The all-new 2016 Honda Pilot and 2016 Toyota Highlander are two full-sized SUVs that go the distance, offering many features today’s families desire in a go-anywhere SUV that can haul the whole gang plus a lots of gear with confidence.
These two SUVs are pretty evenly matched. But when it comes right down to it, which takes home the prize for the best quality, performance, versatility, fuel efficiency, safety, and style? We put these two SUV frontrunners to the test. Let’s see who wins.
Pilot All New For 2016
The 2016 Pilot’s styling is entirely new for this year. It now features a sleeker, contemporary and aerodynamic look that jettisons the previous generation Pilot’s rather upright and boxy appearance. From the front, the Pilot features a chrome-accented grille with three large horizontal crossbeams. Available LED headlights and optional 20-inch, five-spoke aluminum alloy sport wheels make a bold statement. From the rear, the new Pilot features larger taillights inset into the rear quarter panel and liftgate.
When comparing the Pilot to the Highlander, TheCarConnection.com’s Editorial Director Marty Padgett calls the new Pilot “the prettiest of them all.” “There’s an elegance to the profile, even if it’s a look we’ve seen on other utes–the Pilot still balances its glass to metal better than anything similar. The low front end and horizontally themed grille play handsomely off each other,” says Padgett.
TheCarConnection.com’s Bengt Halvorson says that “the Highlander remains in the gray area between SUVs and more rakish crossover wagons from the outside…there’s an SUV-ish style that runs exactly opposite to the trend in most other big crossovers.”
Pilot’s Interior Gets Praise
We turn now to a review of the Pilot’s and the Highlander’s interiors. Both are spacious and versatile, and each offers a high level of quality materials. Each can comfortably accommodate up to 8 people with plenty of cargo room to spare. According to TheCarConnection.com’s Marty Padgett, the Pilot’s completely redesigned interior “…is very well finished, with elements from the current Accord, and some touches from the CR-V. Padgett also extols the Pilot’s versatility, saying that the front seats are “just about ideally shaped” and that the Pilot is “an even better bet for smaller or older drivers.” He also likes the Pilot’s effortless third-row seat which folds forward at the touch of a button; a feature he calls “a nice touch.”
Padgett also favorably compares the new Pilot’s interior quality to that of the upscale Acura MDX, noting that, even in base trims, it’s “more luxurious than before.”
By comparison, the Toyota Highlander’s interior, according to TheCarConnection.com’s Bengt Halvorson, is more “car-like.” He also notes that “the third-row bench is handy to have, but it remains very small in all respects.”
The Pilot edges out the Highlander with up to 152.9 cu. in. of overall passenger volume, compared to the Highlander’s 145 cubic inches of interior space. The Pilot also bests the Highlander with up to 46.8 cubic feet versus 42.3 cubic feet of total cargo volume.
Pilot Has More Tech for the Money
You’ll find cutting-edge technology available for both SUVS. Each offers similar whiz-bang “infotainment” goodies, including rear-seat DVD entertainment systems, Bluetooth® wireless connectivity, voice-activated hands-free calling, navigation, Internet-based social media apps, and conveniences such as steering wheel-mounted controls and multiple USB ports. Although TheCarConnection.com’s Padgett notes that “if you’re on a budget, Toyota’s edge has disappeared, now that both carry similar bases prices and equipment” for 2016.
A Winning Performance for the Pilot
The 2016 Honda Pilot and 2016 Toyota Highlander also go head-to-head with respect to performance, handling, and fuel economy. Both SUVs are also fairly evenly matched in this category as well. The Pilot’s 3.5-liter, i-VTEC direct injection V6 develops 280 horsepower and delivers it to the pavement via an all-new, available 9-speed automatic transmission. A 6-speed automatic is also available. The Highlander features a standard 2.7-liter inline 4-cylinder with sequential multi-port injection that delivers 184 horsepower while an available V6 offers 270 horsepower.
The Pilot’s exclusive “Idle Stop” feature on Touring and Elite models seamlessly stops and starts the vehicle’s engine at traffic lights to improve fuel economy. Cylinder deactivation and an overall 300-pound weight loss also help to contribute to the Pilot’s combined 23 mpg EPA city/highway fuel economy numbers. The Highlander’s Hybrid Limited model does get up to 28 combined EPA mpg, but at a starting price more than $17,800 higher than the base, gas-powered Highlander LE model.
Pilot Offers Better Ride & Handling
Where the Pilot really comes into its own compared to the Highlander is in the ride and handling department. While it’s apparent that the Pilot and Highlander have a lot in common, the new 2016 version of the Pilot offers better overall driving dynamics. TheCarConnection.com’s Marty Padgett is very clear about this when he says, “Yet if there’s one distinct thing that separates the Pilot from the Highlander, it’s the Honda’s driving feel. The revamped 2016 model has a fairly firm, well-damped ride and light but responsive steering.”
“You’ll enjoy driving the Pilot,” adds Padgett, “and though the Highlander has improved remarkably in this regard, it still suffers from more numb steering and a harsher ride in heavier versions. The Honda, across the lineup, has better ride control; it’s supple and absorbent.”
Top Marks for Safety
Both the Pilot and the Highlander offer exceptional safety features across the board. Both SUVs earn a Top Safety Pick+ designation from the IIHS. They each offer rear backup cameras, advanced multi-stage airbags, and a variety of active “driver-assist” safety features. The Highlander features such safety technologies as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, as well as available lane departure warning. The Pilot counters with its extensive suite of safety features called “Honda Sensing™.” It consists of a Collision Mitigation Braking System™ integrated with Forward Collision Warning, radar-controlled Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation and Blind Spot Monitoring.
Pilot Gets the Nod
Summing it all up, both the 2016 Honda Pilot and 2016 Toyota Highlander have a lot going for them. But in the final analysis, we think you’ll agree that the Pilot gets the nod over the Highlander based on its new styling, vastly improved interior, and impressive handling. As Marty Padgett says, “When we tally up our numeric ratings, it’s the Pilot that now comes out on top. It’s an energetic performer, and a good-looking one, with slightly better interior space and comfort.”
Get a Winning Deal on a New Honda at Your South Florida Honda Dealers
We invite you to test drive the all-new 2016 Honda Pilot today at one of our conveniently located Honda dealerships near Miami, West Palm Beach, and Ft. Lauderdale. Your South Florida Honda Dealers from Ft. Pierce to Homestead have the winning deals on the entire lineup of new 2016 Honda models for sale in South Florida.
Highlander Photo Credit: