2020 Honda Pilot

By March 23, 2020

The Honda Pilot is a comfortable three-row crossover that deserves its strong sales. It looks a bit like a minivan, and offers the same kind of cargo space. New for 2020 is a Black Edition model.  

It’s powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 280 horsepower, and is mated to a 6- or 9-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive available, or standard on Touring, Elite, and Black Edition versions. 

The EPA rates the 2020 Pilot at 19 mpg city, 27 highway, 22 combined with front-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic. All-wheel drive lowers that by just 1 mpg, while the 9-speed automatic in the Touring, Elite, and Black editions raises it back up by 1 mpg combined.

The NHTSA gives the Pilot five stars overall in crash safety, while the IIHS gave the latest Pilot its Top Safety Pick award. Forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control are standard equipment. The Pilot EX and higher models get blind-spot monitors.

Model Lineup

The Pilot comes as LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, Elite, and Black Edition, with prices ranging from a bit more than $32,000 to a bit more than $50,000. 

The Pilot LX gets cloth upholstery, a 5.0-inch display for audio without smartphone compatibility and one USB charge port, 18-inch wheels, and the active safety features.

For $35,525 the Pilot EX gets 18-inch wheels, blind-spot monitors, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, three-zone automatic climate controls, power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, and two USB charge ports.

All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option on both models.  

The Touring and Black Edition models cost about $50,000 and include all-wheel-drive, leather, heated and cooled front seats, a panoramic moonroof, better sound system, wireless phone charger, and the 9-speed automatic transmission. The only difference with the Black Edition model is its black trim. 


The Pilot’s shapes are clean, although chrome was added in a 2019 update that included new headlights. From the sides, the Pilot looks palatial, like a cross between a crossover and minivan. Big windows and a sharp crease break up the slab-sided look. The new Black Edition gives the Pilot some attitude. 


The cabin is straightforward, upholstered with durable cloth or comfortable leather in mostly beige or gray. A  low dash allows good forward vision, while low windows allow light into the cabin. The materials on the top three models are more expensive than on the bottom three. 

The 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment is easy to learn, quickly configurable, and mostly responsive to the touch.. A hard knob for volume is the only redundant control; even the radio is tuned on the touchscreen. The screen doesn’t wash out in direct sunlight.

The front seats are comfortable for long trips, and widely adjustable on all models past the LX. The EX gets a power-adjustable driver seat, while the EX-L adds a power-adjustable passenger seat. 

The second row bench fits three passengers, while the Elite and Black Edition use captain’s chairs (available on the Touring with no extra cost). The second row is nearly as comfortable as the first, with plenty of thigh support and a relaxing 40 inches of leg room.

In the third row, there’s not quite 32 inches of leg room, but adults fit in it well. 

With all three rows in place, the Pilot has 16.5 cubic feet of cargo room, as much as the trunk in a full-sized car. Some of that room is vertical space, above the third-row headrests, for tall cargo. 

The third row drops at the touch of a button, making more than 46 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold the second row and that grows to a whopping 80 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions

The 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 280 hp; that’s good power. The V-6 has strong acceleration, but better refinement. It’s rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped.

The LX, EX, and EX-L  get a 6-speed automatic that deftly shifts gears, keeping the engine in its efficient sweet spot. The Touring, Elite, and Black Edition get a 9-speed that improves fuel mileage by 1 mpg, but it hunts sometimes as it picks the right gear for quick passes. 

The suspension does a good job in filtering out road imperfections. The 20-inch wheels and tires with narrow sidewalls don’t spoil the ride. The Pilot steers well with confident responses, even under stress. 

The Pilot even has more than seven inches of ground clearance to scramble up hillsides, though it’s clearly not aimed at the off-road crowd.

Final Word

The 2020 Honda Pilot is a competent three-row crossover, with a good V-6 engine and two automatic transmissions. The older 6-speed is smoother, while the sometimes-hesitant 9-speed only gets 1 more mpg. The EX model with its 6-speed is the best value. The Pilot isn’t exactly stylish outside, but inside it’s eminently functional and comfortable. 


—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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