Year after year, Canadians buy more Honda Odysseys than Honda Pilots.
For every 2.5 Odysseys sold in Canada in 2006, Honda Canada sold one Pilot. Even last year, Honda Canada’s Odyssey volume was nearly twice as strong as the company’s Pilot volume: 11,480 to 6113. Odyssey sales rose to a seven-year high; Pilot volume fell 4% from its record-setting pace one year earlier.
PILOT’S GOOD • 9-speed is excellent • Ease of third row access • Top-notch front seats • Useable space behind third row • Solid structure, terrific handling
• Still doesn’t feel quick
• Ride sometimes stiff on 20″ wheels • Shifter is an annoying gimmick • Touchscreen is tedious • A handful of technical gremlins
But Canadians now appear to be making a change. Don’t be mistaken, Odyssey volume is still rising. Sales of the minivan are up 2% this year. But with an all-new Pilot arriving for the first time since model year 2009 and with interest in SUVs/crossovers surging, Honda Canada sold 2889 Pilots in the third-quarter of 2015; 2846 Odysseys.
Even after we set aside the fact that the two vehicles seen here are entirely different, the examples we have here for comparison aren’t directly comparable. The 2016 Pilot is a very costly press vehicle from Honda Canada, the 2015 Odyssey is our very own long-termer, paid for with our own money.
But because the Pilot and Odyssey are Honda’s two big people carriers, we decided that this was the best occasion yet for the first ever GCBC comparison test.
ODYSSEY’S GOOD • Space, space, space • Impressive real-world fuel econ. • Long-wheelbase ride quality • Massive sliding doors • So much vehicle for the money
• 6-speed sometimes confused
• No all-wheel-drive availability • Slow steering • Sunglass holder too small • No Sienna SE-like “sporty” option
There’s a reason the Odyssey is so much bigger than the Pilot inside: it’s so much bigger outside.
With an additional 8.4 inches of length, the Odyssey creates 14% more space for occupants, 36% more space for cargo behind the third row, and 67% more cargo space behind the second row.
The Pilot is barely more than an inch taller than the Odyssey and despite being almost identically broad, offers nearly nine fewer inches of hiproom in the middle row and four fewer inches of hiproom in the back row.
2016 HONDA PILOT TOURING Base Price: $37,285 * As-Tested Price: $52,285 * Drive Type: all-wheel-drive
NRCAN OEE City: 12.4 L/100km NRCAN OEE Hwy: 9.3 L/100km Observed: 22.8 mpg Observed: 10.3 L/100km
* Canadian dollars, includes $1795 in fees.
ON THE ROAD
One wonders how grippy a Honda Odyssey might be, how much more abrupt its turn-in might be, if it wore the Pilot’s 245/45R20 tires. With far less rubber on the road, the Odyssey’s slow steering is made more obvious because the Pilot manages to handle like a much smaller vehicle than it really is. Keep in mind, lesser Pilots on smaller wheels might not possess our tester’s cornering alacrity.
The Odyssey makes up for much of its athleticism deficit by playing two different cards. One, the Odyssey is certainly the most responsive minivan.
Two, the Odyssey will never be accused of crashing through potholes or over expansion joints.
True, the Pilot marries its impressive steering and handling to acceptable ride quality, but that ride deteriorates when the big 20-inch wheels meet the worst of coastal Nova Scotia’s worst roads. Which are plentiful.
The Pilot’s inability to be noticeably quicker than the Odyssey was somewhat disappointing. Perhaps the age of the vehicles works against the green SUV’s 3.5L and in favour of the broken-in minivan’s lesser-powered version of the 3.5L. But with 32 extra horsepower, 12 extra lb-ft of torque, 120 fewer pounds to haul, and a fancier automatic transmission, one assumes the Pilot will thrust forward with some of the Hyundai Santa Fe XL’s verve, some of the Toyota Highlander’s vim and vigor.
According to Car & Driver’s tests of the Santa Fe, Highlander, Pilot, and Odyssey, the Pilot is the significantly quicker vehicle, but in real world driving, our Pilot always seemed slightly underwhelming. More than sufficiently powerful, yes, but not at all noteworthy.
Was the 2016 model never in the right gear? Are there too many ratios to choose from? Or does a brand new vehicle simply need more time to get into its groove?
Regardless, we’re forced to to conclude that, though the 9-speed transmission is smoother and seemingly more intelligent than the Odyssey’s 6-speed, any power advantage held by the Pilot won’t be noticed in routine driving.
2015 HONDA ODYSSEY EX Base Price: $32,485 * As-Tested Price: $37,535 * Drive Type: front-wheel-drive
NRCAN OEE City: 12.3 L/100km NRCAN OEE Hwy: 8.5 L/100km Observed: 24.2 mpg Observed: 9.7 L/100km
* Canadian dollars, includes $1795 in fees,
pricing refers to MY2016 model
To put it simply, the Pilot has the best seats for parents, but the Odyssey wins in any position behind the front seats.
Access is a draw. While it’s easier to enter the second and third row because of the Odyssey’s sliding doors, the Pilot features one button on the side of the second row seats that quickly and effortlessly opens up a gap for third row ingress.
Our Pilot was a top-trim Touring model with seven seats. Other Pilots, like the Odyssey, offer eight seats. But you won’t want to sit in the third row of the Pilot, particularly in the middle perch where the seat isn’t even fully formed. In the Odyssey, it’s no big deal. Second row space is superior in the Odyssey, as well, and it’s still a bit easier for a parent to make their way through the van into the second row, a minivan specialty.
Up front, the Pilot Touring’s seats are some of the best in the business. You’re also touching nicer trim, operating higher quality buttons and knobs, flicking more solid switches.
The Pilot’s single touchscreen is ineffective, unintuitive, and voice commands were rarely heeded. Honda’s previous dual screen layout has come in for criticism, even here at GCBC, but it’s a system that appears more sensible with time. The single screen in the Pilot and other Hondas we’ve driven both looks and feels like a cheap aftermarket solution.
The math is fairly straightforward. The Honda Pilot is, give or take, about $5000 more expensive than a Honda Odyssey. But as you move progressively up Honda Canada’s ladder, the gap narrows, particularly when you take into account the four driven wheels of all but the least expensive Pilot.
Of course, Honda doesn’t equip both vehicles identically, and Honda doesn’t allow for optional equipment. Direct comparisons are therefore impossible. From the outset, a basic front-wheel-drive Pilot LX costs $4800 more than an Odyssey LX. EX to EX, the Pilot is $5750 more than the Odyssey. Keep in mind, all-wheel-drive, a $3000 option on the Pilot LX, is standard on the Pilot EX and unavailable on every Odyssey.
One rung from the top, the Pilot is only $2740 more than the Odyssey, but again, the Pilot includes $3000 worth of all-wheel-drive. And the top-line Touring models are only $1740 apart.
Over the course of more than three months, our Odyssey hasn’t put a foot wrong. Over the course of just one week, the new Pilot’s touchscreen intermittently refused to boot up, the steering wheel buttons periodically refused to accomplish anything for up to 20 minutes, and there was frequently irritating background noises from the audio regardless of source.
Worst of all, the Pilot refused to start last Sunday morning. After multiple attempts over the course of a few minutes, the situation was remedied by everybody getting out of the vehicle, locking the doors, unlocking the doors, getting in, buckling up, and pressing the starter button again.
Can we try Pilot v3.1, please?
All too often, automotive publications are rightfully accused of sitting on the fence, unwilling to make a true and honest choice between competing products.
Making a choice is much more difficult in this comparison, of course, since the two products aren’t direct competitors. Sure, they sit alongside one another in Honda showrooms, but they operate in completely different sectors and at different price points. Indeed, our own comparison only serves to highlight the pricing differential.
If you’re in the market for an SUV/crossover/CUV/tall family wagon, a completely reliable Pilot competes at the top of the heap with segment leaders like the Toyota Highlander, Hyundai Santa Fe XL, and Dodge Durango and is superior in many respects to GM’s Lambda-platform heavyweights and the refreshed 2016 Ford Explorer.
If you’re in the market for a new minivan, the Dodge Grand Caravan aces the affordability test, the Toyota Sienna offers eye-catching style or all-wheel-drive, and the Kia Sedona can lux it up surprisingly well. But the Odyssey is undoubtedly the segment leader.
During this specific test, in the midst of a civil war between the Honda Odyssey and Honda Pilot, there’s no hiding the fact that we prefer the Odyssey. We don’t subscribe to the notion that the degree to which society judges our vehicle to be evidence of fertility should impact our vehicular contentment.
And it’s becoming increasingly clear that even if we did, the world at large will also look at a mid-30s guy driving a Pilot – or Highlander, or Explorer, or Pathfinder – and easily surmise that, yeah, he wipes the snotty noses of children and removes embedded raisins from the floormats. In other words, the Odyssey and Pilot are both mommy vans.
How, then, do we reach a verdict? We want more space for less money. With more space and greater affordability, the Odyssey wins. Handily.
Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook. The Pilot was supplied by Honda Canada’s press office. The Odyssey belongs to GCBC.