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The 2016 Honda Pilot will offer 20-in wheels. "It's a first-time application for any Honda model as a non-accessory from the aftermarket," said Honda's Rudy Mayne.

Redesigned, re-engineered 2016 Honda Pilot

From its panoramic roof to its platform, the third-generation Honda Pilot is vastly different from its predecessor.

“From top to bottom we’ve advanced every aspect of the new Pilot, appealing to buyers’ diverse needs and wants,” said Marc Ernst, the 2016 Honda Pilot’s Chief Engineer and Large Project Manager.

The SUV made its world premiere at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show.

The three-row midsize utility vehicle’s optional panoramic roof is a new Pilot feature. “We’re able to maintain our roof-mounted rear entertainment system, which is the best place for viewing, especially for the third row,” Rudy Mayne, Honda’s Assistant Large Project Leader, said in an interview with Automotive Engineering. The fixed-glass panoramic roof with power shade complements a separate sunroof for front-row occupants.

Honda’s all-new global midsize light-truck platform debuted on the 2014 Acura MDX luxury SUV.

“The 2016 Pilot is the second vehicle off that platform, so there is some commonality in the basic platform,” Ernst told Automotive Engineering. “Moving forward, this platform will be the basis for the Ridgeline. Of course, there will be some different tuning because it’s a pickup truck. And this platform will be the basis for the next Odyssey [minivan].”

The 2016 Pilot’s rear differential system is lighter weight and more efficient than the former viscous coupling design.

“This new electronically controlled system gives us a lot of advantages in terms of putting the torque where it really needs to be and sensing wheel slip before the actual slip,” said Ernst. This is a first application for Honda. The Acura MDX has a similar system, but it is tuned differently.

Ernst said the 2016 Pilot will be powered by the latest version of the 3.5-L direct-injected i-VTEC V6 engine with Variable Cylinder Management cylinder deactivation technology. Replacing the 2015 Pilot’s five-speed automatic transmission are two new transmissions: a Honda-developed six-speed automatic transmission and a ZF-developed nine-speed automatic transmission. The six-speed is a Pilot-first application, while the nine-speed is a Honda-first application.

Honda officials are not yet releasing horsepower, torque, or fuel-economy ratings, but Ernst said the new powertrain, the approximate 300-lb (136-kg) drop in vehicle weight, and the anticipated best-in-class aerodynamics should equate to best-in-class fuel economy. The 2WD 2015 Pilot’s mpg is 18 city/25 highway/21 combined, while the 4WD model’s mpg is 17 city/24 highway/20 combined.

With 3 in (76 mm) of added vehicle length, the new Pilot has a larger cargo area than the 2015 model. Entry and exit from third-row seating improves with a 1-in (25-mm) lower step-in height. An available one-touch button conveys an automatic forward slide/forward tilt of second-row seating. The second row is a standard 60/40 split bench seat, or a Honda-first application of optional captain’s chairs.

Pricing will be announced closer to the 2016 Pilot’s launch at Honda dealerships in summer 2015. All three generations of Pilot were designed and developed by Honda R&D Americas Inc. in California and Ohio. The 2016 Pilot and its engine will be assembled at the automaker’s Lincoln, AL, plant.

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