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2009 Honda Pilot: Everything to Everyone?

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April and long past time to get spring started. The crummy weather made it almost possible to believe I was setting out on some kind of adventure through a hostile environment. That’s just what the folks at Honda wanted: for drivers to imagine they were taking off in some kind of Adventuremobile instead of what the Pilot feels like – a more-or-less serviceable crossover tarted up as the answer to all your problems.


Like the headline says, the new Pilot aims to be everything to everyone. It’s an offroad adventure machine that will take you over mountains and into treacherous canyons! It’s a kid-mover that will haul the whole soccer team across town and then take mom to the Megalomart! It’s a commuter pod that will move you swiftly and safely from the outer-ring suburbs into the blighted urban core without draining all of ANWR! It’s a floor wax! It’s a dessert topping!
On one hand, yeah, it’s most of those things. (Which of those things it is not I leave as a puzzle for the alert reader.) It has the ground clearance for some moderately badass offroading; you could pack in the mythical herd of wee soccer players (Seriously, I call shenanigans. How many people are actually moving the whole team back and forth on a regular basis? I demand first-hand testimonials from people who haven’t been paid by anyone’s PR department.) and the fuel economy pushes 20 mpg, a figure that only makes Al Gore shake his head in disappointment rather than start taking hostages at an Exxon shareholders meeting.
On the other hand, how many people need all those things at once? Does offroading Joe Commuter also need three rows of seats and four LATCH positions? Does Sally Soccermom take the team out mudding? Can I go through all the permutations of this rhetorical device before you get fed up with me? (Answer: No.)
So here’s what I’m saying: Honda’s selling this under the banner of “Intelligent family adventure.” And I say it’s a rare family indeed that’s all those things. Someone more cynical than me might be tempted to think Honda’s selling (and people are buying) the image of the kind of family that takes all six kids to Home Depot, loads up on building supplies and then drives their shiny 2009 Pilot to a secluded mountain lake, where they build their own vacation retreat.
Good heavens, I think I may have cracked the code behind all of automotive marketing. Quick! Someone call the Nobel committee!

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Oh, you wanted to know something about the actual, physical car? It’s pretty nice. My drive was smooth sailing, even over the potholes on whatever rural route I got myself lost on. The dash configuration was pleasing, even though it included a feature that normally bugs me: a shifter sticking out from under the radio and climate controls. I’m of aggressively average height, and I didn’t have any problem fitting into the third-row seats. I’m not going to say I’d like to ride back there from here to Disney World, but I fit.
There are some drawbacks. Once I had the seats and mirrors adjusted comfortably, my averageness had trouble seeing past the Pilot’s big squarehead of a hood. The leather seats of the Touring edition left a little something to be desired in terms of the amount actual leather used. And while I was quite enamored of the many compartments and dohickies in the front, the compartment-and-doohicky per square foot stays high in the back two rows, where the Mythical Soccer Team will have a ball filling them with cracker crumbs and Hi-C residue and lost bits of action figures. Honda should know better than to even give the little rugrats the opportunity to gunk up all those little crevices and pockets.

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