Ford Explorer vs Honda Pilot

On the left: the 2016 Ford Explorer. On the right: the 2016 Honda Pilot

2016 is bringing in some big changes to the auto industry. Cars are beginning to see more driver amenities on base models, and luxury models are bursting with features and add ons. Ford even used the increasing competition of 2016 to unleash their Platinum trim as an option for the redesigned, all new, 2016 Ford Explorer.

Not to be out done, the 2016 Honda Pilot has also seen a fairly substantial redesign for the new year. On both cars, the exterior has been reworked to be more sleek and modern. For the Honda Pilot, this meant reworking the previously blocky lines to create a curvy machine with distinctive style. The Ford Explorer went through a similar treatment and received a general refresh in each area of importance. The exterior, interior and powertrain options are new for the Ford Explorer in 2016. The same can also be said about the 2016 Honda Pilot.

Both of these 3-row SUVs have new powertrain options that raise the total towing capacity to around 5,000 lbs, which should be more than enough for most tasks. The updated engine in both rides also provided an increase in fuel efficiency for these people movers, with the new Ford Explorer taking a slight advantage with an EPA-estimated 8.4 L/100km on the highway, 11.8 L/100km in the city, and an average of 10.23 L/100km combined. This is the most fuel efficient  Ford Explorer ever, and that’s all thanks to the new 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, first introduced in the redesigned Mustang for 2015. In the 2016 Explorer it provides an efficient 300 pound-feet of torque, but it can also be switched out for one of the other two choices available, including the entry-level 3.5L V6 engine.

The 2016 Honda Pilot does not have this advantage, as each trim of the Pilot comes with the same V6 engine (280 horsepower, 262 pound-feet of torque and the option for all-wheel drive. However, the Pilot does offer a 9-speed transmission at the top tiers of the model. The Pilot’s larger engine also detracts from the fuel efficiency, which is around 13.9 L/100km City, 9.8 L/100km Highway, and around 11.8 L/100km combined.

So what else distinguishes these two 7 seater SUVs? Let’s start from the outside and work our way in.

The 2016 Ford Explorer:

2015 Ford Explorer vs 2016 Ford Explorer

On the right: 2015 Ford Explorer. On the left: 2016 Ford Explorer.

The Ford Explorer saw a major redesign in 2011, which entirely refreshed the vehicle’s outdated, ‘90s look. The 2016 refresh wasn’t a head-to-toe update, but it did include new front and rear styling, as well as some cool new technology. Ford also created, for the first time with the Explorer, a new premium class – Platinum – that comes with a vast selection of of tech and other creature comforts. Some of the new styling elements include repositioning the grille and headlamps to be a little higher than the 2015 model, which lends a more rugged appearance for the truck. Now coming standard are LED low beams, with the option to have LED fog lamps, as well as LED signature lighting. In the name of increased aerodynamics Ford made two cool changes. A redesigned roof rack and rear spoiler were implemented, and active grille shutters that open and close at highway speeds, further reducing drag, were added. To help improve the driving experience, Ford also developed and implemented a new, intelligent four-wheel drive system that continually monitors driving characteristics 20 times more quickly than an eye can blink and automatically adjusts the car’s torque ratios to provide improved traction as you drive.

The real advantage that the Ford Explorer has, relative to the Honda Pilot and others, is the wealth of in-car technology. Externally, the Ford Explorer comes with options for a self-cleaning front and rear camera, which is an industry first. The new Explorer also has a new feature that they’ve taken from the Ford Escape — an available hands-free liftgate that allows for you to simply kick under the back bumper, which triggers the sensor and powers the liftgate. This is perfect from when your hands are full of groceries or anything else.

Should an individual decide to upgrade to the Platinum trim level, there’s a barrage of other external features that are added. This includes a unique LED headlight arrangement, a dual panel moonroof, silver-painted front and rear skid plates and 20-inch wheels. The Platinum Ford Explorer also comes with an integrated exhaust system that features chrome bezels, designed to prevent the buildup of soot.

The 2016 Honda Pilot:

2015 Honda Pilot vs 2016 Honda Pilot

Photo from Forbes

As mentioned, for 2016 the Honda Pilot’s designers got rid of the hard, blocky lines that previously defined the shape of the Pilot. Since its second iteration, Honda’s 7 passenger SUV has been a blocky, though efficient, people mover. But Honda has done a remarkable job redesigning the Pilot to have a more fluid, curvy, and eye-catching design that takes after the classic C-RV and is a return to the angular first generation body style of the Pilot. The 2016 Honda Pilot also gained 3.5 inches, with 1.7 inches of that length largely due to the increase in wheelbase, which allowed for a larger interior.

The redesign added optional LED headlamps and LED daytime running lights that match up a bit better with their standard LED taillights. Other external options include the choice of twenty-inch wheels, and a panoramic moonroof. It should be noted that not only is this the first time a Honda has come with twenty-inch wheels, but that the Pilot was also designed to use those wheels to provide a smoother, less noisy, driving experience on a variety of terrains. In combination with the AWD intelligent traction management system, the Honda Pilot is now more capable of handling difficult terrain than ever before. There is even a two-wheel drive option, which offers expanded capabilities for snow, making it even safer to drive all year round. Interestingly, in addition to the intelligent traction management system, the Pilot also offers a variable torque management AWD system, allowing for greater traction and control in tricky situations.

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Ford Explorer Interior Features

2016 Ford Explorer Interior

With the introduction of the Platinum trim level in the Ford Explorer, this 3-row SUV feels more like a luxury model than ever before. This is why Ford rolled out the Platinum model in the first place — to begin to compete with the Jeep Cherokee Summit or the GMC Acadia Denali on a higher scale. To create the premium feel that Ford wanted, the company added in a considerable amount of interior creature comforts. For the Platinum, these features include quilted leather on the seats, satin-finished ash wood, and brushed aluminum on the dashboard and the doors. This is a long way from plastic meant to look like brushed aluminum or wood. Ford even updated its classic blue oval logo on the steering wheel with a more stately brushed aluminum version. This is the first time that this has happened on any Ford vehicle.

Many people were turned off by the Ford Explorer’s MyFordTouch system, which previously was a difficult, non-intuitive, touch screen display. Ford seems to have listened to the complaints of the many, as the new SYNC 3 system has returned with buttons and knobs, as opposed to the haptic-touch-style controls that had been somewhat confusing for a driver. Other added perks include smart-charging USB ports that will charge many devices twice as fast, as well as a traditional power outlet can be found in the second row of seating. Ford even upgraded the speaker system to a new 500-watt Sony audio system, which includes a feature called “Live Acoustics and Clear Phase Technology”, which effectively eliminates sound dispersion throughout the vehicle so that music can be heard in higher fidelity. This coupled with improved door seals, thicker front glass, new tires, and subframe mounts, which reduce the sound of wind and road noise, means that the cabin of the Explorer has become an audiophile’s dream.

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Honda Pilot Interior Features

2016 Honda Interior

Packed into the 3-row SUV is a wide bevy of driver’s aids and creature comforts that make this people mover a worthy challenger to the Ford Explorer. With an interior that can be arranged into as many as 16 different configurations, the Honda Pilot offers a significant amount of features. It also has somewhat more room, so passengers do have a bit more of a spacious interior than they would in the Explorer. The Pilot offers a rear entertainment system, with your option of a DVD or a Bluray player, where the Ford does not.

 

This year’s Honda Pilot also got rid of the previously abundant hard, plastic surfaces and replaced them with high-quality, soft-touch materials on the dash, door panels and armrest.

 

In doing so, the Pilot became closer to an Acura MDX than expected. The standard push-button start, as well as seven-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, USB port, and rearview camera continue to make the Honda Pilot feel more like it’s more upscale cousin, the MDX. Some optional features that are offered in the Honda Pilot include forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, as well as a passenger side blind spot camera, adaptive cruise control, a power sunroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, and finally, an 8 inch touch-screen infotainment display. The Honda Pilot certainly offers a lot. Between the two, it can seem like they’re playing a game of one-upmanship, but the Ford Explorer absolutely takes the cake.

The Final Bout

While both three-row SUVs start in the same general price range, at around $39,000 CAD, the Ford Explorer offers significantly more at that price. The Explorer has a long list of driver aids and available safety features that the Honda doesn’t have access to — things like Active Park, which includes park-out assist and perpendicular park assist, as well as semi-automatic parallel parking, rear cross-traffic alert, collision warning systems, inflatable safety belts and the intelligent four-wheel drive system and advanced terrain management systems. These are all things that would separate the Ford Explorer from the Honda Pilot and provide a clear advantage for the savvy shopper.

The Ford Explorer also offers more power and fuel efficiency than the Honda Pilot can. Overall, for this year, the 2016 Ford Explorer simply offers more than the competition. If you’re looking for an efficient family vehicle, the Ford Explorer offers reliability, luxury, comfort, and safety at an unbeatable price.

Interested in experiencing the new 2016 Ford Explorer for yourself? Contact us at 604-239-0323 to set up a test drive today! The Sales Team of Mainland Ford in Surrey, BC, is standing by to answer your questions and make sure that your vehicle provides everything that you need.

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