Preview Drive: 2003 Honda Pilot

Honda arrives late to the midsize sport-utility party, but in the all-new Pilot the company brings a dish no one has tasted.

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Honda Pilot

You notice the differences right away. The Pilot is 4 inches wider than the Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Trailblazer, and Toyota Highlander, which translates into a spacious cabin comfortable enough for five adults and three kids in the third row. On the road, we were especially impressed with the Pilot's responsive steering, compliant ride, and relative lack of body roll. Its 3.5-liter 240-horsepower V6 isn't the most powerful engine in the segment, but with a five-speed automatic transmission it turns in above-average acceleration times of around 8 seconds. And fuel economy is at the head of the class: 17 mpg in the city, 22 on the highway.

It's not a go-anywhere sport-utility, but its four-wheel-drive system-which uses electromagnetic clutches to transfer torque to the wheels that need it most-will cope well with snow and ice and take drivers as far off-road as they'll want to venture. The Pilot went on sale in early June; pricing hadn't been set at press time.

TECHNOLOGY QUOTIENT
20 points per category, 100 possible in total

Engine & drivetrain: 13
Suspension: 11
Safety: 12
Electronics: 11
Materials: 11
TOTAL: 58

COMING SOON: 3 TECHY SUVs (left)

Lincoln Aviator
Interior controls in this baby Navigator (due this fall) are lit with white LEDs, a first.

Nissan Murano
Due this fall, the first vehicle available with only a continuously variable transmission.

Jeep Grand Cherokee
All plastic in this prototype is recycled. Key: a new machine-driven plastic-sorting process.