptions. Drivers of the Touring trim can option the second-row bench seat for two captain’s chairs, which come standard on the Elite and Black Edition trims.

No-Nonsense Safety

As a commitment to the families who will appreciate the spaciousness and practicality of the 2021 Honda Pilot the most, each trim includes the Honda Sensing suite of safety features. This includes the Lane Keeping Assist System, which detects the lane and gently corrects steering if your thoughts or attention wander, Forward Collision Warning with Collision Mitigation Braking System, which works to prevent forward-moving collisions by automatically braking, Road Departure Mitigation System with Lane Departure Warning, which provides steering guidance if you cross lanes or drift off the road completely without using the turn signal, and Adaptive Cruise Control, which helps you maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you, even when that vehicle comes to a full halt.

Automatic high beam headlights are also standard on all Pilots, but some safety features are tied to a trim. For example, the EX introduces a blind-spot monitor that provides an alert whenever a vehicle is approaching in the next lane, and a rear cross-traffic alert, which notifies you when an object crosses behind you when in reverse. The Touring trim adds front and rear parking sensors to the overall package.

A blue 2021 Honda Pilot render is on a highway with red warning lines showing where the lanes are.

A Trim for Every Family

In an effort to allow each driver to choose the model that most practically fits their lifestyle and budget, the 2021 Honda Pilot is offered in a staggering six different trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L, Special Edition (or SE), Touring, and Elite.

Besides the Honda Sensing suite of safety features, there are plenty of standard features offered on even the base LX trim. This includes push-button start, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port, and a 5-inch color LCD screen infotainment display.

Stepping up to the EX trim adds many of what one might consider “essential” family features. This trim includes smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as access to Honda’s own CabinControl smartphone app, which gives control over audio settings and access to the tri-zone automatic climate control system to passengers. The EX also includes a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with heated front seats, illuminated interior vanity mirrors, a larger 8-inch touch screen, second-row seats that fold with a one-touch automatic system, remote engine start, and satellite radio.

The “L” in EX-L may be an homage to the leather upholstery, but this trim adds several more luxury touches. This trim includes more power convenience accessories, such as a power liftgate, a power-adjustable front passenger seat, and a moonroof. It also adds sunshades and USB charging ports to the second row, and Honda’s CabinTalk feature, which allows the driver to speak to third-row passengers through the speakers or headphones, a necessity when maintaining order during long road trips.
The SE is a new trim level for 2021 and adds many of the features that aren’t strictly required, but that all drivers will find incredibly convenient. This includes wireless smartphone charging, a hands-free liftgate that operates through catching foot movement, roof rails for expanding the load of luggage, adventure equipment, and 20-inch wheels.

The Touring trim is ideal for the family that plans to head out on the road frequently, with a built-in navigation system and a Blu-Ray entertainment system for the rear seats. It also includes a premium audio system with ten speakers, a WiFi hotspot, blue ambient interior light, and the second-row passengers get to enjoy the perks of heated seats.

At the top of the line is the Elite trim, and while it may not seem that there are any additional features left to offer, Honda manages to add automatic dimming, power-folding side mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, and ventilated driver and front passenger seats. The Elite trim is offered in a Black Edition, which includes identical equipment, but an entirely black exterior with red interior trim, giving it a stealthy, sportier aesthetic.

We live in an era in which driving a giant family-mobile is cooler than ever. The 2021 Honda Pilot is well equipped at every trim level to take the stress out of moving people and stuff, and to allow drivers to just enjoy the journey. Whether you’ve got a full list of future road trips to navigate, or just need to get the kids to and from practice on a regular basis, a large SUV doesn’t have to be stuffy- the Honda Pilot proves that fun and luxury have their place in this segment.