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At recent major automotive shows in Los Angeles and Detroit, supercars and luxury vehicles were two of the primary themes for many of the manufacturer press conferences. Chicago, on the other hand, has progressively become more of a mainstream auto show. While still showing off all the flashiest products, #CAS15 played up the kind of vehicles typically considered by the average car buyer, with particular emphasis placed on utility vehicles, which seemed appropriate for the snowy Midwest in February.

For that reason, this three-part blog series will cover the crossovers that were of greatest significance, including the Honda Pilot (part one), Acura RDX (part two) and Chevrolet Equinox (part 3).

2016 Honda Pilot

 

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Arguably the most anticipated press conference in Chicago, Honda took center stage and showcased its all-new Pilot. Last redesigned in 2009, the current boxy look of Honda’s SUV fell behind the style trend as competing crossovers moved toward more fluid, sleeker design language.  Shifting sales within the segment reflected consumer affinity for less utilitarian styling, with Pilot deliveries falling by 14 percent year-over-year in 2014, while the industry exhibited 6 percent growth. For a model that realized 1.4 million sales in North America since its 2002 introduction, its recent performance has been uncharacteristic of a vehicle that has contributed to roughly 25% of Honda’s light truck deliveries over the past dozen years.

For the 2016 model year, however, the Japanese automaker is ready to change things up, packaging its next-generation Pilot with a modern exterior design, a roomy interior  accommodating three rows, and a version of the brand’s award-winning 3.5-liter direct injection V6 found in the Accord. Altogether, the 2016 Pilot is like a boxer who is ready for fight night, shedding weight and adding size, while gaining power and efficiency thanks to its new power plant and start-stop fuel-saving technology. It should be noted the Pilot is the first vehicle in the Honda lineup to the environmentally friendlier technology, which was sourced from Acura models, along with the new 9-speed automatic transmission.  Piggybacking on Acura’s recent TLX marketing theme, the Pilot is closer to becoming a “Red carpet athlete” in its own right.

Design and engineering of the Pilot took place at Honda’s facilities in Southern California and Ohio, with the goal of making the SUV more upscale without stepping on the toes of the Acura MDX. Interior refinement improved significantly compared to the outgoing model, and available features such as remote start, a ceiling-mounted Blu-ray entertainment system, and heated seats for the first two rows do much to enhance the appeal of the vehicle. Honda also made sure to emphasize safety by offering a range of driver-assist technologies. Front collision warning, rear cross-traffic monitoring and cameras to check the rearview and blind spots are just some of the new options available.

Sharing the same global platform as the Acura MDX, as well as the Honda Odyssey and next-generation Ridgeline, the Pilot will be built alongside its familial models at the company’s Lincoln, Alabama manufacturing plant. With a new look that includes LED headlamps, tail lamps and running lights, high-quality interior materials and premium features abound, there is a lot to be excited about for those looking for a sophisticated, yet versatile large SUV. Honda appears to have hit a home run with its newest Pilot, and customers eager to get their hands on the new SUV need not wait too long: Sales start this summer.