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seven-passenger suvs

2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

For 2019, the Honda Pilot continues its imaginative indecision, which resembles either an oscillating cooling fan or Edgar Allen Poe’s pendulum.

But this midsize crossover sport utility vehicle is anything but the pits — except, of course, when it’s negotiating ditches in a purpose-built course aimed at demonstrating its fitness in off-road conditions.

The Pilot stands among the best three-row crossovers on the market, a capable, sturdy and competent vehicle for people who don’t want a minivan like the excellent Honda Odyssey but still need to haul people and stuff.

Honda Associates to Test Their Skills Driving Honda Light Trucks

When it was first introduced as a 2003 model, it came with all-wheel drive but essentially was a tall station wagon with a 240-hp V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. It lasted for six years as a comfortable and durable people hauler, racking up total sales of 744,474.

But the soothsayers at Honda did not rest on their laurels. Figuring that familiarity breeds boredom, they cranked up an all-new Pilot with boxy, truck-like styling and emphasized its off-road chops, which were modest to serious enthusiasts but impressed the hoi polloi.

At the national introduction, that 2009 model showed it could coolly traverse gullies, humps, steep climbs and descents, rocks, mud and other assorted obstacles. The emphasis was on its truck-like looks and rugged character, which Honda said customers wanted.

That, too, wore off in time, so when the 2016 model came along, it lost the boxy mien in favor of mainstream, more streamlined styling. It came across more like an attractive people mover than a boondocks basher. The engine was a 3.5-liter V6 with 280 hp, 262 lb-ft of torque and either a six-speed or nine-speed automatic transmission, depending on the trim level.

2019 Honda Pilot

Enter the 2019 model, which continues with the same drivetrains but marginally a more rugged, aggressive appearance, mimicking styling concepts from the latest Odyssey and Accord. Included are reworked wheels, grille, bumpers and LED headlights.

As in 2009, the emphasis again is on the Pilot’s all-terrain capabilities, abetted by Honda’s trademarked intelligent Variable Torque Management, or iVTM4, on all-wheel drive versions.

It incorporates active torque vectoring. In straight-line driving, the system distributes engine torque, or twisting force, to the wheel with the most traction. In cornering, it sends additional power to outside wheels to hustle the Pilot around curves.

The iVTM4 also enhances off-road traction. Computer controlled, it can send 70% of the torque to the rear wheels, and 100% of that power to either rear wheel if needed. Honda demonstrated that characteristic at the national introduction by sending test Pilots over man-made terrain that sent one of the rear wheels into the air.

2019 Honda Pilot Interior

Another system, which works with the iVTM4, is so-called Intelligent Traction Management. There are four driver-selectable settings labeled Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand. The Normal setting, which likely will be the default choice, adjusts for daily driving on most surfaces.

Selecting Snow assists in winter driving conditions. Among other things, it instructs the automatic transmission to start out in second gear to minimize wheel spin. Mud and Sand optimize transmission and other components for those conditions. As at the 2009 introduction, this time at a different off-road course in California, the Pilot easily negotiated the rocks, logs, moguls and other obstacles.

With all that and more, the 2019 Pilot doesn’t offer bargain prices. There are 13 versions, starting with the front-drive LX at $32,445, including the destination charge. The most expensive is the Elite, fully equipped, at $49,015.

2019 Honda Pilot

Every trim level comes with Honda Sensing, the company’s suite of safety features that includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, lane keeping assist,  and road-departure mitigation. Blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert also are available.

Except for the top-of-the-line Elite model, all versions — LX, EX, EX-L, EX-L with Navigation and Touring — come with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The Elite is all-wheel drive only. Lower trim levels come with a six-speed automatic transmission; Touring and Elite use the nine-speed automatic.

The Pilot has ample space inside for seven or eight passengers, depending on whether it is equipped with second-row captain’s chairs. Second-row seats flip forward with the touch of a button, but it still takes teenage agility to get into the third row, which has decent headroom. However, passengers sit with their knees up high.

Chronic gripers will be happy to learn that the Pilot now comes with simple volume knob for the audio system.

2019 Honda Pilot

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6; 280 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 153/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: Est. 4,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/26/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $49,015.
  • Price as tested: $49,015.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2019 Honda Pilot

Photos (c) Honda

2019 Subaru Ascent Touring: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

You make a flavorful confection without a tasty topping, so you lose customers. Subaru faced that dilemma and whipped up the 2019 Ascent to top its lineup of cars and crossover SUVs.

19MY_Ascent-cinn2The Japanese company, enjoying steady popularity, found that customers with growing families were fleeing. It had the Outback, originally a station wagon converted to a crossover; the Forester and smaller Crosstrek crossovers; the Legacy and Impreza sedans; WRX and WRX STI sport sedans, and the BRZ sport coupe.

But none could carry more than five passengers. Customers with a couple or more kids, as much as they liked Subaru — especially its “love” advertising — went looking elsewhere.

The company tried to accommodate more passengers with its 2004 Tribeca, a seven-passenger crossover. But it was cramped, sales were lousy and it was unceremoniously dropped in 2014.

19MY_Ascent-red6Now comes the all-new Ascent, the biggest-ever Subaru, with both seven- and eight-passenger configurations. More than that, however, it is stocked with inventive and imaginative features that prompted one Subaru official to describe the Ascent as the “perfect family hauler” and the top-line Touring “the kitchen sink” model.

One item is an inside rear-view mirror that, with the touch of a lever, switches from mirror mode to a rear-facing camera. That’s for when you load up the back with so much vacation stuff you can’t see out of the rear window. Like others of this kind, the camera view can confuse a viewer’s depth perception but at least it gives an unobstructed view of what’s behind.

2019_Ascent_Touring-Interior_1Also: tri-zone climate control so even third-row passengers have air vents. Nineteen (count ‘em) cup holders. Eight USB charging ports so everybody can play games and write novels. Rolling 4G LTE Wi-Fi  hotspot. Reading lights for the back rows. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Wide-opening rear doors and a rear hatch opening maximized for loading large items.

Depending on the trim level — there are four — some of these items are extra-cost options. However, this review is based on the Touring “kitchen sink” model, which has a sticker of $45,670, so has all of those and more. Other trims are the base at $32,790, Premium at $35,170 and Limited at $39,970.

2019_Ascent_Touring-Interior_2The base model comes equipped for eight passengers, with a second-row bench seat. Premium and Limited trims offer a choice of seven- or eight-passenger seating with no price difference. The Touring model comes only as a seven-passenger with second-row captain’s chairs.

Some notables: Like all Subaru vehicles (except for the rear-drive BRZ coupe), the Ascent has standard all-wheel drive, motivated by a horizontally-opposed 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. Also called a boxer or flat engine, it is similar to those that powered the famed Volkswagen Beetle. Subaru now is the only car company that uses boxers exclusively.

In a boxer, the cylinders lie feet-to-feet on both sides of the crankshaft instead of standing up as in a conventional four or leaning as in a V6 or V8. The low profile makes for a lower center of gravity for better handling, which the big Ascent has in abundance. It conquers curves with aplomb and tracks true in a straight line, minimizing driver fatigue.

2019_Ascent_Limited-Interior_3The Ascent’s continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is one of the better units of that design, which uses belts and pulleys to multiply engine power. There is none of the slipping sensation of some CVTs and the Ascent’s can be shifted with steering-wheel paddles to mimic an eight-speed automatic.

With a responsive throttle, the Ascent is never embarrassed in freeway merging or two-lane passing. It can tow a trailer weighing up to 5,000 pounds, and also has some off-road capability with 8.7 inches of ground clearance and a so-called “X-drive” mode that maximizes traction and includes automatic hill descent control.

Ascent_Lmtd-Interior1Packaging for seven or eight people is artfully done. The second-row seats slide fore-and-aft to provide knee room in the third row, which can accommodate a couple of adults but is best reserved for agile youngsters.

In this age, it goes without saying that a vehicle of this stature comes with modern safety equipment, including automatic pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping and trailer sway warning, and blind-sport warning.

Overall, the new Ascent is a more than worthy competitor to the Volkswagen Atlas, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder and Hyundai Santa Fe.

19MY_Ascent-cinn3Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Subaru Ascent Touring four-door, three-row crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.4-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder; 260 hp, 277 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously-variable automatic with eight-speed manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 150/18 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,603 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/26/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,670.
  • Price as tested: $45,670.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

19MY_Ascent-cinn1Photos (c) Subaru

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