The Fourth-Gen Pilot Is Honda’s Most Powerful, Capable SUV Yet

Photo By: Honda

If you’re one of the Overland Expo fans who has taken part in Honda ride-and-drive opportunities at an Overland Expo the last few years, you know that the Pilot and Passport SUVs and Ridgeline pickup are pretty capable vehicles. And for 2023, the Pilot gets even more capable.

Although engineering powerhouse Honda has been making off-road capable motorcycles, quads, and side-by-sides for decades, its passenger cars haven’t always been viewed as trail-conquerors. This despite the fact that Honda’s torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system is more capable than Subaru’s.

Honda is no longer hiding its trail capabilities, though. Last year, it debuted the TrailSport trim for its Pilot and Passport crossovers. And with the new fourth-gen Pilot for the 2023 model year, the TrailSport moniker gains additional capabilities.

Photo by Honda

Photo by Honda

Photo by Honda

Photo by Honda

Photo by Honda

First off, the new Pilot is Honda’s largest and most powerful SUV yet. The tuned 3.5-liter V6 churns out 285 horsepower through an i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system. While I could give more standard specs, like the new 9.0-inch touchscreen, I’ll instead focus on up-rated TrailSport trim.

In TrailSport trim, the AWD system is dubbed Trail Torque Logic. It can detect when a tire loses traction, in a cross-axle trail obstacle, for example. It will then seamlessly move up to 75% of torque to the wheel with traction. However, it leaves 25% of power at the wheel without traction. It does this so that when the tire does regain traction, it can propel the vehicle forward without skipping a beat.

READ MORE: The 2023 Ford Transit Trail Has Adventure Built-In

TraiSport is more than a trick AWD system, though. It receives a one-inch suspension lift from the factory with distinct spring rates and damper valving. There are robust steel skid plates protecting the oil pan, transmission, and gas tank. And it is offered in an exclusive Diffused Sky Blue paint color.

In addition to skid plates, there are factory recovery points that are rated to more than twice the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). There are two in the front and one in the rear, which is integrated into the rear tow hitch, behind which lies the full-size spare. 

Photo by Honda

Photo by Honda

Speaking of full-size spare, the Pilot TrailSport rides on 265/60R18 (30.5-inch) tires, which, in another first, are all-terrains from the factory. Lastly, the TrailSport also includes the TrailWatch camera system, which activates when the traction system is placed in ‘Trail’ mode. This further underlines Honda’s dedication to making the TrailSport more than a badge.

No doubt, without a true low-range transfer case, the Pilot can’t ever quite be considered ready for the really rough terrain. Nevertheless, Honda engineers ensured that it can handle most obstacles and terrain that owners will likely encounter in their soft overlanding adventures.

Further underscoring the rig’s off-road bona fides, this is how Honda concludes its press release on the new Pilot: “​​To quantify target metrics and off-road performance, Honda engineers also developed a new proprietary off-road capability rating system in cooperation with the Nevada Automotive Test Center (NATC), a pioneer in off-road testing.”

I am not exactly sure what that means. But it’s heartening to know that the Pilot TrailSport is somehow rated for off-road — even if Honda doesn’t extrapolate on exactly how.

If you’re keen to see the new Honda Pilot TrailSport in person, I can bet dollars to doughnuts that it’ll be at the Honda booth at one of the Overland Expo 2023 events.

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