Trailsport SUV Makes Big Promises On And Off-Road

The driving experience on the highway is solid, in no small part thanks to the standard Honda Sensing driver-assist package. It bundles radar and cameras for adaptive cruise control with slow-moving traffic capabilities, lane keeping assist, and a host of other driver aids. All of those feel more sure-footed than previous iterations of Honda’s Sensing-equipped cars. Radar-cruise-control braking upon reaching a car in front of me was gentler than on earlier Honda models, and the lane-centering assist had no vagueness to it.

That 3.5-liter V6 is adequate to merge from a standstill, although expect to hear it working hard at higher RPMs. The driving experience is fairly sedate away from the top end of the rev ranges; even in the Trailsport, road noise was minimal in the cabin despite the all-terrain tires.

Off the highway and back in town, though, I found the ten-speed automatic less than satisfactory, especially when trying to do things at half-throttle. Despite having plenty of power to handle mild grades and less-than-rapid passes, the transmission feels like it hesitates a bit before selecting the gear it needs to in Normal mode. Once it finds it, the shift is plenty quick, but it could never quite make up its mind if I was asking for one gear down, or two. Technically, the Pilot does offer paddle shifters as standard, but I wouldn’t hope to Ayrton Senna my way around transmission programming in a 4,685-pound SUV.

Ride quality, however, is plenty comfortable in all trims. The Trailsport, thanks to its softer anti-roll tuning and travel-oriented suspension, definitely has a feeling of more traditional SUV heft than the Elite—you won’t forget that 200-inch length easily—but with an extra inch of ground clearance and all-terrains, it’s more than forgivable.

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