The 2017 Honda Pilot is not your average people-hauler

Big-boy people-haulers are experiencing a renaissance of sorts, as more and more large families or gear-haulers realize the unparalleled practicality and utility these vehicles apparently have to offer. Once bloated, odious, gas guzzling, roll-over-prone highway-hazards, many of these big-road dawgs are no longer parched at the pumps, have trimmed down and are now easy-on-the-eye…enter the 2017 Honda Pilot.

Still macho, large and capable with a serious boost of style, Honda hasn’t really touched the exterior design of its Pilot since its praiseworthy makeover last year. The three-row, up-to-eight-seater has maintained its aerodynamic, angular styling and familiar three-bar chrome grille. It also sports attractive headlamps and rear LED taillights that extend from the lift gate to the rear quarter panel.

Thankfully, the current Pilot design is down the street and around the corner from its once-upon-a-time snore-bore-boxy exterior design and an interior that was awash in dime-store plastics. Cramped accommodations for rear travelers is no longer the case as the Pilot is now three-inches longer. Inside the more sizeable crossover, adult passengers can comfortably occupy the hiney-friendly and quite legitimate third row but there is a “but!” The problem lies in the narrow pass-through space in getting to the third row, this can be tricky for adults because of the vehicle’s high step-in height and then once in, having to wiggle past the second row (a good back is a prerequisite).

The Pilot swaddles its occupants with highly supportive, wonderful comfy seating that offers ample lateral support. Soft touch padded surfaces and a functional dash design that is clean/uncluttered with a smattering of niggle-free controls, adds to the cabin’s attractiveness. If you’re a stasher, there is more than enough storage places and a huge center console to boot, smack dab in the middle of the front seats. Standard features in the Pilot include a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, 60/40-split folding third-row seat, 5-inch touchscreen (optional 8-inch available), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, seven speakers and multi-angle rearview camera. And speaking of technological connectivity, new for 2017 in the Pilot EX and higher trims are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both integrated into the 8-inch display audio touchscreen that is now practically smudge resistant.

The Pilot is actually effortless to drive (tester was the Elite) given its size (upwards of 4,100 pounds). The 3.5-liter, 280-horsepower, 262 lb-ft of torque, V6 engine is mated to either a six-speed or nine-speed automatic, depending on trim (and there are five of them–LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite). Is the Pilot a lush at the pumps? Well, not so much. EPA fuel guesstimates average out at 20/27/23 mpg (city/highway/combined) for two-wheel-drive models and 19/26/22 mpg for all-wheel-drive. Sitting behind the wheel of the largest Honda family member gives you a high driving position with first-rate visibility; you get a really commanding view of what’s ahead and this somehow makes you feel secure. Not to mention, the Pilot’s great multi-angle rearview backup camera gives you a crisp picture of any drama that is behind you.

Give the Pilot some gas and you’ll appreciate its surprisingly crisp agility, excellent maneuverability and sure-footed stability when cornering. Quick acceleration is another unexpected Pilot-plus! As a matter of fact, word on the street…the Pilot is one of the quickest, three-row crossover vehicles on the market which is good to know in case you need to make a fast getaway from ho-hum event, or dash into that last Costco parking spot. Gear haulers will appreciate the Pilot’s utilitarian cargo area. The fold-flat second and third row work well for those huge antique finds or football gear (83.9 cubes).

Honda and safety goes hand-in-hand and the Pilot comes well equipped with such noteworthy standard features as anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist and Hill Start Assist; Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSA®) with Traction Control; dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags, driver and front passenger side airbags and side-curtain airbags.

If you’re skittish in rough weather, a kind of peace of mind feature that runs across the Pilot trims is the button-operated Intelligent Terrain Management System that offers different operating modes, for the AWD: Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand; and for the FWD: Normal and Snow. The Honda Sensing suite of technologies adds blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation and rear-cross traffic monitoring. The Pilot also earned top safety ratings from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, including a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score.

Whether you have a brood or are an avid weekend tag-sale warrior, the Pilot will get the job done as far as space and capability are concerned, all while offering well-rounded driving dynamics. Prices start at $30,595.

By the by, if you just happen to be an HGTV addict, Honda has teamed up with them on the ‘Dream Home 2017 Giveaway.’ Here’s your chance to not only win an enviable new home on picturesque St. Simons Islands, Georgia but to also receive a 2017 Honda Pilot Elite, along with a cash prize of $250,000. This might just be your lucky year.

Follow Ruth (aka Car Chick™) on Facebook.