2009 Honda Pilot Prototype Preview

Jeff Youngs | Dec 31, 2008
  • Complete redesign

  • New interior and exterior styling

  • Seating for 8 with more space in every seating position

  • Front- or all-wheel drive (FWD or AWD) available

  • V-6 engine with improved Variable Cylinder Management system

  • Sales to start in spring 2008


Honda entered the midsize SUV market in 2002 with the 2003 Pilot. With seating for 8 and a car-based platform that provided a smooth ride and decent handling, the Pilot became an immediate success and sales topped out at more than 150,000 units in the United States in 2006. At the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Honda showed the close-to-production-ready 2009 Honda Pilot Prototype, a vehicle that maintains the Pilot's proven formula but adds more room, a revised cylinder deactivation system, new safety features, and fresh styling inside and out.

Due in spring, the 2009 Pilot will use a modified version of the Acura MDX platform. It will continue to seat 8 with front captain's chairs and 60/40-split folding second- and third-row seats. Dimensions haven't been released, but Honda says passenger room will be improved in every seating position, the second row will slide further forward, and the third row will have enough knee room for an above-average-sized adult male to fit comfortably. The rear two seating rows will fold flat to create a larger rear cargo area than the current model's 87.6 cubic feet. V-6 power will return, as will FWD and AWD.

Model LineupHonda hasn't announced the complete Pilot lineup, but the company has said it will add a top-of-the-line Touring model. The current range includes VP, EX, SE and EX-L models, each available with FWD or AWD. Expect a basic model called either LX or VP to return, as well as EX, SE and EX-L models. Equipment should be mostly the same as that in the 2008 lineup. The current base VP model comes with cloth upholstery; air conditioning; interior air filter; tilt steering wheel with audio controls; cruise control; height-adjustable driver seat; power windows, mirrors and door locks; remote keyless entry; AM/FM stereo with 6-disc CD changer; XM satellite radio; roof rails; immobilizer theft-deterrent system; and P235/70R16 tires on alloy wheels. The EX model adds automatic climate control; power driver's seat; heated outside mirrors; universal garage door opener; and fog lights. SE models have a sunroof; a conversation mirror; and a rear DVD entertainment system with a 9-inch video screen, remote control, and wireless headphones. All EX-L models have leather upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass. EX-L models are also available with rear DVD entertainment, DVD-based navigation system with voice recognition, and rearview camera. Expect the Touring model to come standard with all the amenities.


Honda has not said what size engine the 2009 Pilot will use, only that it will be a V-6 engine with the latest generation of Honda's fuel-saving Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) technology.

The new VCM will operate in 6-cylinder mode when power is needed and 4- and 3-cylinder modes under light load conditions to improve fuel efficiency. The 2008 Pilot's VCM system works only in 6- and 3-cylinder modes. The current model also has Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) in FWD models. This system uses noise cancellation technology that emits a reverse phase audio signal to reduce road, wind and other noise by up to 10 decibels. Honda has not said if ANC will return.

The 2009 Pilot will most likely feature either a version of the 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which makes 244 hp in the 2008 Pilot and 268 hp in the 2008 Honda Accord, or the 3.7-liter V-6 engine, which produces 300 hp in the 2008 Acura MDX. No matter the engine, it will be mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy numbers have not been announced, but they should be similar to the 2008 Pilot's 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway with FWD and 15 mpg city/20 mpg highway with AWD. Honda says towing capacity will be increased from the current maximum of 4500 pounds.

Like the 2008 model, the Pilot's AWD system will be meant mostly for inclement weather. However, it will include a locking center differential, giving it modest off-road capability.


The current Pilot has earned 5-star ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the driver and front passenger in front impacts, as well as the driver and rear passengers in side impacts. It has also earned a 4-star rating for rollover resistance from the NHTSA. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named the 2008 Pilot one of its "Top Safety Picks" thanks to "Good" ratings for frontal offset, side and rear crash protection. Honda says the Pilot will be even safer for 2009, thanks to its new Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure and greater use of high-strength steel. ACE enhances frontal collision compatibility with vehicles of different sizes and bumper heights and is designed to mitigate pedestrian injury. Standard safety features should mirror those of the current Pilot: dual front air bags; torso-protecting front side air bags; head-protecting curtain side air bags that cover all three seating rows and have rollover deployment; tire-pressure monitor; ABS with brake assist; traction control; and electronic stability control.
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