So we got a 2009 Honda Pilot
This is one vehicle I wasn’t exactly looking forward to driving, but asked for one anyway due to popular demand. Our tester had been through many hands before finally reaching us, so it is a bit disheveled, but properly broken in. First impressions are as poor as when seen in photos, but we discovered its many practical aspects as we cruised around Dubai.
The pug-faced front is made to shine more with oddles of chrome, some of which were installed by the local dealer and looks a bit loose around the bumper already.
The back is more forgivable, with dual exhausts and a real metal skidplate, additionally dressed up by the dealer with more glued-on bumper chrome.
The cabin is largely made out of hard plastics, some of which are solid but ill-fitting — surprising for a Honda, but expected in an American-built car such as this. Our first positive reaction came from finding so many useful storage areas, including that shelf above the glovebox, the covered area in the center console, and the cubby under the armrest.
The covered part hid cupholders and the most amazing spring-action coin holder, that stores coins of different sizes like bullets in a gun magazine.
As if that wasn’t enough, another original feature is a sunglasses holder that doubles as a wide-angle mirror to give a clear view of every seating position, to watch over the kids (if we had any).
But wait, there’s more! The screen for the optional rear-view camera is hidden in the central rear-view mirror itself, appearing only when in reverse gear. Like the chrome bumper strips, this might be an aftermarket add-on by the dealer.
This top-of-the-range Pilot also features roll-up sun-screens on the rear side windows, like those found in more expensive cars. Our tester also already came with V-Kool tint.
In a rarity among midsize SUVs, the Pilot now has a full a/c system in the back, complete with vents, temperature and fan controls. In a bit of oversight, the driver cannot turn off the rear fan when there are no passengers in the back, so it took us a while to figure out why there was a propeller-aircraft noise coming from the back when we first picked up the car.
Rear legroom is simply enormous, much more so than the old model. It easily has more room than the Grand Cherokee, the Tahoe or the Pathfinder, while possibly surpassing the new Land Cruiser.
It took us a while, but we figured out how to access the third row. Average-sized people will have their knees scraping the second-row seatback, but it is manageable. People approaching 6-feet need not apply.
The rear luggage area fits a large suitcase with the third row in use. With the last row folded flat, there is almost enough space to lie down. What you see in the photo are nicely-packed-away pieces of plastic underbody cladding, broken off by a previous journalist’s off-road excursion. You’ll probably never read about it.
The Pilot may look like a dork, and designed for dorks, but it proved to be a rather interesting collection of practical engineering. Designed for the most boring people on the planet, the Pilot lacks certain features that make it look bad against the competition. There is no low-range gearing, no navigation, no Bluetooth and no keyless start. Everything else to be expected is included, but it drives unexpectedly flabby, with a softly-suspended chassis and uninvolving controls. At least the V6 engine is perfectly refined, and seriously economical for the weight it pulls. But more about that later, in the full review.