When I posted about the delivery of Honda’s new Pilot TrailSport on my Twitter account, the reactions were mixed. Some who are into serious off-roaders thought it looked like it was “trying too hard”. My first impression was that it was a nice beefy package with actual all-terrain tires that might be worth a look. Lots of manufacturers are doing the high-riding off-roady crossover, Ford has the Explorer Timberline, Subaru has the Forester Wilderness, Nissan has the Pathfinder Rock Creek (named after a park in DC where people get murdered, a lot).
So, which is it then, cosplay off-roader or beefy crossover? As a recent, albeit brief, Honda owner myself I was excited get into some of the details on the new Pilot trim level to see if it’s any good.
2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport AWD Overview
The Pilot lineup is pretty interesting for 2023. The LX has been a staple of the Honda lineup for decades and still represents the base option, from there you just need to decide wither you are looking for sport or luxury. The Sport, is sporty, and gets you bigger 20-inch wheels and a host of interior upgrades. You used to be able to get an “EX” and an “EX-L” on a Honda lot, the major difference being the “L” which stood for, and still stands for, “leather”. Now it’s just the EX-L, but it adds a ton of comfort and convenience additions to the Pilot. The Touring is technically the next most expensive over the EX-L, but Honda lumps it together with the Elite, as both are more focused on the luxury end.
That leaves us with the new kid, the TrailSport which starts at $48,350.
It’s got a lot off-road trail-focused stuff like standard “i-VTM4TM” all-wheel drive and trim-specific 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, but you also get a higher ground clearance (plus one inch), optimized stabilizer bars, a full-size spare, higher ground clearance, some skid plates (4.0mm up front and 2.8mm for the fuel tank), recovery hooks, a TRAILWATCH® camera system, and an off-road stability management system. Honda calls that “Trail torque logic” which detects conditions of each wheel and adapts as needed to keep you moving. But wait, there’s more:
- Synthetic leather upholstery with orange stitching
- Second-row captain’s chairs
- Heated steering wheel
- Surround-view camera system
- Heated windshield
- Household-style power outlet
- Class III trailer hitch
- Panoramic sunroof
Our tester only added $455 for Sonic Gray Pearl (not Diffused Sky Blue Pearl as noted above, which is too bad because that’s a cool color) bringing the out-the-door price to $50,150. Fifty large for any SUV is a signific…actually that’s pretty average these days. Let’s run the TrailSport through our battery of tests (where we drive it around town for a week) and see how it does.
2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport AWD Overview Inside & Out
The Pilot TrailSport makes a pretty good first impression. Honda isn’t one to over-design their mainstream stuff (except the last gen Type R, yikes (new one looks great though)), so the Pilot is bereft of extraneous exterior details. Just look down that line from the end of the headlights all the way back to the rear, it’s all smooth and clean. The TrailSport adds a handsome set of (slightly Wrangler’esque) 18-inch wheels. Aside from said wheels, and some off-roady orange TrailSport badging front and rear, that’s about the only way to tell a TrailSport from a regular Pilot. Well, that and the aforementioned Diffused Sky Blue Pearl, that’s a trim specific color. But I mean, overall the Pilot is a handsome, if not particularly stand-out design, and the TrailSport continues that trend.
On to the interior.
On the inside, you get a few more clues that it’s a TrailSport including orange stitching on the seats and dash, plus the TrailSport logo set into the headrests. Now that I think of it, Honda interiors emulate their exteriors, you get simple designs without a lot of extraneous detail. The dash is a fairly restrained rectangular pattern with a good sized, not overly huge, touchscreen mounted atop. Your HVAC controls are simply and cleanly laid out below. I actually really like the heated steering wheel button is actually on the steering wheel! I can’t say I’ve seen that on any recent new vehicles. The seats aren’t exceptionally bolstered, but the TrailSport isn’t a corner-carving sports car.
Criticisms were minor, I didn’t like that all the doors don’tnlock when you open the drivers door, but that was the case in my Civic. I also didn’t like that there was no shift knob, but only because I didn’t have anywhere to rest my hand. Minor stuff if I’m honest, Honda has interior ergonomics down.
Second row seating is adjustable forward and aft, so you can maximize legroom for middle or third-row passengers. That third row room isn’t massive, but its respectable. I was able to cram my six-foot self into the back row, just. I’m not sure I would have been comfortable for a long trip, but it’s good to have the option.
As you can see, I kept the third row folded (a manual process) to make room for the hockey bag.
Still, overall the Pilot would tackle fam-duty for a family of five, and have some room to spare.
2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport AWD Overview On the Road
The TrailSport gets the same 3.5L V6 that all of the other Pilots use, putting out 285 horsepower and 262 lb-ft mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Depending on trim, the Pilot weighs in at 4,200 pounds or so, and I never felt like the 3.5L was struggling to get the TrailSport up to speed. The automatic, at least in our tester, was a little clunky. Even shifting between park and drive resulted in a slight rollback as the transmission tried to lock in the requested change. Still, it’ll tow 5,000 pounds (in 4WD guise) which means a small camper or boat is in the cards for a Pilot owner.
For some reason, it has a Sport mode, but like a lot of them it was a little revvy. I felt like it was just revving to rev, whereas in the Civic it felt like it was engineered purposefully to be useful. Plus, the lane change sensor is as annoying as the one in my Civic, which isn’t a big surprise. Similar to the Hyundai/Kia system, it yells at you for lane changes where there is a solid three-car lengths or more. Hey dude, it’s the city, you either take that spot or you someone else will. Speaking of the city, between the parking sensors and the cameras, it is incredibly easy to parallel park. Overall then, the TrailSport was great out on the road, I never noticed any extra noise from the beefier tires.
So, now is about the time that you’ll wonder where the off-roading pictures are, yeah? It was scheduled, but the location fell through at the last second. I had planned to slide it around a little in the mud, but alas the TrailSport found itself on pavement the entire time. Which, let’s face it, is where it will spend nearly 100% of it’s time in life. So this was probably an accurate test. Keep an eye out my (Twitter) buddy Gary Gastelu’s upcoming review, he seems to have gotten his TrailSport loaner out of NYC and onto some trails!
Still, I think I get it. I understand the appeal of the off-roady crossovers, I mean why not? The whole “outdoor lifestyle” thing is huge, I’m not immune to it myself, I love camping and the whole overland thing. Several years ago I participated in the Trail Trek Tour’s compact crossover challenge. We took a bunch of common crossovers out on a rocky, muddy off-road trail and…they all did just fine. There was one flat tire due to a sidewall puncture on a rock, but that was it. The average crossover is surprisingly capable in anything other than rock-hopping or deep muddy ruts, so why not give buyers the option of expanding on that capability a bit with a trim like the TrailSport. Of all the Pilot trims, it’s the one I’d have.
But I just bought a new Wrangler to replace the Civic, so yeah.
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