CHATHAM, Mass. – When Honda designed its all-new three-row 2023 Pilot the Japanese automaker engineered the TrailSport variant as the most off-road capable sport-utility vehicle (SUV) in the company’s history.
A 10-day period with the 2023 Honda Pilot AWD TrailSport proved the engineers could design a vehicle for the weekend adventurers without sacrificing daily driving comfort.
A platform engineered for all purposes
A ground-up new suspension system provides the basic underpinnings of the fourth-generation Pilot. MacPherson-type struts up front with a new rigid-mounted subframe supporting forged-aluminum lower control arms, hydraulic bushings, coil springs and a stabilizer bar. Replacing the previous floating-type subframe, the new front subframe translates steering inputs to the tires with greater fidelity.
A multilink setup in the rear uses one cast-iron control arm, three steel control arms and an aluminum knuckle to minimize unsprung weight and optimize component stiffness.
The TrailSport version has an off-road tuned suspension that includes a one-inch of additional ground clearance (8.3 inches) and increased approach and break-over angles. Unique stabilizer bars are optimized for articulation and off-road ride comfort; spring rates and damper valve tuning are also exclusive to TrailSport.
In addition, the Pilot TrailSport is the first Honda SUV with all-terrain tires for additional off-road traction and robust steel skid plates to protect its underbody from damage on the trail.
TrailSport’s standard Continental TerrainContact AT (265/60R18) tires are designed for sand, mud, rocky terrain and snow operation, but still quiet and comfortable on the road. The 18-inch wheels with a rugged look were designed with inset spokes to protect them from trail damage.
Brake system re-engineered
The design incorporated a reduced overall pedal stroke and improved heat capacity aimed at improving driver confidence in all driving situations and conditions, especially in emergency situations and on wet or snowy roads and trails.
All Pilots are equipped with four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) with electronic brake distribution (EBD) and brake assist for a powerful and linear brake feel and confident stops in a wide range of driving conditions.
Honda Sensing® ADAS improved
The Honda Sensing® advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) were improved in the new Pilot thanks to a new front-sensor camera with a 90º field of view (up from 50º) and the front radar’s field of view increased to 120º (from 50º). The wider angles provide better collision prevention performance via a better ability to recognize attributes of objects such as a vehicle, bicycles or pedestrians, as well as white lines, and road boundaries such as curbs and road signs.
The Honda Sensing® suite of ADAS includes traffic-jam assist; traffic-sign recognition; adaptive cruise control; lane-keeping assist; blind-spot information; collision-mitigation braking; forward-collision warning; lane-departure warning, and road-departure mitigation.
Powertrain and AWD system
The fourth-generation Pilot incorporates a new 3.5-liter double overhead cam V6 gasoline engine producing 285 horsepower and 262 pounds-feet of torque, making it the most powerful Honda V6 ever offered in the American market.
This power flows through a 10-speed automatic transmission with standard steering-column mounted paddle shifters and into a torque vectoring i-VTM4™ all-wheel drive system.
During cornering, i-VTM4™ distributes more torque to the outside rear wheel, creating a yaw moment to help turn the vehicle through corners — making for more accurate turns, reducing understeer and improving controllability.
In addition, there are seven driver-selectable drive modes to tailor the TrailSport for normal, economy, sport, trail, sand, snow, and towing.
All these features combine to produce a very positive driving experience. I was quite entertained navigating along twisting, hilly roads along the Outer Cape. “You’re having fun,” my partner remarked, and she was correct – the Honda engineers did a terrific job combining the attributes of off-road capability with solid on-road performance; all without sacrificing ride comfort. And despite a large interior cabin (which is often a recipe for reverberating sound) and rugged all-terrain tires, the interior was quiet.
Also solidly in the positive engineering camp is TrailSport’s fuel economy. My usual heavy-footed driving resulted in 21.8 miles per gallon in everyday operation, some 10 percent better than the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s 20 mpg overall rating (18 urban, 23 highway).
Inside comfort, tech and conveniences
The 2023 Honda Pilot Trailsport comes comprehensively equipped, filling the interior with technology, amenities and comfortable surroundings.
Artificial leather covers the heated, power seats (up front), highlighted with orange stitching. These are designed to better deal with the dirt and detritus of adventure living, as are the standard rubberized all-season floor liners. And I was fooled, thinking it was real leather until I read the TrailSport’s spec sheet.
The second-row features captain’s chairs which easily move to allow access to the third row. A three-zone automatic climate-control system ensures all seven possible occupants are comfortable. All occupants will also have easy access to one of 12 drink holders, including several which can handle 32-ounce containers.
A nine-inch color touchscreen is the heart of the infotainment system featuring a nine-speaker, 245-Watt audio system with subwoofer; wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto; SiriusXM satellite radio, and Bluetooth streaming smartphone connectivity.
Technology highlights include five USB-A ports (all rows included) as well as a USB-C port in the front and a digital seven-inch driver-information cluster.
Above is a panoramic moonroof to let the sunshine in.
Pilot ready to take off to adventure
The all-new 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport is an impressive SUV. It is ready to take you off the pavement for outdoor fun without sacrificing ride, comfort, convenience or fuel economy. And it does it for $50,150 which includes one option, $455 for the Diffused Sky-Blue paint, and a $1,345 destination and handling charge.
This is good value for those needing a three-row SUV which can take on the rough stuff as well as the smooth pavement.