The design of the Honda Pilot is strictly utilitarian. Although the updated fascia, grille and headlights give the 2012 Pilot a more contemporary look, it's clear that this boxy crossover was strictly meant to be functional. Base LX models get black plastic side body moldings and door handles, while EX models and above get these in body color. Foglights and roof rails on upper trim levels add more functionality as well as a sportier look.
Panel crimps around the wheel openings aid the rugged look without adding width or bolt-on parts that might promote rust. The rear wiper parks off the hatch glass, allowing it to open separately. The hatch has a hefty pull handle with touch-point releases and is powered on the Touring model, and the bumper has a good cover so sloppy loading won't mar the paint.
All Pilots come with a Class III tow hitch and coolers required for towing; only a wiring pigtail will be needed from the dealer. The top tow rating is a respectable 4500 pounds on 4WD and a modest 2000 pounds on front-drive models.
Better-looking textures and materials flank the inside of the 2012 Honda Pilot compared to its predecessor. The revised instrument cluster is attractive and easy to read, with a clear background and silver-toned rings. Although the new center stack is less busy than the previous model, it still contains a mind-numbing 45 buttons, including those for climate control, audio, 4WD and navigation. The large, iDrive-like button for the navigation and entertainment system is placed near the bottom, which takes some getting used to. Still, it's more user-friendly than the last version.
Storage abounds in the 2012 Honda Pilot. A large, deep center console holds plenty of gear, but its cavernous dimensions can gobble up small items and make them tough to find. A three-compartment storage shelf with rubber lining above the glove box gives passengers a slip-proof space for phones and keys.
Leather upholstery on the Touring model is adequate, but not luxe. Front seats offer good support and the built-in heaters get toasty quickly. Front head- and legroom is ample, and the power seats and tilt/telescoping steering wheel has a far enough range of adjustment for drivers of practically any height.
You won't feel short-changed by the Pilot's second-row, 60/40 folding adjustable seats. Passengers get big cupholders back here, too, as well as storage pockets in the doors. Third row seating, which also splits 60/40, is easy to access and offers adequate space for its class, but only children or small adults would be truly comfortable. The seat cushions for the second and third rows are too low for tall passengers, however, forcing those with longer legs into a squatting, knees-up position. The larger Chevy Traverse and Ford Flex are much more comfortable in this regard.
Third-row passengers get extendable headrests, which significantly reduce driver visibility out the back window but can be stowed in the back cushions when not being used.
With all seats in place, the Honda Pilot offers 18 cubic-feet of space, enough for about six standard-sized bags of groceries side-by-side. With the second- and third-row seats stowed, storage space maxes out at a respectable 87 cubic feet. Large and bulky items fit with relative ease thanks to the Pilot's boxy shape. The cargo area has as assortment of tie-down points and bag hooks, and the cargo floor, equipped with a net, can be flipped up and latched against the third-row seatback to create a basket/shelf capable of holding 22 pounds. There is also more storage below the cargo floor.
The cloth upholstery on LX and EX we found to be comfortable in temperature extremes. The cloth is a subdued design with just enough pattern to hide stains that become part and parcel of any eight-seat vehicle. Just like the priciest Pilot, door armrests have soft cushioned elbow pads and there's no cheap feel in frequently felt surfaces.