Until now, the Honda Pilot’s been all hat, no cattle when it comes to convincing anyone that it’s even remotely an SUV. It was very much the family bus. And it still is for 2023. But thanks to a redesign for the new model year, it finally looks somewhat like an SUV, and with the addition of its TrailSport trim, it’s finally got some gear to venture off road.
All hat no cattle? Not so much anymore.
Introduced in late 2002, the Honda Pilot has proven to be a more fashionable choice for families than a minivan, even though both are well-known for being supremely capable rug rat lorries.
And while the 2023 Honda Pilot is offered in LX, Sport, EX-L, TrailSport, Touring and Elite trim, it’s the TrailSport model that has seen the biggest upgrade for the new model year. This is now a true off-road-capable vehicle, although it’s not for the serious boulder bashers. But it’s likely to be popular among cul-de-sac off-roading wannabes thanks to its all-terrain tires, all-wheel drive, additional inch of ground clearance along with underbody skid plates, and a torque-vectoring rear differential.
The Honda Pilot TrailSport’s new duds make for a more convincing case for this vehicle being more capable than your traditional mall crawler. Credit its flared fenders, upright honeycomb grille, tall hood, shorter front overhang, wider track, and larger tires.
It now has a 2.8-inch-longer wheelbase, which doesn’t hurt either. In fact, it almost looks butch. And check out the third-row side window. It seems a bit, um, unique, although that’s just a nice way of saying it looks awkward. Which it does. But otherwise, the Pilot TrailSport’s wardrobe is impeccably conservative and tasteful in the finest Honda tradition. Bravo.
While its design no longer wreaks of minivan-ness, its interior does, if only for its size. Fold the second and third-row seats flat, and you’ll have 113.7 cubic feet of sleeping or schlepping space. With the seats in use, you’ll still have 22.4 cubic feet of space. That said, while you can get seating for eight across three rows in other Honda Pilot models, the TrailSport comes solely with second-row Captain’s Chairs, reducing seating capacity to seven. If you do opt for a non-TrailSport eight-passenger model, the second row’s middle seat can be removed and stored in the cargo area.
The interior is well-assembled, but feels sturdy and straightforward, rather than lavish and lacks the superior appeal of the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride. And while there are the expected sot-touch surfaces, some of the interior trim seems a bit cheap for the price, although its controls have a quality feel.
A 7-inch digital instrument cluster is standard, except on the Elite, where it grows to 10.2 inches. The base infotainment display measures 7 inches, but grows to 9 inches on spendier models.
But there is an astounding 14 cupholders — eight of which can hold 32-ounce beverages, so you’ll never go thirsty.
The all-new 2023 model comes with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 285 horsepower, a 5-horsepower increase for 2023, along with 262 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough power to tow 5,000 pounds with all-wheel drive, 3,500 pounds with front-wheel drive.
A new 10-speed automatic transmission with seven drive modes comes standard, as is front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is an option, and has been updated so it now can send up to 70% of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels. How thoughtful, and appreciated.
The EPA rates our all-wheel-drive Pilot TrailSport at 18 mpg in city driving, 23 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg in mixed city/highway driving. The Pilot uses regular unleaded gasoline.
The new Pilot TrilSport employs Honda’s newest light-truck architecture that will be found under the upcoming redesigns of the Odyssey, Ridgeline and Passport.
Safety and Technology
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not crash tested the 2023 Honda Pilot, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has, and designated it a 2023 Top Safety Pick Plus, its top rating.
Parents will be happy to know that the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance systems is standard. It comes with Collision Mitigation Braking, Road Departure Mitigation, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Traffic Sign Recognition, Traffic Jam Assist, Cross Traffic Monitor, Blind Spot Information System, Low Speed Braking Control, Driver Attention Monitor, Auto High-Beam Headlights and eight Parking Sensors. It also has TrailWatch, which uses cameras to show the trail ahead when cresting a hill. TrailSport models also have front camera washers as well as the rear ones used on the rest of the line-up.
Also standard are four cameras that give you a birds-eye view of the vehicle on-road and off. When you’re in Trail mode, it turns on automatically. You may also turn it on by pressing a button on the right steering wheel stalk.
When it comes to tech, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard along with the 245-watt, 9-speaker audio system.
The Honda Pilot TrailSport proves to be a fairly good, um, sport around town, with more than enough get up and go to easily deal with city, suburban and highway traffic. The steering is fairly light, however, which along with a relatively high ride height for Honda doesn’t exactly provoke you to drive this Honda with any real gusto. Body roll is well-controlled, as are unwanted ride motions, while the ride proves to be fairly comfy. But then again, you’re not exactly driving this like a Civic Si.
But at least it’s equipped for off-road action. OK, this isn’t intended for the serious boulder bashing found in Moab or on the Rubicon, but it will be capable enough once the sidewalk ends. And its ability to tackle a variety of driving conditions certainly makes this Pilot the one to get, as it sacrifices nothing in exchange for its capabilities.
Unexpectedly, all rows are habitable by adults, even the third row, surprisingly enough. But the driver’s position is particularly good, and features a left foot dead pedal, which is always appreciated. That said, it does live up to its familial DNA as Hondas have always been noisy, and the Pilot TrailSport seems to be no exception, particularly with its all-terrain tires.
That said, there are some features the TrailSport lacks, such as a head-up display, Bose premium audio, a Wi-Fi hotspot, a navigation system, and acoustically-laminated front side glass. But it does have a standard tow hook.
2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport Specifications
|Dimension||L: 200.2 inches/W: 78.5 inches/H: 72 inches/Wheelbase: 113.8 inches|
|Powertrain||3.5-liter V-6 engine, 10-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive|
|Fuel Economy||18 mpg city/23 mpg highway/20 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||285 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $48,800; As tested: $50,275 including $1,375 destination charge|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
The TrailSport rendition of the 2023 Honda Pilot lends it a layer of legitimacy that it previously lacked. For modest off-road adventures and occasional inclement weather, it should prove to be a safe, spacious, comfortable friend, even if it’s not the quickest or most capable in its class.
But its smooth demeanor, extensive list of standard driver-assistance safety systems, good crash ratings and spacious cabin makes it a perfect choice as a family hauler.
2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport — Frequently Asked Questions
What is special about the Pilot TrailSport?
It’s a unique trim level of the Pilot that’s equipped for off-roading, with all-terrain tires, all-wheel drive, added ground clearance along with underbody skid plates, and a torque-vectoring rear differential.
How much is the new Honda TrailSport?
Base price for the 2023 Honda TrailSport is $48,700.
What is the gas mileage on the Honda TrailSport 2023?
It gets 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, 20 mpg combined using regular unleaded gasoline.