By Derek Price
When you drive a vehicle that can hold eight people, trips to the gas pump can be downright painful.
If you want to keep your pocketbook’s pain to a minimum, though, Honda retains some serious bragging rights this year. Its roomy Pilot is the most fuel-efficient eight-passenger SUV you can buy in 2014.
The Pilot carries an EPA fuel economy rating of 25 mpg on the highway and 18 in the city. That 25-mpg highway rating is especially impressive because it’s the kind of number that boring, four-door sedans struggled to hit a few short years ago.
My, how time has changed things.
Despite its thrifty fuel economy, the Pilot drives very much like a truck. It’s got a rugged, hefty feel from the driver’s seat that’s unusual for Honda products, which typically feel more light and nimble over the road.
The Pilot’s strongest point is its spacious, practical, family-friendly cabin. Leg space in the second- and third-row seats is sumptuous, and Honda has packed the interior full of thoughtful little spaces to store stuff.
To me, this SUV has a lot of the functionality of a minivan on the inside, but it looks much more masculine and fun-loving on the outside with its squared-off profile. Without the Honda grille, a passerby could easily mistake it for a rough-and-tumble Jeep.
Unfortunately, the quality of the Pilot’s cabin isn’t Honda’s best work. I wish it had more soft-touch materials and a better overall fit and finish, especially considering how competitive today’s crossovers and SUVs are.
Power feels adequate — not excessive — from a 3.5-liter, 250-horsepower V6 that’s paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. The engine comes with all the high-tech internals that Honda is famous for, including a range of technologies designed to reduce friction, “intelligent” valve timing and lift control, along with cylinder deactivation that lets the V6 operate in four-cylinder or three-cylinder modes when full power isn’t needed.
You can outfit the Pilot with four-wheel drive and several luxury features, including a navigation system, rear-seat DVD player and power liftgate in back.
Pricing for the 2014 Pilot starts at $29,670 and ranges up to $41,420 for a loaded Touring model with four-wheel drive.
And if you want a 2015 model, Honda recently announced the addition of a new Special Edition trim grade priced at $33,120. It includes a power moonroof, special wheels, satellite radio and the back-seat DVD player.
The good fuel economy comes at no extra charge.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2014 Honda Pilot 4WD Touring ($41,420). Options: None. Price as tested (including $830 destination charge): $42,250
Wheelbase: 109.2 in.
Length: 191.4 in.
Width: 78.5 in.
Height: 71.0 in.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (250 horsepower, 253 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 25 city, 18 highway
2014 Honda Pilot
Why buy it?
It gets the best gas mileage of any eight-passenger SUV in 2014. Its roomy, thoughtful cabin is almost as practical as a minivan.