2019 Honda Pilot Off-Road Review: Did Well In Spite of Me

Despite a mishap, the PIlot performed well in off-road conditions

[Photo: Nathan Leach-Proffer]
The 2019 Honda Pilot Elite comes with a 280 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that makes 262 lbs-feet of torque. It’s hooked up to a push-button nine-speed automatic transmission. Overall, the 2019 Honda Pilot gets 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. Not too shabby. While the nine-speed is the only one in this class, a six-speed is available on the lower levels and it’s a regular lever-operated transmission.

At $48,020, the price is higher than most of the vehicles it competed against at the 2018 Redline Climb event. This is an event that challenges various automakers to bring their vehicles to Breckenridge, Colorado in order for journalists to sample off-road. The scenery is excellent and the back roads had enough obstacles to be challenging in places.

2019 Honda Pilot elite awd
2019 Honda Pilot Elite AWD.

Which is the best all-wheel drive system of them all?

The Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) all-wheel drive system was the best crossover AWD system at the event. While the ones in the Kia Sorento and the Mazda CX-9 worked well, the Honda Pilot’s AWD system was exceptional. It sends as much power is necessary to the rear of the vehicle via electro-hydraulically actuated clutch packs. This allows variable amounts of torque to be sent to each wheel that needs power independently. It thinks its way through obstacles without relying on the ABS system too much. It features four selectable driving modes for snow, mud, sand, and normal road conditions.

We tested an older (2016) Honda Pilot on Goldmine Hill and it surprised us.

How does the 2019 Honda Pilot fare off-road?

The Pilot made short work of obstacles that appeared to challenge others. It rarely lost traction, despite its street-biased tires. It did lift a wheel a few times, but its articulation is pretty good for a crossover. Its 7.3 inches of ground clearance, on the other hand, is just average. Still, it’s fairly light for its size, at just over 4,200 pounds. It managed to efficiently ease its way over every obstacle.

The 2019 Honda Pilot with its temporary spare on the front wheel (yes, that was me).

Unfortunately, near the end of the event, I caught the passenger’s side front tire on a sharp rock and blew it. Yep, I was that guy and I was terribly embarrassed. You see, I had not one but TWO representatives from Honda along for the ride at the time. Not to mention the dozen or so journalists that ribbed me for the remainder of the event.

Still, despite the puncture and the Honda having to use a donut (small spare tire) for the remainder of the event, it got down the hill safely. Later on, as another journalist drove the Pilot back on regular public roads, he noticed it was having issues with the spare tire regarding lane-keep assist and steering response.

Although I have yet to drive this vehicle on regular surfaces, I’m pleased with its competency on dirt.