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The brand new 2021 Honda Pilot is already ranking high among other mid-size SUVs. The interior of this SUV is roomy enough for adults in the first two rows and a couple of kids in the third row. While access to the third row is narrow, this is entirely too common for third-row SUVs. And it is one of the only gripes to be had with the Pilot.
There is quite honestly a lot to enjoy about the new Pilot aside from its spacious, well-designed interior. The 9-speed automatic transmission is now standard on every trim level and works well at shifting up and down between gears. The engine is adept at getting excellent fuel economy. The ride is smooth, always remaining compliant while gliding across any type of road surface.
The downside? Aside from the narrow passage into the third row, adaptive cruise control and the collision warning system are far too sensitive. They will issue warnings when none are needed. But, again, this is something of a minor concern for most drivers.
There are a lot of trim levels available on the 2021 Honda Pilot, so you had better buckle up and pay attention to this trim level comparison review. From the base LX to the super chic Black Edition, there are a lot of options available to suit your needs. But which is the right one for you? Which one presents the best overall deal for most buyers? At the end, we will let you know what the final verdict is, so be sure to read through to the conclusion.
Compare the 2021 Honda Pilot LX vs EX - What is the Difference?
The 2021 Honda Pilot line-up starts out strong with a well-equipped base trim known as the LX. It comes with the Honda Sensing suite of standard driver aids, meaning that you get a collision mitigation system, road departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and forward collision mitigation all bundled into one package. Automatic high beams are also included, and there is a multi-angle rear-view camera with guidelines. Brake assist, LED daytime running lights, and a tire pressure monitoring system are also standard safety features.
On the LX, you get a standard 5-inch LCD display, which is accompanied by a 1.0-amp USB audio interface on the front console. The 7-speaker sound system includes a subwoofer, and Bluetooth allows hands-free phone calling and audio streaming. Of course, you can use the AM/FM radio, play MP3s, and utilize the 2.5-amp charging port and front and center console 12-volt power outlets as you wish.
The interior of this trim level is heated and cooled by a dual-zone automatic climate control system that evenly distributes air throughout the cabin. A sunglasses holder can be found up front. You also get push button start, power windows with automatic up-and-down on both front windows, and power tailgate and door locks. There are one-touch turn indicators, a tilt and telescoping steering column, and a multi-functional storage system integrated smartly into the center console.
The vehicle has a remote fuel filler door release inside, not to mention other handy features like a hidden storage well, the fuel filter that is capless, lit-up controls mounted onto the steering wheel, first- and second-row floor mats, and a passenger-side seatback pocket.
In total, eight people can be seated inside of the LX. The third-row bench seat is 60/40-split folding, and there are head restraints available for all seating positions. However, this is the only trim level that does not have the one-touch second-row seats; you will have to upgrade to the EX for that.
So, what features exist on the LX's exterior? It has low-beam LED headlights up front with auto on/off, LED reverse and brake lights, a fin-style roof-mounted antenna, and rear privacy glass. A security system comes standard, as does remote entry. The side mirrors and door handles are done in black, as is the roofline spoiler.
All trim levels are powered by a standard V6 engine that musters up a solid 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Active noise cancellation and hill start assist get included in the mechanics, as does the standard 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
A few important elements get added to the EX trim level. For starters, the Honda Sensing suite gets blind-spot monitoring equipped, and the rear-view camera gains dynamic guidelines. Also, the infotainment gets seriously upgraded to an 8-inch high-resolution display. HondaLink, CabinControl remote compatibility, and smarpthone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto get added on. You also can use SMS text messaging, HD Radio, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The front console gains a 2.5-amp USB smartphone/audio interface.
The cabin gets treated to upgraded tri-zone automatic climate control with controls for the second row included. Illuminated vanity mirrors get added for both front seats, and both seats have seatback pockets. A holder slot for your sunglasses is built into the conversation mirror for efficient storage. The one-touch feature for the second-row seats gets added to the EX, making the seats easier to maneuver when needed. The front seats gain standard heating for an extra touch of luxury.
The exterior of the EX gains a few more features, namely the body-colored door handles and power side mirrors that have integrated turn signals. Walk-away auto lock comes with the smart entry system that becomes standard, and LED fog lights get added up front.
Compare the 2021 Honda Pilot EX vs EX-L - What is the Difference?
When you see the "L" in "EX-L", you might wonder why there is such a distinction here. What makes these trim levels so different? The truth is, not much. The EX-L takes the foundations of the EX and adds a few more creature comforts.
Those creature comforts include the HomeLink remote transceiver system, integrated sunshades for the second row, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and an automatically dimming rear-view mirror. The 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat gains two-position memory for that and the side mirrors, and the front passenger's seat becomes 4-way power-adjustable. Also, the cloth interior from the EX gets swapped out for chic leather upholstery.
The body only gains an acoustic glass windshield and power tailgate.
Compare the 2021 Honda Pilot EX-L vs Special Edition. - What is the Difference?
The Special Edition gets a few unique upgrades from the EX-L when it comes to convenience features. A wireless phone charger gets added in, and the power tailgate gains a hands-free capability. Roof rails get equipped up top. Other than that, there are not a ton of significant changes between these two trim levels.
Compare the 2021 Honda Pilot Special Edition vs Touring - What is the Difference?
The Touring is known for being one of Honda's more luxurious and stylish trim levels on any of its vehicles. On the 2021 Honda Pilot, the Touring gets treated to some serious upgrades. The infotainment system gains built-in navigation with HD traffic and voice recognition features. Also, an advanced rear entertainment system with a huge 10.2-inch display comes standard - something you will not find in many of its competitors who leave their systems as options across the board.
Other standard features include a 115-volt power outlet, a second-row HDMI interface, an impressive 10-speaker sound system, subscription services to HondaLink, wifi hot-spot connectivity, and multi-zone audio. The front row gains courtesy lights on its doors, and the cabin can be lit up in blue ambient LED lighting. Even the beverage holders get illuminated.
The Touring does give you the option of having second-row captain's chairs, making it a 7-seater. These seats (as well as the outboards on the bench-style) gain standard heating, and the captain's chairs are done in perforated leather upholstery. The exterior gains front and rear parking sensors and LED headlights with auto on/off.
Compare the 2021 Honda Pilot Touring vs Elite Trim Level. - What is the Difference?
Naturally, the Elite gives you even more standard features, bringing the Pilot almost to the luxury level. In fact, this outdoes some of the entry-level base trims you will find in luxury SUV line-ups. The Elite has LED map lights up front, all rows have floor mats, and the steering wheel is heated.
Bear in mind that the second-row captain's chairs are standard in the Elite. You cannot opt for the bench either. Still, it might feel like a fair trade for standard heating and ventilation on the front seats. Plus the chrome accents on the exterior (such as the door handles) are a nice touch. There is even a panoramic sunroof.
Compare the 2021 Honda Pilot Elite vs Black Edition. - What is the Difference?
Finally, we have the Black Edition. This costs a little over $1,000 more than the Elite and, as you might have already guessed, blacks everything out. It also changes the interior ambient LED lighting to red instead of blue. The door handles become gloss black to match the paint job. Other than that, expect to find all the same standard features inside of the Black Edition.
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Which Trim to Choose?
As you can clearly see, the 2021 Honda Pilot offers a lot of options. Which one might be the right pick for you? Consider going for one of the mid-level trims. The EX-L is well-equipped, possessing just about everything you could need and much of what you might want. It adds a few things that the EX does not have but keeps all the foundations.
The Pilot is a vehicle that can get expensive the higher up you go. Most SUV buyers want something practical and affordable, so sticking with a mid-level trim should keep you within a reasonable budget. However, if you are looking to really up the ante, the Elite trim level has absolutely everything you could possibly ask for (unless you are asking for everything to be black, in which case the Black Edition should be your ideal pick). The Elite manages to get the Pilot right up there into luxury territory, and you might be hard-pressed to find a base trim on an entry-level SUV that has everything the Elite does.
If you want more than what the EX-L offers but cannot swing it with the Elite's price tag, give the Touring some consideration. This trim level is popular for a good reason. Buyers wanting to spend a little more to get a lot more will be pleased by everything that comes standard on the Touring. The sound system is downright awesome, and there are more than enough standard driver aids to make you feel secure.
Overall, you cannot go wrong with a 2021 Honda Pilot. The competition will have to try hard to best it next year after it gets redesigned. The Pilot is already a fantastic vehicle, so it is hard to imagine how Honda will make it even better in the near future.
• Compare the 2020 Honda Pilot Trim Levels