There's plenty of room in the Honda Pilot for diaper bags and loose Cheerios

Nobody can deny the convenience, versatility, and flexibility of a minivan. But, neither can anybody deny that almost nobody likes minivans. Sorry. There is good news, though--the family SUV class is slowly moving more and more toward minivan-esque seating positions and massive max passenger space, interior cargo space, and helicopter-parent levels of safety features. If your current crossover or family sedan just isn't cutting it, but you just can't bring yourself to get the minivan, get the new 2018 Honda Pilot SUV.

As a three-row crossover that seats eight passenger in its base form, with an affordable starting price and a massive range of standard features, you get the versatility and seating that you need, without having to give up the stylish and "Cool-Parent" exterior that you know you want.

The evolution of the family car

Way back when, SUVs were not for families. Their massive, truck-like frames very much provided a truck-like ride and feel--not conducive to going for a cruise around the neighborhood to soothe a fussy baby, or to bundle all the kids into a car for a road trip to Grandma's. SUVs were designed and built for the adventure-thirsty youths who were happy to sacrifice security, comfort, and fuel economy for a rugged type of capable performance. So, families turned to station wagons and minivans as the only effective way to move everyone and their associated luggage.

But then, things changed--enter crossovers, and the emergence of real, honest family SUVs. In the early 2000s, the industry started rolling out spacious, economical, and luxury-outfitted utility vehicles that were built on the same platforms shared by brands' sedans and wagons, rather than by their hulking pickups. While there still are a few holdout models out there built up from a truck chassis, they're now few and far-between.

Seating and configurations

"Spacious" and "family-friendly" only begins to scratch the surface of what makes the new Honda Pilot a great car for anyone who needs a lot of room--whether that's for kids, animals, or supplies for your business or hobby. This SUV won't judge. Most every Honda Pilot trim comes standard with a second-row bench seat that stretches from side to side to comfortably fit three, giving the majority of the lineup standard seating for eight passengers; that's nothing to sneeze at, seeing as there are plenty of three-row crossovers who cram a two-person seating configuration in the very back. Both the front and middle seats have really been designed for ergonomic comfort, and you could actually see yourself cruising on a multi-hour road trip without losing your cool.

The Honda Pilot does offer a seven-passenger seating configuration, but only on one trim level: the top-of-the-line Elite. Along with a rich manifest of premium and deluxe features, the Honda Pilot Elite offers a second row of seating set up with Captain's Chairs for improved comfort, and for a little more elbow room for your passengers. This is an especially compelling option for drivers who expect to drive adults or teenagers more often than smaller children.

The rear row of seats is a bench on all models, and offers one of the largest passenger volumes in its class, which will be a sigh of relief for those who frequently lose out on Rock-Paper-Scissors and get sent to the back seats. To make things even easier for your furthest-back riders, the Honda Pilot features a system that slides the second-row seats forward with just the press of a button, so getting into the way-back won't require any acrobatics.

Cargo and interior space

Continue to be impressed, because whether you're set up for eight riders, or riding solo with all the seats folded down, the 2018 Honda Pilot is one of the most spacious SUVs that you can get without opting for The Minivan. Behind the third row of seats, you still get 16.5 cubic feet of cargo space--or, in testing performed by Car and Driver, about 4 carry-on suitcases. Pop the third row down, and you can fit 47 cubic feet of cargo and up to five passengers. Now, that's road-trip ready. If you need a ton of space, fold the second row down, too, and you'll get up to 83.9 cubic feet of cargo room--or, about 38 carry-on suitcases.

But the Honda Pilot isn't just great for large cargo items. Honda is known for being really particular, and thoughtful, about small storage compartments and little cubby holes for everything from lip balm, to cell phones, to purses, to toys that "you can have back when you've apologized to your sister", to just about anything else that you need to secret away.

Powertrain specs and a very futuristic transmission

Power is one factor that you won't have to worry about when deciding between various Honda Pilot trim levels (though shifting might be). Every new SUV model comes standard with a 3.5-liter i-VTEC V-6 engine, good for 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Honda equips a 6-speed automatic transmission on LX, EX, and EX-L models, with a 9-speed automatic transmission on Touring and Elite models that features Honda's newer shifter design. Gone is the classic stick-and-knob. As transmission mechanics advance, the option of a shifter is less and less efficient; and while the new push/pull/toggle button-shifting system may take some getting used to, it's a glimpse into the future. Personal preference will determine which transmission option is going to be the better fit for your driving style.

All-wheel drive and ground clearance

The Honda Pilot is available with an Intelligent Variable Torque Management All-Wheel Drive System, which, when you shorten it all, comes out to i-VTM4 AWD. It's a lot of letters to keep track of, but fortunately--thanks to the genuine intelligence of this system--that's about all you need to think about. The Honda Pilot takes care of the rest. The system monitors wheel-spin and traction in order to deliver the perfect amount of power to the right wheel or wheels. It primarily sends torque to the front wheels to optimize efficiency in normal daily driving situations, but can send torque back to the rear wheels in wet or slipper conditions, or even when taking a sharper turn to help balance and push out of a corner.

If you're getting an AWD SUV because you genuinely do need an AWD SUV for your family--and not just because it sounds cool, though we won't fault you for that--the Honda Pilot further delivers on capability and durability, with a ground clearance of 7.3 inches, which is more than enough for your normal bumps and humps and potholes.

Tech features and infotainment

The modern minivan has gotten pretty tech-savvy in the last few years, so big families and soccer parents don't necessarily have to compromise on connectivity and cool features. But, you can get all of those same cool features in the Honda Pilot, too--no embarrassment attached. The base LX and EX trims come standard with a convenient 5.0-inch display screen that relies on buttons and toggles to get the job done. It's classic, but it works--some argue it works better than the upgraded system, but that's left up to the driver.

On EX trim levels and up, Honda has added standard smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is a relief for those of us who can't possibly be away from our mobiles while on the road. The SUV will stream your phone calls, music and media, even your text messages, and can display your phone's maps right on the screen. Also on EX and up, Honda swaps out the smaller display screen for a large, 8.0-inch electrostatic touchscreen that runs HondaLink--the brand's smartphone-connection system that allows for linkage with the aforementioned integration technologies. Peek at the upper levels--like the Touring and the Elite--and you'll find a rear Blu-Ray/DVD Rear Entertainment System for the kids, or an advanced navigation system for you.

Honda Sensing safety and durable security

On EX trim levels and above, the Honda Pilot offers its parent's smart new collection of active safety features through the Honda Sensing package, which equips SUVs with Lane Departure Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Road Departure Mitigation System, and certain available features include Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic High Beams, Blind Spot Monitor, Front and Rear Parking Sensors, and a Rearview Camera. Other, less-sexy, safety features include Honda SmartVent front side airbags, side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor, seatbelt reminders, child safety features, and Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure.

The Honda Pilot doesn't need to prove itself

It's rare that an SUV doesn't need to rely on fancy marketing, flashy ads, and gimmicks to compete against its class and stand out to make sales numbers. The Honda Pilot is what it is, and doesn't need to step out onto any proving ground--because it's been proven, over and over, by families and by drivers who ask a lot of their SUV. If you're looking for an option that's just all-around solid, the 2018 Honda Pilot is a must-drive option.

Compare the Honda Pilot vs the Competition