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Great crossover, Honda. But why so stingy with blind-spot protection? Is there change in store for the 2017 Pilot?

2017 Honda Pilot

2017 Honda Pilot

What changes will make the 2017 Honda Pilot different?

Very few, following a praiseworthy model-year 2016 redesign. That was the first complete remake of this midsize crossover since model-year 2009. The ’17 Pilot will carry on with the sleeker styling, increased power, and better fuel economy introduced for ‘16. Again able to seat eight passengers, the 2017 edition of Honda’s largest SUV will also boast the expanded list of safety features that were part of the redesign. A 2017 Pilot change we’d endorse: extending the security of blind-spot monitoring beyond just the most expensive model, the $47,000-plus Elite.

Why should I wait for the 2017?

The only compelling reason would be to see if Honda deems customers who can’t afford the Elite worthy of the blind-spot system. It warns of vehicles in over-the-shoulder blind spots and of those approaching from the sides as they back from a parking spot. Competitors make this sort of technology more widely available throughout their lineups. To be fair, the Honda Sensing suite of driver assists — including vital frontal-collision-mitigating automatic braking – will likely again be available on all but the entry-level trim. A new paint choice or two might materialize, but otherwise, don’t expect much change until model-year 2019. That’s when styling tweaks and other updates are probable as part of a midcycle refresh that’ll sustain Pilot to its next full redesign, likely for model-year 2022 or ‘23.

Check out our 2018 Honda Pilot Preview for the latest info

Should I buy a 2016 model instead?

If you’re untroubled by Honda’s blind-spot tone-deafness. You’ll be getting a marvelous crossover that’s roomy, fuel-efficient, and rewarding to drive. Consider the brand’s reputation for good reliability and strong residuals, and the ’16 Pilot adds up to a terrific midsize-SUV value. It’ll be mechanically and visually indistinguishable from a ’17, but prices almost certainly will increase. The model lineup will be the same, too, starting with the base LX model and extending to EX and leather-upholstered EX-L models, each available with and without Honda Sensing. You’ll also be able to get an EX-L with imbedded navigation or rear-seat DVD entertainment — but neither in combination with Honda Sensing. To bundle Honda Sensing, navigation, and DVD requires the Touring model. The top-line Elite for ’16 and ’17 will have all that and continue as the first Honda with a panoramic-type moonroof. It’s also likely to remain the only Pilot with heated second-row captain’s chairs instead of a bench, making it the one version that doesn’t seat eight.

Will the styling be different?

No. It’ll retain the aerodynamic contours introduced with the 2016 redesign. They replaced trucky, box-shaped sheetmetal and were accompanied by a 1.8-inch stretch in wheelbase, which created more rear-seat legroom, and a 3-inch longer body, which added needed cargo volume. Bucking a trend in this class, Honda probably won’t begin to identify each trim grade with individual grille colors and inserts. Subtle EX touches like fog lamps, LED daytime running lights, and body-colored mirrors and door handles will distinguish they from LXs. The Touring will return with roof rails, while the Elite will probably continue as the only model with LED headlights. The 2017 LX, EX, and EX-L will retain 18-inch alloy wheels (machined-faced on EX and EX-L). The ’17 Touring and Elite will keep 20-inch alloys. As with the exterior’s 2016 transformation, the interior will return for ’17 with the gentler shapes that supplanted dated-looking angular forms. The LX will have a 5-inch dashboard screen, the others an 8-incher, plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel and, starting with the EX-L, leather upholstery. Passengers will again enjoy generous room in the first two seating rows, though the rearmost row will again best suit those under 5-foot-6. Cargo volume will remain plentiful, with above-par space behind the third-row seat.

Any mechanical changes?

None expected. The ’17 Pilot will deliver prompt, smooth acceleration and better-than-average handling for a crossover this size. All models will return with a 3.5-liter V-6 re-engineered in the ’16 redesign as a member the automaker’s updated Earth Dreams engine family. It’ll again have 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. On LX, EX, and EX-L versions it’ll link to a 6-speed automatic transmission with a center-console-mounted shift lever. Touring and Elite will again get a 9-speed automatic. It’s controlled from the console by a neat row of gear-selection buttons and also features steering-wheel paddle shifters. All but the Elite will return with front-wheel drive as standard. All-wheel drive (awd) will remain standard on the Elite and optional elsewhere. Honda upgraded the system for 2016, making it quicker to react to traction demands and reducing its effect on fuel economy. It also added driver-selectable modes that maximize grip in snow, sand, and mud.

Will fuel economy improve?

Sans mechanical changes, probably not. The ’17 Pilot should remain among the most fuel-efficient V-6 midsize crossovers. For LX, EX, and EX-L models, EPA ratings should repeat at 19/27/22 mpg city/highway/combined with front-drive and 18/26/21 mpg with awd. In addition to the mileage-stretching advantages of three additional transmission gear ratios, the ’17 Touring and Elite models will again benefit from a stop-start system. This automatically shuts down the engine when the vehicle is stationary and restarts it when the driver releases the brake pedal; accessories like air conditioning continue to run. EPA ratings don’t take such systems into account, but the ’17 Touring and Elite should again beat the other Pilots, repeating at 19/27/23 mpg with front-drive and 19/26/21 with awd.

Will it have new features?

Given the array already offered, there’s little to be added. As noted, Honda would benefit a wider range of Pilot families by making blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic detection more widely available. It should also be more liberal with Honda Sensing, which kicks in as a $1,000 extra for the EX and EX-L. And forcing buyers into the Touring grade to get both Honda Sensing and imbedded navigation smacks of avarice. It is also part of a marketing strategy that’s evidently been successful. The automaker says Pilot customers gravitate to the higher-line trims; that’s why it added the Elite model for ’16.

As per company policy, there’ll be no traditional menus of stand-alone options. The ’17 Pilot will again follow a formula in which each rung of the model ladder is locked into a set of standard features. In addition to those already mentioned, the LX will return with pushbutton ignition, multi-angle review camera, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and Apple’s Siri Eyes Free voice linking for compatible iPhones. The EX will again add to that such items as remote engine start; keyless entry; power driver’s seat with power lumbar; tri-zone automatic climate control; illuminated steering-wheel controls for audio, phone and cruise; a subwoofer; and wireless access to internet sourced music and media, including Pandora. A moonroof, power front passenger seat, headed front seats, and a power tailgate will repeat among EX-L perks. So will child-friendly illuminated buttons on the outboard sides of the second-row seat sections; one press releases the seats to tip and slide for access to the third row. The ’17 Touring will again have all that, plus uprated audio, driver-seat memory, and a second-row bench with an additional two high-speed USB charging ports (for five ports total). The Elite will continue with a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, and a second, fixed sunroof panel over the second and third seating rows, leaving room for the ceiling-mounted DVD screen.

How will 2017 prices be different?

They’ll rise and again seem slightly higher than base prices of many rivals. That’s partly a product of Honda’s one-model/one-equipment-level pricing. Option competitors with comparable levels of equipment, and price differences all but disappear. Indeed, even base prices on some top-drawer editions of crossovers in this class now top $52,000, the Ford Explorer Platinum and Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit cases in point. Estimated prices in this review include Honda’s destination fee, which was $880 for the 2016 Pilot. With front-wheel drive, projected 2017 Pilot prices are $31,300 for the LX, $33,700 for the EX, and $34,700 for the EX with Honda Sensing. Expect the EX-L to sticker for around $37,300. It should be priced around $38,300 with your choice of Honda Sensing or imbedded navigation, and around $38,800 with the rear-DVD entertainment system. Look for the 2017 Touring to be priced around $42,300. To all the above estimates, expect to add $1,800 for awd. We project the ’17 Elite to be priced around $47,700, including awd.

When will it come out?

Expected release date of the 2017 Pilot is in fall 2016.

Best competitors

Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-9, Kia Sorento, Toyota Highlander

What change would make it better?

Good-old-buttons for the touchscreen-based infotainment system used on all but the LX model. This setup is spreading across the Honda line and in each instance the absence of traditional knobs or buttons compromises usability. It compels you to adjust most audio and navigation functions by tapping, swiping, and scrolling through icons on the 8-inch dashboard display. Many adjustments can be accomplished via steering-wheel buttons and, with some luck, voice recognition. But the screen is still likely to be your primary point of interaction with the system, and its dependence exclusively on numerous touchpoints is a potential driver distraction.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]