Honda's Symphony of Organization Counters a Cacophony of Chaos
It doesn't matter whether the kids are five, ten, or 15 years old; if you put more than two of them together in any sedan for more than just a few minutes be prepared for the discordance of sibling complaints: an anything-but-pleasant opera highlighted by the all-too-familiar chorus of "Moooom, he touched me!" This cacophony of whining and taunting explains why the midsize sport utility vehicle has become the popular choice for today's conductor of compact- to mid-sized people.
Enter the Honda Pilot: With three rows of seats and plenty of room for groceries and gear, it's possible to haul the entire family and all their stuff without having to endure their deafening dissonance. In fact, an abundance of power outlets (four!) also means you can hand them all MP3 players, and cease any objections the brood might have to Mom's musical selections.
Plenty of cubbies and storage pockets abound to store the stuff that only kids can bring, and nine cupholders ensure everybody will have a place to safely set their drink or water bottle. A fold-down activity tray in the center of the second row holds two cups and offers a flat surface to keep toys or books from rolling around between passengers. (A frazzled parent can also use this as barrier between children who can't seem to keep their appendages to themselves.) A conversation mirror tucked up into the sunglasses holder of SE and EX-L models can also help Mom maintain harmony between her passengers. Arturo Toscanini should have had so many tools!
The current-generation Pilot promises roomy seating for eight (at a
petite 5'2" I'm quite comfortable back there, but short-legged
pre-high-schoolers will probably be more comfortable in the last row
than their taller parents), and has earned a reputation for comfortable
ride and handling. In fact, the Pilot has earned Car and Driver magazine's prestigious "5Best Truck" award for six years running.
Both the second- and third-row seats split 60/40 and fold flat for a variety of people and cargo-carrying options: With the seats up, you can easily carry the kids as well as a week's worth of groceries. Fold some seats down and move the kids around a bit, and it looks as if you can fit the whole orchestra -- drums, tubas, and all. (An underfloor compartment in the wayback conveniently tucks the headrests out of the way to make this even easier to arrange.) Second-row seats split and slide to provide access to the back row from either side of the vehicle; unfortunately, two booster seats cannot be LATCH-mounted in the second row without hindering access to the third, so if you've got two kids in safety seats, one of them will have to be belt-mounted into either the back row or the center spot of the second row.
Your traveling musicians are kept safe by standard antilock disc brakes with electronic brake distribution, tire-pressure monitoring system, and vehicle stability assist with traction control, as well as front and side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Impressive Government crash test ratings award the Pilot five stars for frontal impact safety of the driver and passenger, as well as five stars for front and rear side impact safety. And then there's its reputation for bulletproof Honda reliability -- Consumer Reports sings its praises with a "Very Good" overall rating. Meanwhile Honda's Maintenance Minder system touts 100,000 miles with no scheduled tune-ups (with a note that your results may vary depending on driving conditions).
Now in its sixth year of production, this generation Pilot is due for a redesign for the 2009 model year, promising new styling and advanced technologies for safety, fuel efficiency, and convenience. I'm hoping its reorchestration will also include a power-down rear hatch door and keyless engine start/stop.
On a symphonic scale of one to ten, I give the Honda Pilot a ninth. Regardless of whether you like the Beatles or Bach, when you're a parent of more than one, anything that provides a rest from the racket of clamoring kids is a pleasant chord.
Specs: 2008 Honda Pilot EX-L
Base Price: $27,595
Price as Tested: $32,640
Engine: 3.5-liter/244-hp iVTEC V-6
EPA Fuel Economy: 16/22 (approximate range: 300-400 miles per tank)
Turning Radius: 19.0"
Cargo Space: 15.9 cu ft (behind 3rd row) 87.6 (behind 1st row)
NHTSA Crash-Test Ratings
Driver's Side: *****
Passeger's Side: *****
Front Occupant: *****
Rear Occupant: *****
Rollover Resistance: ****
LATCH connectors: 2 anchors/tethers in the 2nd row, 2 tethers in 3rd row
Seating Capacity: 8 (including driver)
Storage Compartments (tiny as a tot, tween, teen, or adult?): Adult
Cargo/Trunk Space: Adult
By Brandy A. Schaffels
Brandy Schaffels is a veteran automobile journalist who also writes mom-centric car reviews exclusively for DallasChild magazine. A car gal at heart, Brandy first burned rubber in a red 1976 Chevy Monza, but she currently drives a minivan to accommodate her two sons, ages 14 and 5.