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A blue 2022 Honda Pilot EX-L is shown from the side parked in front of a modern house.

The 2022 Honda Pilot is the Poster Child for Practicality

When it comes to debating the merits of various midsize SUVs, comparing models based on practicality isn’t the most exciting topic. Still, a growing number of SUV buyers are wading through reams of reviews about advanced infotainment technology and nifty bells-and-whistles to try and figure out which one offers the most value. That’s where the 2022 Honda Pilot usually enters the discussion.

The Pilot is a longstanding favorite among practical buyers for its no-nonsense design and fantastic reliability ratings. But, even the most even-keeled buyers still won’t shy away from a few affordable creature comforts, which is why Honda stacked the Pilot lineup with seven different trims. It’s a slow build in price from the base Sport to the luxurious Black Edition, offering buyers plenty of stops along the way.

Whether your practical buying habits come with a side order of leather seating or you believe spending a few extra dollars for a moonroof is reasonable, Honda lays out a thoughtful and gradual trim spectrum that peppers each option with some of the most desirable luxury and convenience features value-oriented buyers secretly want, but don’t want to pay thousands more to get. Don’t be ashamed to put practicality at the top of your shopping list. Instead, go test drive a Pilot. Here’s why.

Honda Pilot Value-Priced Trims

First off, the Pilot is a practical SUV alternative for minivan haters. It’s from that point of view that the base Pilot Sport begins to take shape as the perfect minivan substitute. It features a powerful V6 engine and standard traction control, along with the Honda Sensing suite of driver-assist systems that includes a Collision Mitigation System with automatic braking and a Blind Spot Monitor, to name a few.

Buyers can opt for all-wheel drive with selectable driving modes for additional traction in slippery conditions, a system that pairs well with the smooth-shifting 9-speed transmission, standard 20-inch wheels, and bright LED headlights and fog lights. Even the base Pilot receives plenty of cabin extras, including heated front seats, a tri-zone automatic climate control system, and a generous 8-inch infotainment touchscreen.

For just a few thousand more, you can bump up to the EX-L and exponentially increase creature comforts. This trim gets you leather-trimmed seating and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power moonroof, and a power tailgate. Second-row sunshades, a lifesaver for moms with little ones, also appear in the EX-L.

Many automotive reviewers point to the next trim, the Pilot Special Edition, as the best value with its range of included equipment. It’s a roughly $600 bump in price over the EX-L, but in return for the extra money, your Pilot will include a wireless phone charger, roof rails, and a hands-free feature on the power tailgate, the latter of which pays for itself the first time you need to load armloads of groceries in the back. That’s a big and very desirable upgrade for a relatively minor increase in price.

The black interior or a 2022 Honda Pilot TrailSport shows the rows of seating.

Mid-Range Options

Do you want more off-road-ready features and a rugged twist on the exterior styling? We suggest the Pilot TrailSport. It’s a big jump in price, though, and unless you’re planning for more trail-oriented adventures, that increase is pretty tough to justify, especially if practicality is the overarching goal. However, the TrailSport is the lowest-priced Pilot trim with standard all-wheel drive.

If adventure calls, the $43,560 Pilot TrailSport might be your best trim choice. In addition to standard all-wheel drive, Honda swaps out the standard all-seasons for a set of more rugged tires. The TrailSport also comes standard with satellite-linked navigation with real-time traffic updates and special exterior styling enhancements that differentiate it from other trims. These include fender flares and high gloss outside mirrors.

If you’re craving more creature comforts but can do without the off-roading extras, Honda built the Pilot Touring for you. It also starts at just over $43,000, but instead of beefy tires and fender flares, buyers receive a standard rear entertainment system with a 10.2-inch screen, an upgraded 590-watt 10-speaker audio system, and wiring for a Wi-Fi Hotspot.

The Touring trim also includes CabinTalk, an in-vehicle PA system that works through the entertainment system headphones and the rear speakers, allowing the driver to communicate with rear-seat passengers without raising their voices or asking kids to remove the headphones. It’s a very minivan-like feature that gets to the heart of the Pilot’s family-friendly practicality.

High-End Luxury for Select Buyers

Practical buyers don’t often spring for a top-of-the-line model, but because practicality and a desire for high-end luxury aren’t always mutually exclusive, Honda built the Pilot Elite. Its $49,120 starting price tag should give any buyer pause, but the expansive list of standard features easily justifies the extra cost, that is, if an upgraded cabin is important to you and your family.

Starting with the trim-specific perforated leather seats, luxury is abundant throughout the Pilot Elite’s interior. It’s important to note that the Elite can only seat seven passengers – all other trims are available with a second-row bench seat that increases passenger seating to eight. The Elite favors luxury, outfitting the second row with comfortable captain’s chairs standard.

The Pilot Elite includes a wireless phone charger, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated second-row seats, and heated and ventilated front seats. The SUV’s variable intermittent windshield wipers are Rain-Sensing, and the heated, power outside mirrors include an auto-dimming feature that’s extremely beneficial for better night vision.

The Elite is high-end luxury personified, but it’s Honda’s penultimate Pilot trim. The top spot goes to the Black Edition. It’s a mere $1,500 more than the Elite but distinguishes itself with trim-specific red ambient interior lighting and gloss black exterior trim accents, along with special Black Edition leather trim in the cabin. In truth, we can’t use the word practical to describe the Black Edition, but we didn’t want to leave it out.

The black interior of a 2022 Honda Pilot Elite shows the steering wheel and infotainment screen.

Why We Love The Practical Pilot

The Honda Pilot receives a 9/10 on the value scale and an 8.5/10 overall from the notoriously picky editors at MotorTrend, citing its “smooth ride” and “precise steering.” Most reviewers give the Pilot high marks for its roomy interior and find that overall, it bests some of its stiffest competition in other areas like performance and reliability.

Also, the Pilot is a close cousin to the minivan body style, offering a low point-of-entry and other family-focused architecture. Unfortunately, any SUV saddled with a reputation as a minivan alternative won’t immediately get your heart racing, but it’s that unapologetic commitment to practicality that sets the Pilot apart from other SUVs in the midsize, three-row segment.

From a safety perspective, you can’t beat the Pilot’s perfect 5-Star Overall Safety Rating from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. It’s well-earned since Honda added its Safety Sense driver-assist suite to all Pilot trims for the 2022 model year. Larger vehicles benefit substantially from this camera and radar-powered technology designed to keep occupants safe and help drivers avoid accidents.

If you’re in a stage of life that warrants an SUV with three rows of seats, you can’t go wrong with the 2022 Honda Pilot. While some might find its practicality (and predictability) a bit yawn-inducing, those are often welcome characteristics for buyers in this segment. Life is unpredictable enough – the last thing busy families need is the element of surprise when it comes to their vehicle. With the Pilot, what you see is what you get.