The 2012 Honda Pilot has established itself as a four-wheeled family servant, playing the part of a minivan for those who wouldn't be caught dead driving a minivan. This SUV is a family truckster that's better suited for the pokey parkway than the Rubicon trail.
In the decade since the Pilot was introduced, it has gained a mere 10 horsepower, and just under 60 pounds, while retaining its five-speed automatic gearbox. So you'd expect the new model to retain the sporty flair previous ones possessed.
OK, it doesn't.
But Pilot buyers do not crave athletic handling or adventurous styling. They need an able-bodied vehicle at their beck and call. And like household help, the Pilot does its best to stand by, but not stand out.
The bulbous styling that debuted for 2008 gets tweaked with a handsome new three-bar grille and revised front fascia, all aimed at reducing wind resistance and improving fuel economy.
Aesthetics may no longer be Honda's strong suit, but the Pilot does get the basics right, and that's where it really shines. You can see it in a number of small touches throughout the cabin, from the generously sized cupholders to the front seat center console and many niches that are perfectly sized for holding many different items.
The front row and second row are comfortable and spacious; the third row is best suited for children. Or fold that seat and enjoy the storage space. Cargo space is rating at 18 cubic feet with all seats raised, but most of the space is vertical. Thoughtfully, there is an additional 2.8 cubic feet under the cargo floor.
When it comes to piloting the Pilot, you can choose between front-wheel or all-wheel drive. There's one engine offered: a 3.5-liter single-overhead-cam engine produces a perfectly adequate 250 hp through a smooth shifting five-speed automatic transmission.
While the driveline has changed little over the past decade, Honda has managed to improve its fuel economy for 2012.
Honda says that it made the Pilot quieter this year, although road and tire noise still seem intrusive. Handling is perfectly fine, but you would be hard-pressed to call it fun. The ride is very comfortable, although the Pilot feels bigger and heavier than it actually is.
Still, this car's beauty is in the way it serves its owners, not in flashy handling or Grand Prix dreams, but graceful space and conservative looks. Its updates are evolutionary, not revolutionary.
The Pilot's service is so ably unobtrusive, you may be tempted to name it Jeeves.
Base price (excluding destination charge): $28,470
Price as tested: $41,630
Wheelbase: 109.2 inches
Length: 191.4 inches
Weight: 4,497 pounds
Cargo space: 18-87 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 2,500-4,500 pounds
EPA fuel economy(city/highway): 17/24 mpg
Bottom line: Forget the grand prix dreams; this is about cargo space and conservative looks.