With drivers’ increasing interest in off-roading, many manufacturers have attempted to throw their hats in the ring with cars that weren’t quite ready for the challenge of off-roading. In fact, some automakers have been accused of introducing faux off-roaders–vehicles that look like they’ll handle rough terrain but are only pretending and lack genuine trail-running capabilities. We won’t name names here, but a few likely come to mind.
So, when Honda–who isn’t exactly known for its off-road vehicles–announced the upcoming 2023 Pilot TrailSport, we had our doubts. Would this be another SUV with bells and whistles that makes an immediate first impression at your local Honda dealer but can’t hold its own when sent off-road? Only time will tell; until then, there are plenty of rumors and leaked information to shed light on what Honda has in store for the all-new TrailSport.
A few lucky folks have taken the Pilot TrailSport for a test drive, adding fuel to the fires of the rumor mill. Honda promotes the SUV as rated for moderate terrain, asserting that more than half of the trails throughout America’s national parks are moderate. As a result, Honda argues the Pilot TrailSport is more than capable of adventure and exploration. While off-roaders looking for something aggressive will stick with proven warriors from Jeep or Chevy trims like the ZR2, the Pilot TrailSport deserves a spotlight for the occasional off-roaders who don’t stray too far from the pavement. Here’s what we know so far about Honda’s newest adventurer.
It’s Been Put to the Test
Knowing the many doubts around off-road vehicles flooding the market, Honda has put the Pilot TrailSport through plenty of tests to prove its capability long before it arrives at local Honda dealerships. Honda engineers have tested the SUV on various terrain throughout the country to ensure its capabilities match expectations. In October 2022, Honda put its newest SUV to the ultimate test and entered it in the Rebelle Rally, an all-women’s eight-day competition where female drivers and their copilots navigate extreme conditions throughout the American Southwest desert using paper maps and compasses.
It’s Not Exactly New
Honda included the TrailSport trim as part of the Pilot’s 2022 lineup. However, the model was little more than a rugged-looking SUV. Its lifted suspension increased its ground clearance, and unique detailing like the TrailSport badging, fun color options, and stitched interior accents distinguished it from the other trims. Nevertheless, it was a far cry from the newest Pilot to bear the TrailSport name.
Although the TrailSport isn’t new to the Honda lineup, the all-new Pilot TrailSport promises more capability than its predecessor. As a result, some experts project the SUV will start around the same price as the 2022 trim at $40,000. Realistically, however, drivers can expect a higher price since the 2023 Pilot TrailSport has more to offer.
It Comes With Many Trail-Oriented Features
Although the Pilot TrailSport isn’t designed to tackle America’s most challenging trails, Honda outfits the SUV with many standard features that prove it can handle itself on moderate terrain. These standard features run the spectrum from its trail-ready tires and skid plates to its recovery points and technology. As a result, the Pilot TrailSport offers high-value packaging that gives you the confidence to answer the call of adventure.
All-terrain tires are standard on the 2023 Pilot TrailSport and promise the smooth handling one needs on regular streets and the capability to endure off-road conditions. As a result, the Pilot TranSport exudes versatility. It can be your weekend adventurer, navigate your weekday commute, and safely haul your family. After all, with three rows of seats, it’s intended to be a people hauler.
Off-Road Suspension, Skid Plates, and All-Wheel Capability
The Pilot TrailSport comes standard with skid plates, which are essential to minimizing damage to the SUV’s underbody when navigating technical terrain. Honda also equips the TrailSport with a one-inch lift, an off-road-tuned suspension, and its expanded all-wheel-drive system. The AWD technology sends up to 75% of torque to the wheel with the most grip, a handy feature when you find yourself on uneven and unpredictable ground.
Recovery Points and Roll Bars
What makes the Pilot TrailSport genuinely stand out are its anti-roll bars and recovery points. Drivers with a need for speed can push the TrailSport to its limits confidently, knowing the anti-roll bars will reduce body roll during fast, sharp turns. However, when you aren’t chasing speed and are faced with muddy or boggy terrain, you can rest easy knowing that the TrailSport can usually get itself out of any situation with front and rear recovery points that can accommodate a winch or snatch strap.
The Pilot TrailSport’s various drive modes let you quickly adjust the vehicle settings to the terrain or situation. Sport mode, for example, allows for more controlled steering and a more pronounced throttle response. However, switch to Trail Mode, and you’ll see lighter steering and reduced throttle response, which is better for going over larger and more significant obstacles.
The Pilot TrailSport’s newly introduced hill-descent control feature will come in handy when you don’t know what your path has in store. Functional at speeds between two and 12 miles per hour, hill-descent control helps you crawl down hills with more command over the SUV. When you choose the path less traveled, you can also use the TrailWatch camera system.
TrailWatch shows you the upcoming terrain, giving you advance notice of underbody obstacles so you can steer clear of boulders and other hazards. The camera system is comprehensive but truly shines when the Pilot TrailSport is in Trail mode. Once in this drive mode, you can toggle between front and side views or see a 360-degree view of the SUV.
It’s Larger and More Rugged by Design
While many automakers miss the mark by designing faux off-road SUVs, Honda is setting itself up for success with the Pilot TrailSport. The 2023 Pilot talks the talk and walks the walk. How so? It introduces the latest generation of Honda’s light truck platform that boasts a more rigid chassis for improved handling, performance, and ride quality. It’s also longer than its predecessor and offers an aggressive stance with its upright proportions, squared-off profile, and the largest front hood in Honda history.
The Pilot’s increased footprint also means more interior room, with additional legroom for second and third-row passengers. As expected, the space also offers more room for cargo, with up to 113.7 cubic feet of room with the second and third rows folded. This gives you plenty of space for seven to eight passengers and gear, whether hauling groceries, luggage, or camping equipment for your next adventure in the woods.
Conveniences and Luxuries
The TrailSport guarantees your comfort wherever the road takes you and comes standard with heated seats and a heated steering wheel. The interior’s orange contrast stitching and TrailSport detailing add to its aesthetic and functional features like the all-season floor mats give the SUV a nice finishing touch and keep the cabin clear of mud, rain, and other debris.
Beyond these design details, Honda equips the Pilot TrailSport with an array of technology to keep you informed and connected. For example, USB charging ports throughout the cabin make it easy for your passengers to keep their devices charged while you can take advantage of the SUV’s wireless charging feature. In addition, the TrailSport’s 9-inch color touchscreen infotainment display offers wireless integration and gives you seamless access to your smartphone.
The Perfect SUV for Off-Road Hobbyists
The Pilot TrailSport is a welcome addition to the industry and gives drivers an alternative to the dubious faux off-road models and the high-priced aggressive adventurers. Honda delivers on its promise to create a capable SUV that can leave the pavement and follow the call of the wild, at least in moderation. The Pilot TrailSport proves as much, passing many challenging tests and one of America’s premiere off-road rallies before making its way to Honda dealerships across the country.
While the Pilot TrailSport won’t give pause to a Jeep Wrangler, Honda offers drivers a unique alternative with its newest model. It’s an SUV designed for practicality, functionality, and adventure. It’s an everyday road warrior and an off-road chariot that doesn’t require you to choose between the two. These unique characteristics give it an advantage in an industry overwhelmed by SUVs only pretending to be trail-ready, making the Pilot TrailSport a must-have for drivers looking for the perfect balance of genuine off-road performance and the practicality that forever defines the Honda lineup.