Honda could be sending a clear message with the 2019 Honda Pilot. The Japanese automaker makes two all-new SUVs (the Pilot and the Ridgeline) and a non-truck, the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas. The two vans, along with the Nissan Armada and Volvo XC90, dominate the category. Both the Pilot and Atlas come in diesel and gasoline models.
Both can tow up to 8,000 pounds, have a V6 gas engine, front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and come with 2nd or 4th generation Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Rear Traffic Alert with Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, and Forward Collision Warning. Both sport a large, bullet-shaped grille that reminds me of the Mercedes-Benz G550. The Atlas is longer and wider and comes with a removable roof that we would like to see on a non-four-wheel drive car. The Pilot is taller and broader. One major difference is the Pilot is smaller, at almost 2,000 pounds lighter, for only a 3 percent increase in horsepower.
The downside with the Pilot is that it is more expensive, with a starting price of $43,998, but its safety features are worth it. You could be looking at an extra couple hundred to fill the tank.
The Pilot’s interior design is also a highlight, being space tight and exceptionally simple. We find ourselves moving almost between loving and hating the Pilot. We see it as the perfect choice for those who want a spacious, efficient, roomy vehicle that can tow or haul larger family members — yet it doesn’t overwhelm the driver and passenger. The Pilot is a considerate vehicle for my needs, but I wish it had more technology and less styling bling, like the Atlas, but still had the luxury features.
The VW Atlas is larger than the Pilot but is also cheaper, starting at $32,898 for a four-wheel drive version with fewer advanced features. Neither can tow more than 8,000 pounds. The Pilot isn’t a true SUV, for its size, so you could consider it a tool for the weekend job or as the family vehicle that won’t cost much for me. It is one of the more reliable and comfortable and clean vehicles we have driven. That leaves the Atlas as the overall winner for us.
Here’s what the two have in common — their prices and their safety features. The Pilot seats up to seven, while the Atlas seats six. Both offer 4G LTE Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi hot spots to connect up to 10 devices at one time. Both offer “Free Live TV” and Pandora and Apple CarPlay, as well as satellite radio. Both have only one USB port, which could be a problem if you plan to use your device for lots of charging. The Pilot has a third USB port in the “Hybrid” version, but the Atlas does not. The Pilot’s ceiling height and roof height can be adjusted for a more spacious feeling, but not all the cubbies inside can be raised, like in the Volkswagen Atlas.
We cannot escape the crossover problems that plague the category, however. Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue both make an appearance on our list. The RAV4 gets two stars and the Rogue one, because they lack EPA fuel-economy estimates. The subcompact Explorer is three and the full-size Lincoln Navigator gets four. The 4×4 Ford Expedition is not rated, but we like the V6 model and the 5.5-liter (diesel) V8 is a nice option.
The 2018 Pilot came with front-wheel drive. The 2019 Pilot offers either all-wheel drive or the Hybrid version with two-wheel drive. We are experiencing a bit of a hybrid shortage, so we were unable to purchase the Hybrid Pilot. The Pilot makes a concerted effort to include premium and luxury features. In recent years, Honda has added more premium interior trim elements in its vehicles, including flat-bottomed steering wheels, front, rear, and side-mounted climate control controls and larger second-row seat armrests with a steering wheel.
The Pilot and the Atlas both offer a ton of features, including these features: Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Rear Traffic Alert with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, Rear Traffic Alert with Forward Follow and Blind Spot Intervention, and Automatic High Beam.