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Honda Pilot 2023: new-gen V6-equipped SUV revealed with Subaru Outback-rivalling off-road chops


Seating for up to eight, 213kW 3.5-litre petrol V6 and a TrailSport version with impressive off-road chops. If only they’d make it right-hand drive

If Honda Australia were to draw up a vehicle wish list, we think a right-hand-drive version of America’s Pilot large SUV would be right up there.

While Aussie Honda showrooms make do with just the midsize CR-V and smaller HR-V in its SUV arsenal, Stateside they’ve just revealed the largest and most powerful Honda SUV ever with this fourth-generation eight-seat Pilot.

Honda Pilot 2023 rear
Honda’s new-generation Pilot is the brand’s most powerful SUV ever

An Alabama-built left-hooker, there are no murmurs, sadly, of a right-hand-drive version in the works, meaning Australia misses out on this potential Toyota Kluger, Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9 rival. Honda’s Ridgeline dual-cab pick-up, also built in Alabama, suffers likewise.

This just-revealed new-generation Pilot uses a 213kW/355Nm 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. It’s a bit sporty, too, with paddle shifters as standard to add a bit more driver engagement.

What’s this? A proper Honda off-roader?

A rugged Pilot TrailSport grade has Toyota RAV4 / Ford Everest vibes, and Honda calls it “the most off-road capable Honda SUV ever,” even though there’s little in the way of prior competition.

The TrailSport doesn’t boast a low-range transfer case for proper 4×4’ing, but does offer raised off-road tuned suspension, all-terrain tyres, steel skid plates and expanded all-wheel drive system capabilities.

Honda Pilot 2023 off road
Beefy suspension, skid plates and more are available on the TrailSport grade

Joining the dirt-seeking Trailsport are Sport, EX-L, Touring and Elite grades. Next to the outgoing Pilot SUV, the new model brings a larger upright grille, more flared fenders, wider tracks, larger tyres and distinctive LED rear lights.

Inside are three rows of seats in a 2+3+3 configuration, allowing super breeders the chance to carry eight. The second row centre seat can fold to allowing a captain’s chair-style wide centre armrest with additional drinks holders, or totally removed (and stowed under the rear cargo floor) for a walk-through access to the third row.

All the key features for the modern family buyer

Depending on grade, features include a 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster, 9.0-inch HD touchscreen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, wireless phone charging, seven drive modes including Sport, Tow and Trail modes, new wide-view camera and radar, hill descent control, front passenger airbag, Bose audio and opening panoramic sunroof.

Heated seats are standard on all, while leather lands on EX-L and Touring. Flagship Elite gets perforated leather with ventilation.

Honda Pilot 2023 interior
The interior has also been updated with Honda’s latest design and technology

Standard on TrailSport and Elite is Honda’s i-VTM4 torque vectoring all-wheel-drive. This updated system allows up to 70 per cent of the engine’s torque to be sent to the rear axle, and 100 per cent of that can be distributed to either the left or right wheel, giving these Pilots reasonable off-road chops. Tow rating is around 2200kg.

Why the Pilot TrailSport has us most interested

The TrailSport’s off-road abilities aren’t in the same league as our market’s ute-based seven seat SUVs, but one would be a solid alternative to the (five-seat) Subaru Outback, for example.

Exclusive to the grade is specific off-road hardware, including a new ‘trail torque logic’ off-road system and TrailWatch four-camera system to help avoid hazards.

Honda Pilot 2023 front 3/4
Subaru Outback-rivalling off-road ability could find favour in the Aussie market

You get off-road tuned suspension with a one-inch lift higher than lesser Pilots, custom stabiliser bars, bespoke spring rates and damper valve tuning, Continental TerrainContact all-terrain tyres, recovery points, bash plates and inside, all-season floor mats and orange contrast cabin stitching.

Feeling even more rugged? A Honda Performance Development (HPD) package is optional, bringing bronze-coloured aluminium wheels, fender flares and HPD decals.

The new generation Pilot goes on sale in the US in December, but prices have yet to be announced. But please, Honda, how about a much wished for right-hook version?

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