2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite: A family hauler that does it all

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Just before school let out – Parents Magazine named the mid-size three-row 2019 Honda Pilot SUV one of their ‘10 Best Family Cars of 2019’.  Correctly so in our opinion.

We typically find that folks think of the Pilot primarily as a city and highway family hauler.  We are sure that Parents Magazine gave that great weight in making their selection.  But, in our view, it is a terrific family back country hauler too.

Though not a Jeep-like rock crawler, it is a capable enough SUV to get you to that remote lake, stream, beach or other wilderness of your family’s choice with all the gear you need.

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2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite as Tested

We recently tested a 2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite (top-trim) for a week in and around Central Texas. 

It came in a Steel Sapphire Metallic with Gray interior.  The MSRP was $48,020.  With no packages available everything you needed was there for that price.  The delivered sticker for our Elite was $49,015.

Right away we noted that the 4319-pound Pilot was well-matched to its powertrain.  The Direct Injection 3.5L V6, generates a solid 280 horsepower with 262 lb-ft. of torque – delivering it through a 9-speed Automatic Transmission with Push-Button Shifter and Paddles.  It is powerfully quick and responsive.


The Pilot Elite comes AWD only.  It is equipped with their Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) AWD system with Snow/Sand/Mud Traction Management Modes. 

It features True Torque Vectoring that applies torque – real time adjusted – to front and rear axles and then between left and right rear wheels, as needed, to optimize traction.  Being a full-time AWD, you get that traction benefit around town, on the highway as well as in the back country.

Elite is fitted with 20-inch Machined Alloy wheels mounted with 245/50R20 All-season tires.  It has a moderately effective ground clearance of 7.3-inches with approach/departure angles of 19.7/20.8 degrees respectively – all sufficient for getting you to most back-country recreation locales.

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Hauling the Gear

When you need to bring some camping, fishing, hunting or other gear along, Pilot Elite can handle it.   If there are just four of you – the cargo space behind row two is 46-cubic feet.  If there are a couple more folks in the third row, you still have 18-cubic feet of cargo room.

Kayak, canoe, small camp trailer or……?

Pilot Elite is fitted with roof rails that accommodate a variety of Honda supplied roof racks for just about any type of gear up top.

Plus, the 2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite – when properly equipped – also tows 5,000 pounds. 

We get asked what kind of camping trailer might that be.  A review of the Airstream line of small camping trailers, we note a Pilot Elite could easily tow a 16-foot Nest, 16-foot Bambi and even a 20-foot Caravel. 


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Entertainment on the Road or On Site

For the travelers in the back, our Pilot Elite included the Advanced Rear Entertainment System w/10.2-inch High-Res Screen and Blu-Ray/CD/DVD Player with built-in streaming. Mounted to the ceiling, its WSVGA (1024×600) display provides sharp resolution viewing to both the second and third row seating.

It is fitted with a High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) for attaching High-Def players and other digital devices like Apple TV, Roku and tablets. Plenty of device power is provided from a pair of USB 2.5-amp power ports or the 115-volt power outlet.

For the kiddos who repeatedly ask the proverbial ‘are we there yet?’, there is a new How Much Farther? app that they can use to locate where they are and determine how much further until they are ‘there’. 

And for the parents or ‘minders’ up front, the Honda CabinTalk In-Car PA system makes it easy to manage the gang in back when (not if) they get a rambunctious.

A ‘Best Family Car’ for 2019 indeed.

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What Else?

Our 2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite was loaded with features, amenities and technology that makes the drive, ride and experience comfortable for all both going and coming.


Other features of the Variable Cylinder Management V6 power plant included Hill Start Assist, Remote  and Push Button Start plus one of our non-favorites – Auto Stop/Start.  This one is not too bad.  Honda has integrated it pretty smoothly making it only mildly distracting.  There is a button shut it off if you want.  We did.

Fuel economy is rated at 19/26 mpg city/highway and 22 mpg combined. Equipped with a 19.5-gallon tank, its highway range is around 500 miles.


Honda Pilot is known for its solid frame, responsive suspension, steering manners and braking capability.  For 2019, it is equipped with MacPherson Strut front and Multi-Link rear suspension with stabilizer bars, Electric Power Assisted Rack and Pinion Steering and Power-Assisted Ventilated Front Disc/Solid Rear Disc Brakes.

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The redesigned exterior includes Auto On/Off LED Headlights w/Auto High Beam, LED Fog Lights, LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL), LED Brake and Reverse Lighting, Rain-Sensing Variable Intermittent Front and Rear Window Wiper/Washers and Body-Colored Power Side Mirrors and Roofline Spoiler.

A Power Panoramic Sunroof lets in lots of light while the Hands-Free Power Tailgate makes loading and unloading cargo a lot easier.

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Pilot’s cabin is very roomy. It has lots of headroom in all three rows with good legroom in the first and second rows, but a bit tighter in the third.


Our Elite was configured to seat seven being equipped with a pair of Captain’s Chairs in the second row.

Seating overall is Leather trimmed. Front seats are perforated, heated and ventilated w/10-way Power adjustment Driver and 4-way Power Passenger.  The second row Captain’s Chairs are heated and feature ‘one touch’ adjustment for easy access to the third row. The third row is a 60/40 Split and Flat-Folding bench.

Other elements include Tri-Zone Automatic Climate Control w/Humidity Control and Filtration, second row integrated Sunshades, map lighting in all three rows (LED front), Blue ambient interior lighting and a whopping 15 beverage holders throughout the cabin w/front and second-row holders illuminated.

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The 2019 Pilot Elite’s infotainment and technology systems included an 8-inch High-Res Display Audio w/Electrostatic Touchscreen, customizable icons and smartphone or tablet-like gesture control features.  It took a couple of minutes to get comfortable with it, but we found it easy to use over the week.

Other features include Hondalink, Honda Cabin Control smartphone-based connectivity, Honda (Garmin) Satellite-Linked Navigation w/voice recognition and HD Digital Traffic, 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot capability, Wireless Phone Charging, three 12-Volt Power Outlets (front, center console and cargo area), three 2.5-amp USB Charging Ports and a 2.5-amp USB Smartphone Interface.

Audio is provided by a Honda 590-Watt Premium Audio system w/10-speakers and subwoofer. Included are SiriusXM and HD Radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Compatibility, Bluetooth HandsFree and Streaming Audio and more.

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Active safety features include Vehicle Stability Assist, Anti-Lock Braking w/Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Tire Pressure Monitoring and Fill-Assist by tire position, Parking Sensors Front and Rear, and a Multi-Angle Rearview Camera.  

All of the elements of the Honda Sensing System were included.

Honda Pilot Lineup

The Honda Pilot comes in six trim levels with 2020 model-year price points ranging from the LX 2WD at $31,550 to the – new for 2020 – Black Edition AWD at $49,620.

See the complete 2020 lineup and build one for yourself here: https://automobiles.honda.com/pilot.

There are still 2019 model year Honda Pilots available.  Contact your dealer for more information.

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Model:                                        Pilot

Trim:                                           Elite      

Class:                                          SUV

Segment:                                   Mid-Size

Seating:                                      7 (second-row Captain’s Chairs)

MSRP:                                         $48,020

As Tested:                                  $49,015

Powertrain:                               3.5L V6

Horsepower:                            280 @ 6,000 rpm            

Torque:                                      262 lb.-ft. @ 4,700 rpm

Transmission:                            9-Speed Automatic w/Paddle Shifters

Drive System:                           Full Time AWD

Drive Modes:                            Normal/ Snow / Sand / Mud

Fuel Economy                           19/26 mpg City/Highway / 22 mpg combined

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