Honda Reveals 2009 Pilot Prototype in Detroit
By Chris Haak
Honda today revealed a “prototype” of its 2009 Pilot crossover. As I noted in this post a few days ago, the crossover segment is red hot (up over 20% in 2007’s otherwise shrinking market), so the competition is intense. Honda’s CR-V was the best-selling SUV or crossover in 2007, and I’m sure Honda would like to replicate some of that success in its larger Pilot crossover.
To that end, the prototype 2009 Pilot that Honda revealed today looked to be about 95% production ready. I could visualize some of the smaller details such as interior materials and switches changing in the production model, but it really looked to be both very close to production-ready, and very much along the lines of Honda’s current design direction. That is, somewhat underwhelming. Or, to put it another way, offensively inoffensive. In my opinion, Honda played it too conservatively with the re-done Pilot. Other than attractive fender bulgs, it’s nearly slab sided. It looks like an overgrown Jeep Liberty, which is itself a shrunken Jeep Commander.
Honda apparently doesn’t see it this way. John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda, said that the new Pilot will bear some bolder hallmarks, including “a strong front end,” “crisp character” lines and “a confident stance.” Sorry, but the thing is two boxes on wheels.
I really doubt, however, that people buy the Honda Pilot for its looks. It is relatively fuel efficient for its size, as well as being very spacious inside (with seating for eight adults in a pinch). The 2009 model will build upon both of those traits; it will be powered by a V6 engine that includes the latest version of Honda’s VCM (Variable Cylinder Management) which allows the engine to run on 3-, 4-, or 6-cylinder mode depending on need, just like the 2008 Accord’s V6 allows. The current Pilot’s engine’s older VCM allows only 3- or 6- cylinder mode. Inside, interior packaging (always a Honda hallmark) has been improved further and the third row has larger dimensions in most key areas, allowing an “average sized adult” to have adequate knee room in the third row for the first time. Since I’m about six inches taller than “average size,” I assume that means I won’t fit, but that’s OK, as I don’t plan to ride in the third row of a Pilot anytime soon.
Honda did not say so, but I would expect the 2009 Honda Pilot to go on sale in Fall 2008. Since it will be more spacious inside, have a “bolder” appearance, probably get fuel economy, and still drive as well as any other Honda, it should exceed the Pilot’s sales of 117,146 in 2007.
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