It may be laborious to consider that the 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport adopted the trail of Jeep Wranglers on the snow-slicked rocks and mud-rutted path exterior of Sedona, Arizona, this January. To be truthful, the Wranglers had been painted pink and upfitted with an open rear that might match eight vacationers beneath a Safari-style cover. Although removed from Jeep Jamboree-type materials, the Pilot TrailSport was extra succesful than the vacationers’ crossover SUVs left behind within the parking zone.
Extra importantly, the redesigned eight-seat crossover SUV with the off-road tools proved its mettle towards rival smooth roaders such because the Ford Explorer Timberline and Kia Telluride X-Professional (and even the Honda Passport Trailsport) that boast rugged advertising greater than off-road functionality.
Honda says the brand new 2023 Pilot TrailSport is able to dealing with off-road terrain thought of simple or average that makes up 52% of U.S. public land. It’s not one thing to scale the slick rock of Moab or trek down and up a gorge, but it surely exceeded expectations within the scrabbly semi-desert sandstone of Sedona.
The longest and largest Pilot will get a bit longer because the TrailSport, and it rides an inch increased than different Pilots with a floor clearance of 8.3 inches. The method angle will increase, and a 4.0-mm-thick high-strength metal entrance skid plate protects the brand new 285-hp 3.5-liter V-6 and new 10-speed transmission powering the fourth technology Pilot.
2023 Honda Pilot
Torque stays the identical at 262 lb-ft, however the brand new powertrain reduces carbon emissions by a minimum of 40%, although it has an EPA score of 1 mpg lower than its predecessor. Nonetheless, with customary all-wheel drive, the Pilot TrailSport drives quietly and easily on pavement, even with Continental Terrain Contact all-terrain tires (265/60 R18) wrapped round 18-inch wheels.
The engine feels acquainted, however the 10-speed flicks by way of gears so rapidly as to be unnoticeable. It may downshift 4 gears without delay for faster passing response, and customary paddle shifters give the motive force some management. In Sport mode, it may be somewhat jumpy on downshifts, however in any other case it’s far smoother than rivals’ 9- and 10-speeds that may dance round in quest of a accomplice. It helps to maintain the engine and cabin quiet, besides in Sport mode, when Honda amplifies some engine noise by way of the audio system. It sounds fairly good, too.
Flicking by way of the drive modes—Regular, Econ, Snow, Tow, and Sport—adjusts throttle response, shift timing, and steering weight to provide the household hauler a bit extra character for the circumstances, and AWD fashions add Path and Sand modes. With the 18-inch tires, there wasn’t that a lot distinction total experience high quality within the TrailSport versus the Pilot Elite and its 20-inch wheels.
2023 Honda Pilot
Sharing the model’s new international gentle truck platform with the Acura MDX, the 2023 Pilot is as much as 60% stiffer than its predecessor. Revised MacPherson entrance struts in addition to a stiffer multilink rear suspension give it a extra planted really feel on the street with much less lean than its predecessor.
Path mode was welcome off the pavement within the TrailSport. The tall decrease gears that may trigger a little bit of sluggishness from a stoplight assist out at low speeds whereas crawling up a staircase of snow-dusted rock. On such ascents, a light-weight press on the throttle saved it shifting ahead with out lurching forward however as soon as off the throttle it didn’t rock again both. The tires helped, and the Trailsport remained regular.
A extra superior all-wheel-drive system additionally helped transfer the TrailSport alongside out and in of ruts and thru mud puddles. Just like Acura’s Tremendous Dealing with All-Wheel Drive, the Pilot’s variable torque administration system can ship as much as 70% of the torque to the rear wheels. A torque-vectoring rear differential then can direct as much as 100% of that torque to the rear wheel with essentially the most grip. Even in instances through which drivers appeared to pause and tilt towards a desert bush, the system used the grounded wheel till the opposite one settled totally again down to tug ahead with no drawback.
2023 Honda Pilot
One other skid plate protects the gas tank, however the usual full-size spare and the hitch on the TrailSport lower into the departure angle and will result in a scrape popping out of a rocky rut. Each the hitch and the entrance skid plate have restoration factors which are rated to haul out double the gross automobile weight of the Trailsport. The curb weight is 4,650 kilos, and it’s rated to tow 5,000 kilos.
Modified stabilizer bars assist with wheel articulation, however the Pilot TrailSport lacks the shocks and real off-road bits to develop wheel journey to the extent of rock crawler. Nonetheless, it shouldn’t have an issue going past entry roads by way of the woods into looking or farm land.
2023 Honda Pilot
Honda additionally provides customary hill descent management. On grades of seven levels or higher it maintains throttle and braking management between 2-12 mph. I examined it, however I doubt many Pilot TrailSport drivers will descend such steep grades for such sustained intervals as to want it, but when they do Honda additionally supplies a spotter. A surround-view digicam system engaged in Path mode or by way of the wiper stalk supplies eyes on the entrance, overhead, and from the aspect mirrors, serving to the large Pilot navigate corners and detect dropoffs.
The TrailSport gave me extra confidence than I anticipated, and Honda let it show itself on a course shared with Wranglers laden with vacationers. The Pilot TrailSport seats seven passengers, too, and its panoramic sunroof acts like a protected safari cover, however it may well additionally take the household cross nation in quiet and calm. The $49,695 Pilot TrailSport has surprising off-road functionality that provides an adventurous spirit to a smart household hauler.
Honda paid for airfare and lodging for Motor Authority to deliver you this firsthand report.