It was just over three years ago that Honda brought its current generation Pilot to this market. With that model, the Japanese carmaker ditched its boxy styling in favour of a more rounded and elegant design. In fact, this new design was more representative of the Pilot’s more urban oriented underpinnings that what its predecessor’s lines suggested. It also established that Honda was content with not having a full-size body-on-frame off-roader that rivals the Toyota Land Cruiser or the Nissan Patrol as its flagship. Along with the redesign, Honda also gave the Pilot’s interior a makeover worthy of the lead model.

Now for 2019, the Pilot has been given a mid-cycle update to keep it fresh against the onslaught of rivals like the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder and Mazda CX-9, as well as new players in the segment like the Volkswagen Teramont. Expectedly for a mid-generation upgrade, the changes aren’t radical, and include mild styling tweaks, some powertrain refinements, improvements to the connected-car technology, new hands-free power tailgate, and inclusion of the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver- assist and safety technologies in the Touring trim. The Pilot also offers seating for eight passengers with both the second and third rows able to accommodate three each.

Cosmetic changes include a refreshed front fascia with standard LED low-beam headlights, new taillights, new bumper, and chrome accents. The redesigned front bumper slots in larger fog light housings, and the radiator grille follows the signature “flying wing” design. While LX, EX and EX-L trims get 18in wheels, the top-sec Touring gets a new 20in design on Touring trim.


Photos: Anas Thacharpadikkal

Honda claims powertrain refinements, but there aren’t any improvements in output or performance, with power and torque still at 280 horsepower and 355Nm respectively. Modifications are limited to the automatic transmission. The six-speed automatic transmission now starts in second gear for smoother takeoff and low speed acceleration under light-to-moderate throttle. At full throttle, in S mode, or with the drive modes in Sand or Mud, the ‘box will choose first gear for launch. The V6 is as suave as ever, and the transmission does a great job in seamlessly channeling power to the wheels. Ride is extremely smooth, and considering its size, composure around corners is impressive.

Although the cabin is quiet with minimal intrusion of road or air noise, Honda has included the cabin Talk feature that debuted in the Odyssey. This lets the driver’s voice be enhanced through the cabin by capturing it with a mic and sending it to all the speakers. This is handy for parents when they need to get the attention of kids watching something on the rear entertainment system, as it even lets you talk via the headphones. The Pilot also gets the ‘How Much Farther?’ app that graphically counts down time and distance to the destination that has been set into the navigation system, so that you needn’t constantly be answering questions like “When will we reach?”.

A hands-free power tailgate is something many contenders in this class already had for some time now, but it makes an appearance in the Pilot for the first time, although it’s only available in the Touring grade.

For 2019, all Pilot Touring Grade models come standard with the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assist technologies. This includes Collision Mitigation Braking System with Forward Collision Warning, Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Keeping Assist System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Information System and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor.

Available in eight exterior colours and two interior colours, the 2019 Pilot starts at Dh129,900 and tops out at Dh176,900 for the Touring. Despite tough competition in this segment, the Pilot remains a well-rounded offering and the mid-life upgrades have only helped boost its appeal.