Honda Polishes the Pilot to a Gleaming Ebony

CHATHAM, Mass. – Imposing, almost menacing in its crystal black skin, the new for 2020 Honda Pilot Black Edition incorporates the extensive changes of the redesigned (for 2019) three-row mid-size SUV in a comprehensively equipped package.

And lurking under the ebony coat is a vehicle brimming with the latest safety and advanced driver assist systems (ADAS), which have earned it both a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration five-star safety rating and a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), including a ‘superior’ rating for front crash prevention.

Added as standard on all Pilots last year, the Honda Sensing® ADAS suite includes Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS™) with Forward Collision Warning; Road Departure Mitigation (RDM); Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS); and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).

The LKAS “shakes” the steering wheel when you wander out of your lane and the RDM will actually tug the steering wheel back towards the proper line should you continue to venture too far – and the Pilot does it less obtrusively than some other systems (so you are not looking to turn it off after a few warnings).

The CMBS with forward-collision warning is Honda’s forward automatic-emergency braking (AEB) system which will move systematically from a warning to applying the brakes should the Pilot detect either a pedestrian, vehicle or other object in front of you. Luckily, I never had to experience this system during our week with the SUV!

Sign up for our weekly email to stay on top of the latest news and insights!

Going beyond Honda Sensing systems, the Pilot’s ADAS include blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems as well as a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines (to lead you safely while you back up amongst obstacles).

Added to this are active-safety systems like vehicle-stability assist with traction control; all-wheel drive; advanced four-channel anti-lock brakes (ABS); electronic-brake distribution, and tire-pressure monitoring.

All these functions add up to a secure, solid driving environment, one that in the Black Edition provides driver and passengers with a quiet, comfortable space: seating for seven – buckets for front and second row (captain’s chairs in row two according to Honda) and three reasonable-sized folks in the last row.

Second-row riders have a comprehensive array of switches and ports at the back of the front console to control their world including those for the rear climate-control system; seat heaters; two 2.5A USB ports; a standard 110V outlet, and the Blu-ray/DVD disc rear-entertainment system (visible from a ceiling-mounted, drop-down screen) which also accepts HDMI input from any mobile device so equipped.

The driver and front-seat passenger can monitor activities in the rear with a fold-down panoramic mirror and the driver can further communicate with the SUV’s rear rows through a built-in PA system that Honda calls CabinTalk™.

CabinControl™, is a downloadable app for iPhone and Android phones, which allows passengers to use their smartphones to control a range of Pilot features, including the audio system, rear-entertainment system and rear climate control system. Any connected phone can also look up an address or point of interest and then send it to the navigation system, where the driver can accept or reject it.

The lavish features for the passenger rows follow the extensive array for those in front.

Leather covers the surfaces at all seven seating spots (the front ones electrically adjusted, driver with two-person memory), as well as being heated and ventilated, and steering wheel (which is also heated!).

Between the seats is a console with two cupholders; wireless-charging pad; deep, covered bin (with USB port and 110V outlet), and Honda’s unique electronic-gear selector for the nine-speed automatic transmission. This feature eliminates the selector lever, providing easier access to all the console features.

Like other premium vehicles in this class, the Black Edition includes a comprehensive infotainment system anchored by an eight-inch touchscreen controlling the AM/FM/SiriusXM audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality and Garmin navigation system. Voice activation supplements touch controls on the screen and buttons on the steering wheel to control what Honda calls its Display Audio system.

Another electronic display in front of the driver shows road speed (digitally), engine speed, fuel level and engine temperature while allowing the driver to customize another section to provide audio, navigation, phone or vehicle settings information.

Cupholders (12+) abound in the three seating areas, as do numerous cubbies and shelves.

This is a vehicle a family of all ages can live with on short and long trips. Even being limited to my wife and I – no additional passengers thanks to social distancing – it’s easy to understand how the 2019 Pilot received a Parents magazine top 10 Family Car designation.

In determining the award, Parents editors chose 20 minivans and SUVs with top government safety ratings and which they determined provided good value. Car seat installation, ownership costs such as fuel economy and maintenance, technology features, as well as overall vehicle attributes such as driving dynamics, comfort, price were all considered.

Speaking of driving dynamics, the Pilot combines the comfort of a top-level sedan (like the Honda Accord) with the capability of a modern sport utility, including off-road and poor-weather strengths. Honda’s Variable Torque Management system (i-VTM4®) with true torque-vectoring, standard on the Black Edition which has standard all-wheel drive (AWD), uses an electronically-controlled, hydraulically-actuated rear differential to apportion engine torque between the front and rear axles, and dynamically distribute torque between the left and right rear wheels. The benefits are superior all-weather handling, and neutral, accurate steering under power.

Piloting through the numbers

The  power for all Pilot models is provided by a 3.5-liter V6 engine putting 280 horsepower and 262 pounds-feet of torque through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Careful tuning of the transmission combined with an engine-idle start-stop system helps the 2020 Black Edition achieve a 22-miles-per-gallon NHTSA combined fuel economy (19 mpg city/26 mpg highway) and we saw this kind of mileage during our time in the Pilot.

Value was a factor in Parents choice of Pilot. Customers can choose the version which best meets their needs and pocketbooks as Honda offers five major trim levels: three in front-wheel (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) and two in AWD. Pricing begins at $31,550 for the FWD LX and tops out with the very comprehensively equipped AWD Black Edition at $49,620.

Pilot LX (2WD)$31,550
Pilot LX (AWD)$33,550
Pilot EX (2WD)$34,430
Pilot EX (AWD)$36,430
Pilot EX-L (2WD)$37,860
Pilot EX-L (AWD)$39,860
Pilot EX-L w/ Navi & Rear Entertainment System (2WD)$39,860
Pilot EX-L w/ Navi & Rear Entertainment System (AWD)$41,860
Pilot Touring (2WD)$42,620
Pilot Touring (AWD)$44,620
Pilot Touring w/ Rear Captain’s Chairs (2WD)$42,920
Pilot Touring w/ Rear Captain’s Chairs (AWD)$44,920
Pilot Elite (AWD)$48,120
Pilot Black Edition (AWD)$49,620

I barely scratched the surface of the Black Edition’s equipment and features in this review or during my limited time behind the wheel – this is an impressive vehicle, offering a lot of value for its price. And, thanks to the combination of last year’s redesign which gave the Pilot a more distinctive, angular look, and the monochromatic features of the Black Edition, this is also a vehicle with a very distinctive presence.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.