The Honda Pilot midsize SUV has new front and rear styling for 2019. (Manufacturer photo)

The Honda Pilot midsize SUV has new front and rear styling for 2019. (Manufacturer photo)

Honda Pilot SUV gets several welcome upgrades for 2019

The available 9-speed automatic gearbox is transformed. The Honda Sensing system is now standard.

Honda’s commendable Pilot sport utility vehicle has styling updates for 2019, along with technology additions and upgrades, and a more polished nine-speed automatic transmission.

Pilot is Honda’s largest SUV, with three rows of seats and positions for up to eight people when equipped with a middle-row bench. Even so, Pilot is midsized and therefore not a nightmare in confined areas like parking decks and lots, or crowded city streets.

Styling changes aren’t dramatic but enough to make the new Pilot look more interesting and contemporary. There’s a new front bumper and new front fascia with LED low-beam headlights. In the rear, the taillights, chrome accents and bumper are the newbies.

For 2019 all Pilot models now have Honda Sensing as a standard feature. It’s a collection of sophisticated safety and driver-assistive systems including collision mitigation braking with forward collision warning, road departure mitigation, lane keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control.

There are five trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite. All models are available with two-wheel or all-wheel drive except the Elite, which is all-wheel drive only. Second-row captain’s chairs on Touring and Elite models reduce maximum seating capacity to seven.

The 2019 Honda Pilot has a new display audio system with an 8-inch touchscreen. The system is standard on EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite trim levels. The Elite interior is shown here. (Manufacturer photo)

The 2019 Honda Pilot has a new display audio system with an 8-inch touchscreen. The system is standard on EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite trim levels. The Elite interior is shown here. (Manufacturer photo)

Pricing with destination charge included starts at $32,445 for the LX with two-wheel drive, and inches upward to the Elite trim at $49,015.

My tester was the Elite model. It and the Touring are the only two models equipped with a nine-speed automatic transmission. The others have Honda’s trusty six-speed automatic.

To put it nicely, the nine-speed transmission did not receive accolades when it was first installed in the Pilot. Honda engineers have rectified the situation by working their wizardry on the gearbox and transforming it into a topnotch performer. The impeccable 280-horsepower V6 engine now has a suitable partner.

Pilot’s idle stop feature proved to be a little rough during my test week. The shutoff was fine but the restart made itself too widely known. On the upside, Pilot’s exceptionally quiet and comfortable ride remains.

EPA ratings for the test model are 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. Regular fuel is recommended.

The Elite and Touring models are also beneficiaries of a hands-free power tailgate, available this year for the first time on the Pilot. With the kick of a foot under a specific spot of the rear bumper, and the remote key fob in your possession and, let’s don’t forget, the ability to keep your balance on one foot without using your arms as counterweight, you can automatically open the tailgate when your hands and arms are full.

An all-new display audio touchscreen system is standard on the Pilot EX trim level and above. It has an 8-inch touchscreen with operational functions similar to those of smartphones and tablets. Honda has kept the system easy to use, and added a volume control knob, something missing on the previous model, another situation that did not receive accolades. The system includes all the infotainment and connectivity technologies expected these days, and has an updated 590-watt system with 10 speakers for the Touring and Elite trims.

The 2019 Honda Pilot midsize SUV can accommodate up to eight people when equipped with a middle-row bench seat. (Manufacturer photo)

The 2019 Honda Pilot midsize SUV can accommodate up to eight people when equipped with a middle-row bench seat. (Manufacturer photo)

2019 HONDA PILOT AWD ELITE

Base price, including destination charge: $48,020

Price as driven: $48,020

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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