Something astonishing has happened over the last few years: Everyone wants an off-road vehicle. Tax Attorney Guy who’s never gone camping suddenly needs a lifted crossover with trail-rated tires, even if his miserable work commute doesn’t ever veer off the highway. And Suburbian Dad (also salesperson of the month at his company) has decided to attach an expensive roof tent to his SUV because, hey, Mother Nature’s calling—even though he’s never actually answered her call. The 2023 Honda Pilot Trailsport is for these folks. And a few million others who might actually see some dirt on the weekends.
Honda has identified a growing market and rolled out a new product that speaks to it—though off-road-inspired SUVs are nothing new. Other automakers including Honda have been doing this for a while. A Trailsport trim was already offered for the outgoing Pilot (and for the current Passport, too), but consisted of nothing more than visual enhancements. This time it’s for real. The rugged trim doesn’t just talk the talk, it actually walks the walk. And in the snowy, muddy trails I drove it on, it walked a surprisingly confident walk.
If you aren't into off-roading, we've reviewed the normal 2023 Honda Pilot separately. You can read about it here.
2023 Honda Pilot Trailsport Review Specs
- Base price (as tested):$49,695 ($50,150)
- Powertrain:3.5-liter V6 | 10-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower:285 @ 6,100 rpm
- Torque:262 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
- Off-road angles:19.8° approach | 19° departure
- Ground clearance:8.3 inches
- Curb weight:4,685 pounds
- EPA fuel economy:18 mpg city | 23 highway | 20 combined
- Quick take:While most owners will never explore the Trailsport's limits off the pavement, it's reassuring to know just how capable it really is. However, it sacrifices handling and refinement for its off-road chops.
The 2023 Honda Pilot Trailsport packs a small repertoire of hardware and software to make it capable of traversing trails with a “Moderate” rating, which according to Honda makes up more than half of all U.S. public land trails. The most obvious of the enhancements is a one-inch suspension lift over the stock Pilot, which gives the Trailsport 8.3 inches of ground clearance. That’s more than a Ford Explorer Timberline and just 0.2 inches shy of a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Suspension performance is also revised for Trailsport, featuring specific shock and stabilizer bar tuning to maximize traction when venturing off the pavement. Continental 265/60 All-Terrain tires wrap around trim-specific 18-inch wheels with flared spokes. Two heavy-duty skid plates—one for the engine and one for the fuel tank—were designed with the help of Honda Powersport engineers. These can reportedly withstand the full weight of the vehicle crashing down on the plate without causing any damage. Lastly, a high-strength steel rear hitch with built-in recovery points is standard, and it can sustain two times the Pilot’s weight.
Tech enhancements include a new Trail driving mode, which allows the Pilot’s newly-tuned i-VTM4 all-wheel-drive system to send the majority of the torque to the wheel with the most traction. The rear differential is also more powerful than in the regular Pilot, boasting 3,000 Nm of torque compared to 2,500. A Hill Descent system is also new, but more helpful during my off-roading expedition was Honda’s new Trailwatch System. It employs the Pilot’s front, rear, and side cameras to provide various angles to aid in maneuvering through tight spots, or when approaching hills, steep drop-offs, etc.
With the exception of the chonk wheels and tires, the new Trailsport isn’t too much different visually from the Pilot Elite, per se. Though if you want that cool light blue color—dubbed Diffused Sky Pearl—you oughta get the Trailsport. It’s not available in other trims.
It’s not that you expect a Honda SUV to be bad at something, but you don’t really expect a Pilot to excel at off-roading. For three generations over the course of 23 years, the Pilot’s been the ride of choice for countless families, the majority of whom spend all of their time on paved roads. Admittedly, it was hard for me (and likely you) to even picture one on an off-road trail, which is why Honda set up an expedition on the outskirts of Sedona, Arizona to change my mind.
With temperatures hovering in the low 40s and snow on the ground from an overnight frost, conditions weren’t exactly in the Pilot’s favor. It would take all of its electronic gizmos and Continental tires to keep the family hauler hooked on the slippery ground. The bright red mud was especially sticky, too, adhering to the tires (and my boots) like clay ready for the kiln.
I made my way through narrow trails as I felt the SUV sink in the soft mud. With the Trail drive mode engaged, the all-wheel-drive system was able to distribute traction where it was needed most. It can send up to 70% of the torque to the rear, and 100% of that to either the right or left wheel. This came in especially handy on our first major obstacle, where the Pilot Trailsport had to maneuver a steep climb while turning slightly right.
The tires chirped as they fought for traction, all while the computer sent most of the power to the rear axle—where there was the most grip. The Trailwatch system allowed me to keep an eye on the large rock in front of me to my left, something which I couldn’t see with my own eyes as the hood was pointing straight into the sky. After a bit of finagling with the wheel to find a dry spot on the slick red boulder, the tires hooked up enough to push the Pilot over the hill and onto flat ground.
Rated as “Moderate,” that specific trail isn’t the kind of terrain that Jeep owners dream of wheeling. It ain’t easy, but it ain’t exactly challenging for jacked-up suspensions and 35-inch tires. The Pilot Trailsport has none of that, however, and having completed that first obstacle relatively easily had really shown me just how feisty the three-row family SUV truly was. But there was more to conquer.
The next few obstacles delivered a beating to the skid plates, especially the front one. For every uphill obstacle, there was a downhill one first. The front end would have to drag through the mud and rock before the trail pointed up. The grinding noise heard inside the cabin was awful and made me feel truly bad about doing that to a brand-new car, but that was the whole point—to see just how much of a beating the Trailsport could take without breaking a thing. Should Suburbian Dad ever decide to venture off-road, he won’t be left stranded when his oil pan shatters the first time he snags a rock.
I could see a Jeep coming toward me down a big hill, making me wonder if we were actually meant to climb up that same hill. Turns out we were. After slipping and sliding through the mud to move over and let some traffic go by, I and a few other Pilots drove to the base of the hill and examined some possible driving lines.
We might as well have not done any of that, because no matter which way we took up the cascading rock wall, we bottomed out several times and spun the tires 50% of the time. But boy, it was fun. It was evident that the Pilot was now on another level in terms of ruggedness—it reminded me of that Aha! moment I once had with a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. It’s so much more capable than its looks lead you to believe.
Use your index finger to double-tap the tip of the windshield wiper stalk, and the Trailwatch system cycles through various camera views that can come in handy while off-roading. I had opted for the side-camera split view, so I could make sure I didn’t get too close to the trees during a very narrow part of the trail. This, along with the hood camera, was my favorite view to confidently maneuver about the trail. They helped me make sure I didn’t pop a tire, rip off a bumper, or worse, fall off a cliff.
And man, there were cliffs. When an automaker organizes an off-road drive, there’s always a sense of added security. It’s like—you know they wouldn’t let things get too dangerous because legal would lose it if something ever happened to anyone. But let me tell you, there were a few moments where placing either tire on the wrong spot could’ve led to a major accident… of the rollover kind.
About an hour later (which felt like four hours because of the low-speed driving and managing of the obstacles), we made it to the trail’s summit. The scenery was just stunning, with massive boulders protruding into the horizon like the set of Pixar’s Cars. I may not have driven fast up the trail, but Lightning McQueen would’ve been proud of my precision driving. Or so I hope.
It was then time to head back down the trail and do it all over again, but this time in the opposite direction. This called for Hill Descent control a couple of times, though it never truly needed it—it was mostly just to see how well it worked. Push the button, set a downhill speed between 2 and 12 mph, and let go of the brake pedal. If the decline is 7% or more, the Pilot can make its way downhill without brake or throttle inputs. All the driver has to do is maneuver the wheel and watch for obstacles.
The Early Verdict
I have to admit it, there’s very little to dislike about the Pilot Trailsport. On the road it’s not as sharp nor as quiet as the Pilot Elite, but that’s to be expected due to the lifted suspension and all-terrain tires. However, it’s much more capable off-road than I ever imagined. I’d dare say that it’s more capable than it actually needs to be. I can’t fathom a private owner willingly taking their $50,000 Pilot Trailsport on a trail like this, but it’s certainly capable should they desire so.
Honda may not be able to force Tax Attorney Guy and Suburbian Dad to stop posing and actually hit some trails, but it can provide them with a comfortable, practical, and handsome SUV that’s capable of doing so whenever they’re ready. Likewise, to the legions of outdoor enthusiasts who have kids, dogs, and the need for a reliable three-row SUV Monday through Friday, Honda’s delivered a vehicle that can off-road on the weekends with very little compromise.
The 2023 Honda Pilot Trailsport can handle trails, even if you can’t—or don’t want to.
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Honda says the new 2023 Pilot TrailSport is capable of handling off-road terrain considered easy or moderate that makes up 52% of U.S. public land. It's not something to scale the slick rock of Moab or trek down and up a gorge, but it exceeded expectations in the scrabbly semi-desert sandstone of Sedona.Is the Honda Pilot changing for 2023? ›
Overview. An all-new generation of Honda's three-row Pilot SUV has launched for the 2023 model year and it's been improved from grille to tailgate. The new Pilot's styling is boxier and more truck-like this time around, which gives it a more rugged overall appearance.Is Honda Pilot a true SUV? ›
The Honda Pilot is space-efficient and smooth-riding, and it provides ample power along with decent fuel economy. You also get plentiful features, a useful cargo area and smart interior storage. This Honda is one of the most well-rounded three-row SUVs you can get.Is the Honda Pilot considered a large SUV? ›
The Honda Pilot is a mid-size crossover SUV with three-row seating manufactured by Honda since 2002. Primarily aimed at the North American market, the Pilot is the largest SUV produced by Honda.Is AWD OK for off-road? ›
So, can you take AWD off-road? Sure, you can – but we'd recommend you don't go too far in one. Lighter and lower than 4WDs, AWD vehicles are well suited to driving along gravel tracks, formed trails and tackling light-duty off-roading, for example, firm beach sand, that sort of thing.Can a Honda Pilot carry a sheet of plywood? ›
It was wider than all the vehicles in its class, which allowed Honda to create a massive cargo bay capable of fitting a 4×8 sheet of plywood with the seats folded flat. With the seats in place, the Pilot can fit up to eight people, although the third-row seat is really only suitable for kids.What is the major problem of Honda Pilot? ›
The most common problems owners of the 2022 Honda Pilot complain about relate to forward collision avoidance and the vehicle's brakes and braking system. Drivers report that the SUV frequently flashes BRAKE when there is no reason to brake. There are also major issues with auto braking.Where is the 2023 Honda Pilot made? ›
Described as the largest and most powerful SUV Honda has ever built, the fourth-generation model challenged the Alabama Auto Plant's 1,500 associates with the most changes of any Pilot since the first model was introduced in 2003, the automaker says.How much bigger is the 2023 Pilot? ›
The second row now has a generous 41 inches of legroom. That's 2.4 inches more than the old Pilot. In front, it has 41 inches of legroom. While the back row only has 33 inches of legroom which, while not a lot, can comfortably seat a small adult.Is Honda Pilot TrailSport lifted? ›
advertisement scroll to continue. While not mentioned in the video, the TrailSport comes standard with all-wheel drive and an off-road focused suspension that features a 1 inch (25 mm) lift, unique stabilizer bars, different spring rates, and special damper tuning.
A Honda Pilot can last upwards of 200,000 miles if properly cared for by Lexington drivers. However, there are many factors that can affect the lifespan of a Honda Pilot from climate to regular maintenance.Is Honda Pilot true AWD? ›
The Honda Intelligent Variable Torque Management™ (i-VTM4®) AWD System is standard with the Honda Pilot Elite and Black Edition and is available on all other trims.Is Honda Pilot bigger than Toyota Highlander? ›
Spacious interior: The Honda Pilot has more interior space than the Toyota Highlander. The Honda has an extra 4.2 inches of third-row legroom and 2 more cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row than the Toyota.Is a Chevy Tahoe bigger than a Honda Pilot? ›
The Tahoe has 25.5 cubic feet of cargo space with all seating upright compared to 16.5 cubic feet in the Pilot. The Tahoe's cargo volume expands to 122.9 cubic feet with the second- and third-row seating folded, while the Pilot has 109 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume.How much off-road capability do I need? ›
Generally, all- or four-wheel drive is a must, as is finding a vehicle with enough ground clearance so it can drive over obstacles — hills, rocks, mud, creeks — without sustaining damage. As a general rule of thumb, a vehicle with 8.5 inches of clearance or more should be pretty good.What is the disadvantage of AWD? ›
Drawbacks of AWD
Vehicles with AWD will usually be more expensive than the same vehicle with a front or rear-wheel drivetrain system. The complexity of the AWD system is a little more complex, which may also lead to more expensive maintenance.
Overall Best AWD Cars
Subaru has long been known for building some of the best AWD vehicles, and nearly all of the manufacturer's 2021 model lineup comes equipped with Subaru's proprietary symmetrical full-time AWD system. So it's not surprising that Subaru tops our list of best all-wheel drive cars.
Two adults can comfortably sleep in the back of Pilot. If you decide to go camping in a Pilot, you won't need a tent. But you might want to bring along some other camping luxuries and necessities.How much weight can a Honda Pilot roof rack hold? ›
Standard on Special Edition and above models, the Pilot's large, strengthened roof rails add flexibility to its cargo-carrying capacity38. Using accessory crossbars, up to 165 pounds of cargo can be carried.Which year Honda Pilot has transmission problems? ›
They were part of the huge recall in 2004. Sadly, many of the Honda Pilot's that were repaired as part of the recall had their transmissions fail a second or even a third time. The 2004 Honda recall covered about 1.1 million of Honda's most popular models. Cars covered in the recall included 2003, 2003, and 2004 Pilot.
However, Honda Pilot and other Honda vehicles have been included in class action lawsuits alleging that its transmissions experience recurring defects, such as violent shaking, acceleration problems, stalling, lurching, gear shifting issues and transmission failure.What is the most common problem with Hondas? ›
Among those, premature engine failure, power steering failure, bad starters, and faulty ignition coils are the most common.Is the Honda Pilot built on a truck frame? ›
Is The Honda Pilot Based On A Car Or Truck Frame? Like the 2021 Honda Pilot, the 2022 edition has a unit body construction. This unibody construction is best known on cars rather than trucks.How much will the 2023 Honda Pilot cost? ›
2023 Honda Pilot Pricing
The 2023 Honda Pilot starts at $39,150. The rugged TrailSport starts at $48,350, while the top-of-the-line Elite kicks off at $52,030. For comparison, the Subaru Ascent, Chevrolet Traverse, and Hyundai Palisade all start in the mid-30s.
When will the 2023 Honda Pilot be available? The 2023 Honda Pilot release date has been announced for December 2022. This all-new Honda midsize three-row SUV is coming to our Honda dealership near Chicago, IL, in a choice of five trim levels, all powered by a new 3.5-liter V-6 engine.Does Pilot hold its value? ›
Hondas have always had excellent resale value, mostly due to their outstanding reliability ratings. The Honda Pilot is no exception in this right. Receiving top picks from accredited raters the Pilot has proven itself to be an outstanding, practical third-row SUV.What Honda model is bigger than the Pilot? ›
Honda Passport Vs.
Overall, the Pilot is 7.4-inches longer than the Passport. However, both models have the same width, and the Passport is taller by up to 1.6-inches. The Pilot offers seating for eight, while the Passport provides seating for five occupants.
The Passport is 1 inch taller than the Pilot, and 6 inches shorter length wise. The width and wheelbases are the same for both models, as for cargo space, the Pilot offers nearly double the volume!! 83.9 cubic feet to be exact, yet the Passport only offers 41.2 cubic feet.Which Honda Pilot is best off road? ›
The new Pilot TrailSport is the most off-road capable Honda SUV ever, engineered to get weekend adventurers even further off the beaten path with special off-road features including a raised off-road tuned suspension, all-terrain tires, steel skid plates and expanded all-wheel drive system capabilities.How well does a Honda Pilot do in the snow? ›
With 280 horsepower and more than seven inches of ground clearance, the 2019 Honda Pilot is more than capable of busting through the snow. Add in the Intelligent Traction Management system that lets drivers select a special Snow Mode for better grip in slippery conditions.
Similar to 4WD, vehicles with AWD provide power to all four wheels. The difference is that AWD varies the amount of power it sends to each wheel, which allows it to be better for everyday situations and conditions.Do Hondas last longer than Toyotas? ›
The Toyota vehicles also consistently last longer than any Honda. According to statistics based on consumer reports, Toyota is the second most reliable automaker after Mazda, and Corolla is the most reliable model. Honda didn't even make it to the top 10 for average reliability.How many miles can a Honda Pilot drive with a full tank of gas? ›
The 2022 Pilot has a max range of over 520 miles on a full tank. For any SUV this large, this range is incredible and the envy of many, non-Honda, SUV drivers. The EPA estimates the 2022 Pilot gets 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 highway mpg, creating an estimated 23 miles per gallon on all models using AWD.How long does a timing belt last on a Honda Pilot? ›
The Honda Pilot Timing Belt has a maintenance schedule of every 105,000 miles or at seven years, whichever arrives first.How do I put my Honda Pilot in Snow mode? ›
Drivers of Pilot two-wheel-drive models can select between Normal and Snow modes; Pilot AWD models add Mud and Sand modes as well. To change modes, drivers press the Intelligent Traction Management button behind the shifter; the button is labeled SNOW on 2WD models, and has a vehicle-profile icon on AWD models.Is the Honda Pilot timing belt or chain? ›
Newer models use timing belts made of polyurethane and Kevlar for long life and durability. They can go as long as 100,000 miles although it's always a good idea to change it before then. Belt failure can cause extensive damage to the valves, pistons and other internal parts of the engine.Is the Honda Pilot a truck or a car? ›
2022 Honda Pilot – Midsize SUV.Who is Honda's high end brand? ›
Acura. Acura is the luxury vehicle division of the Honda Motor Company based in Japan.What is the top of the line Honda model? ›
Honda's most expensive SUV is the all-wheel-drive Pilot Black Edition, with a price just over $53,000.What is Honda's luxury line? ›
Acura is widely considered to be a luxury brand — the premium lineup of Honda. Their vehicles contain premium materials, advanced technology, upscale design, and high-end performance. So, if you're looking for a luxury car or SUV, you'll likely come across options from Acura.
The Honda Pilot is larger and can seat an additional passenger. The GMC Acadia gives front seat passengers more legroom and headroom than the Honda Pilot, as well as additional second-row legroom. View full 2023 GMC Acadia and 2022 Honda Pilot interior dimensions in the accompanying table.Which car is bigger Kia Telluride or Honda Pilot? ›
The Kia Telluride and the Honda Pilot are pretty similar when it comes to their sizes. The Kia Telluride is 196.9 inches long and 78.3 inches wide. The Honda Pilot, for its part, is 199.9 inches long and 78.5 inches wide. The Kia Telluride, however, offers better value for your money with its higher towing capacity.Which is bigger Chevy Traverse or Honda Pilot? ›
The 2021 Chevrolet Traverse obviously bests the 2021 Honda Pilot as far as freight space. It offers 23 cubic feet of room behind the third column, which is significantly more than 16.5 cubic feet for the Pilot. As such, bigger families are probably going to be more agreeable in the Chevy.Is the Honda Pilot bigger than the Hyundai Palisade? ›
The Palisade has 2.4 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Pilot (155.3 vs. 152.9). The Palisade has . 6 inches more front headroom, 3.2 inches more front legroom, 4 inches more rear legroom and .Which SUV is bigger Pilot or passport? ›
Is the Honda Pilot bigger than the Passport? Yes, the new 2022 Honda Pilot SUV for sale is bigger than the new 2022 Honda Passport SUV. The Honda Pilot has three rows of seating for seven or eight total occupants. The Honda Passport SUV has two rows and five seats.Is Honda Pilot a luxury SUV? ›
The 2022 Honda Pilot's cabin is full of quality materials like soft-touch plastics, and everything is assembled with a satisfying finish. Still, you won't mistake it for a luxury SUV, and the overall current-generation design is a little staid compared to rivals that feel fresher inside.Do Honda pilots have AWD or 4WD? ›
But if you're like most Culver City-area SUV enthusiasts you may be wondering, “Does the Honda Pilot have AWD?” The Honda Pilot comes standard with two-wheel drive, but you have the option to upgrade to the Intelligent Variable Torque Management™ All-Wheel Drive (AWD) System, which provides enhanced traction and ...Is the Honda Pilot always in 4WD? ›
The front and rear differentials divide power evenly and control power flow to each wheel. The Honda Pilot's 4WD system operates automatically and constantly. This system is referred to as constant 4WD.How do I put my Honda Pilot in snow mode? ›
Drivers of Pilot two-wheel-drive models can select between Normal and Snow modes; Pilot AWD models add Mud and Sand modes as well. To change modes, drivers press the Intelligent Traction Management button behind the shifter; the button is labeled SNOW on 2WD models, and has a vehicle-profile icon on AWD models.Is Honda Pilot built on truck chassis? ›
Is The Honda Pilot Based On A Car Or Truck Frame? Like the 2021 Honda Pilot, the 2022 edition has a unit body construction. This unibody construction is best known on cars rather than trucks.
Honda Real-Time AWD turns your normally front-wheel-drive Honda into an all-wheel-drive vehicle, but only when it's needed. This means your car will run as a standard front-wheel-drive vehicle otherwise and provides you with that extra level of safety, security, and reliability that Honda is known for.What are disadvantages of AWD and 4WD? ›
Four-Wheel Drive Disadvantages
The main disadvantage of 4WD is added cost for purchase, maintenance, and fuel. The extra equipment (differentials, transfer case, etc.) adds complexity and weight to the vehicle, increasing initial market value, tire wear, and the cost of repairs and maintenance.
When is Four-Wheel Drive Better? Four-wheel drive shines in deep snow, mud, rough or rocky terrain as well as sharp inclines or declines. Since 4WD systems tend to be more robust than AWD systems, they can handle more abuse and power.Is 4WD or AWD better for off-road? ›
AWD removes some of the drama from snow and ice driving. If you deal with extreme snow and ice, 4WD is the ticket. If you also want to off-road into the wild, hands down, 4WD works better if you want to wander off the pavement. Also, 4WD vehicles tend to offer far more towing capacity than AWD vehicles.What is the Honda Pilot VTM-4 lock button for? ›
The Variable Torque Management 4WD System (VTM-4) automatically transfers varying amounts of engine torque to the rear wheels under lower traction conditions. If more traction is needed when your MDX is stuck, or is likely to become stuck, you can use the VTM-4 Lock button to increase torque to the rear wheels.How many miles will a Honda Pilot last? ›
While not as durable as some of the vehicles it shares underpinnings with, the Pilot continues the Honda tradition of reliability and should last over 10 years or 150,000 miles and beyond with few headaches.When should I use VTM-4 Honda Pilot? ›
The VTM-4 system controls the level of torque to the rear wheel of your car in situations where additional traction is needed to get your car out of the terrain.