Chicken Point on the Broken Arrow Trail is surrounded by the mountains and red rock formations of Sedona, Arizona, and is one of the most spectacular views in the United States. We usually get there via jeep. Often accompanied by pink ARB accessories driven by expert guides, the observatory is the last place you’d expect to find a squadron of three-row-seat Honda His Pilot Family crossovers. However, my colleague and I got there relatively comfortably and easily amid some bewildered stares from passers-by.
Honda has ensured the TrailSport is finally going to be more than just a rugged styling package. You hear that story in every crossover. But after a day of testing with him off-road and in Arizona, the all-new 2023 Pilot TrailSport proved the point. It brings incredible off-road capability to the table without sacrificing its original role as a practical and comfortable family SUV.
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‘TrailSport’ is no longer just a styling package
Honda debuted the TrailSport in an appearance package, the Passport. For the 2023 Pilot, TrailSport trim offers enhanced off-road capabilities. It has all-terrain tires, 1-inch lift to 8.3-inch ground clearance, and unique off-road tuned suspension. It features an optimized stabilizer bar, steel skid plate, terrain camera system, and front and rear recovery points. AWD features a special Trail Torque Logic system designed to quickly shift power and restore power from wheels that lose traction. Hill Descent Control is also standard on all pilots.
How does the Pilot TrailSport go off-road?
As mentioned earlier, we drove the notable Jeep Path, the Broken Arrow Trail, with Pilot TrailSport. We skipped Devil’s Stairs, which a Honda PR said was due to the smoothness (after overnight snow, conditions in the morning had closed the trail). But it’s more rigorous than the dirt roads that manufacturers usually allow crossovers to be tested on, and he was over 99% of what the Pilot’s owner let the vehicle through. Pilot TrailSport happily handled it.
Granted, it’s not a Wrangler Rubicon. The Pilot TrailSport’s 8.3-inch clearance is less than the non-Wilderness Subaru Forester. Approach, departure and breakover angles for a 3-row family SUV are not optimal. However, the Pilot TrailSport performed quite well considering these limitations. It showed a lot of flexibility in getting over obstacles. Also, even when fully inflated, the tires were soft enough to spread out the tread for more grip. It was powerful and agile enough to get the job done without the driver breaking a sweat.
It hit the bottom of the vehicle over a particularly nasty obstacle. However, the steel skid plate (rated to support the weight of the vehicle) is designed to withstand without damage. We also had what appeared to be a tow hitch a few times along the way, as Honda said, but the car wasn’t too bad. And Honda didn’t do a relentless amount of trailspotting to avoid contact with us, or to have a panicked pursuit vehicle ready to rescue us.
I especially enjoyed using Honda’s multi-view terrain camera. It seems to have a higher resolution than many other terrain cameras I’ve experienced and was legitimately useful. It turns on automatically when you enter trail mode and stays on until 15 mph and below 15 mph and immediately turn on again.
How does the Pilot TrailSport hit the road?
Honda let us drive the Pilot Trail Sport on the road, along with the top-tier Pilot Elite model. No pilot challenges the Mazda CX-9 for his driving dynamics, the sharpest in this segment. But it’s smooth, capable, and has decent body handling in corners. Honda calls it an “all-new” 3.5-liter V6, and it’s about five horsepower more than the outgoing model. But with his new 10-speed automatic transmission, shifting is super smooth.
With TrailSport there is a slight drop in performance on the road margins. All-terrain tires are a little noisier than all-seasons. The Elite has a higher ride height and softer suspension, so turn-in accuracy is not as high. Also, the steering is too light for hard cornering.
But no one comes close to those margins in a three-row family crossover. And the quality most people experience in normal city driving is that it’s very comfortable. The bump doesn’t reach the seat. And inexplicably placed speed he is barely recorded, even when he accidentally gets too hot on the bumps.
Pilot TrailSport’s software that reacts to the situation can feel abrupt. The car downshifts sharply before you realize you’re going up a hill. And when I momentarily lost traction on a small patch of ice, I felt the torque vectoring kick in really hard.
What is the interior of the Pilot Trail Sport?
Honda doesn’t do anything superfluous or flashy. Pilot gives you family-friendly features (such as one-touch second row seats) and the features you need without packing expensive items into your car that you don’t need. All three rows are spacious front and back. It has a simple and clean layout with buttons and physical knobs for air conditioning controls. My favorite features are the nifty storage compartment (holds a large water bottle in the door) and the large rubberized ledge to keep your phone in place while you’re off-roading (helper above the glove compartment). It was like a seat side).
Technology, in my opinion, has been reduced to a necessity for the Pilot TrailSport. The 9.0-inch touchscreen is large enough to easily pair Wireless CarPlay with Android Auto. navigation? Your smartphone has Google Maps installed. Backseat entertainment? Children have mobile phones and tablets. There are several USB ports in the second and third rows.
The TrailSport uses more durable synthetic leather rather than the leather-trimmed seats of other higher-level Pilot trims. But I wouldn’t have noticed without looking into it. Nor are his foldable, removable second-row center seats that stow under the trunk found in other pilots.
Safety is a definite attraction for Pilot TrailSport
I have attended many car presentations. Manufacturers don’t often bring in specific vehicles that have passed crash tests (for a number of obvious reasons). But Honda brought in a crash-tested pilot. Its frame remains mostly intact after simulated side crash tests.
It’s one thing to read about safety tech and how the 2023 Pilot is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and has a 5-star NHTSA rating. Seeing it is another thing. And as a parent of two small children, that’s a huge selling point.
How much does the Honda Pilot Trail Sport cost?
The 2023 Honda Pilot starts at $39,150. TrailSport, the second most expensive trim, starts at $48,350. A destination charge of $1,345 equals $49,695. $455 if you want a paint color other than black or silver. Our testers were all diffuse sky blue pearls or sonic gray pearls. Unless you need racks or floor mats, this is all you need.
What are the replacements for the Honda Pilot Trailsport?
Honda Pilot Trail Sport: The Verdict
Honda has done a great job with the Honda Pilot Trail Sport. He looks handsome. It’s fun to drive on public roads. Its off-road capability could be a potential differentiator in this segment. Its safety is a strong selling point.
My one question in buying one is gas mileage. Honda didn’t mention it. In fact, the Pilot is slightly less fuel efficient than the previous generation, dropping to 18 mpg in city and 23 mpg on the highway with TrailSport. In 2023, he finds it hard to hit 18 mpg in city driving from a naturally aspirated V6. And it gets harder with every Pilot TrailSport on the market.
2023 Honda Pilot Trail Sport
- Power train: 3.5 liter V6. 10-speed automatic; AWD
- horsepower: 285
- torque: 262 lb-ft
- EPA Fuel Economy: 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway
- seat: 7
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