Ford Explorer Storage space
Ford Explorer vs. Honda Pilot: Which Should You Buy?
John Vincent / U.S. News and World Report
The 2016 Ford Explorer and 2016 Honda Pilot are two of the most popular 3-row crossover SUVs on the market, loved for their cargo-hauling capabilities and carlike driving dynamics. It’s a class with many quality contenders and little separation between the top-rated models and the rest of the pack.
Refreshed for 2016, the Explorer is ranked No. 18 in our list of SUVs with 3 rows and was a finalist for U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 Best Large SUV for the Money award, finishing behind the 2016 Chevrolet Traverse.
The recently redesigned Honda Pilot has leapt to the top of our rankings of SUVs with 3 rows, crossover SUVs, and midsize SUVs. It has also been named the 2016 Best 3-Row SUV for the Money and Best 3-Row SUV for Families.
Which is best for your family? It might depend on what you need from your SUV. Read on to find out how they stack up against one another.
Ford Motor Company
The Honda Pilot and the Ford Explorer are 3-row crossover SUVs available in front- and all-wheel drive configurations. Honda Pilots seat as many as seven or eight passengers, depending on the interior configuration, while the Explorer seats up to six or seven, depending on its interior setup.
The Explorer is 3.8 inches longer but nearly identical to the Pilot’s height and width.
Honda’s Pilot is redesigned for 2016. Now in its third generation, it gains a new engine, a new look, an available suite of advanced safety technologies, and an opulent new top-trim level. The Explorer’s refresh is extensive with a revamped exterior, a new turbocharged 2.3-liter engine option, and the addition of a luxury Platinum trim level.
When introduced in 1991, the Explorer was a pioneering model in the modern SUV market. Since its inception there have been more than seven million sold, according to Ford. The Pilot is a relative newcomer, with its market introduction in 2003.
Pricing – Winner: 2016 Honda Pilot
The base models of both are similarly equipped, though the base Pilot LX has push button start, a feature not included in the Explorer until you reach the , 400 XLT model. Both have standard Bluetooth telephone connectivity and backup cameras.
At the top end, a 2016 Honda Pilot Elite costs $46, 570 while an Explorer Platinum starts at $52, 970. Included in the Explorer Platinum’s price, however, is a much more powerful engine than is available in the Pilot, plus a standard Class III trailer towing package.
Safety – Winner: 2016 Honda Pilot
American Honda Motor Co. Inc.
The 2016 Pilot and Explorer both receive five-star overall ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but the Pilot fares better in tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), earning a Top Safety Pick+ rating. The Explorer scored only Marginal on the IIHS small overlap front crash test.
According to the IIHS, Pilots equipped with optional equipment are rated Superior for crash avoidance and mitigation, while the Explorer rating tops out at Basic, even with optional equipment. The Pilot has four seating positions with top and bottom child seat anchors and two more with top tethers. Explorers have three seats with complete LATCH hardware and one more with a top tether and lower anchors close enough to be shared.
Honda’s Sensing safety and driver assistance suite is available on all but the base LX model. It includes forward collision warning with collision mitigation braking, a lane departure warning and lane keeping assist system, and adaptive cruise control. Electronic blind spot warning is only included on the Elite trim level, but Honda’s LaneWatch passenger-side camera is included on all models except the LX and Elite.
While much of the same technology is available on the Explorer, it’s only available on upper trim levels. The Explorer does not offer forward collision mitigation braking, only forward collision warning.
Seat Comfort and Interior Refinement – Winner: Honda Pilot
The 2016 Honda Pilot receives accolades from the automotive press for its comfortable, high quality, and quiet interior that could give the MDX, from Honda’s Acura luxury division, competition. Unlike most similar crossovers, adults can fit comfortably in the Pilot’s third row for short trips.
Most Pilots will seat up to eight, with two up front and three in each of the center and back rows. The range-topping Elite trim level only seats seven due to its second-row captain’s chairs.
The 2016 Ford Explorer earns some of lowest interior marks in the category, with limited visibility and cramped second- and third-row seats. Limited space in the second row makes it difficult to install some rear-facing child seats. One bright light, however, is the luxurious Platinum trim with its high-quality materials and stylish design. Explorers seat up to seven.
Interior Technology – Winner: Tie
Ford Motor Company and American Honda Motor Co. Inc.
When it comes to interior technology both the Explorer and Pilot have their hits and misses. For the Explorer it’s the MyFord and MyFordTouch infotainment interfaces that miss the mark with their sluggish, buggy, and nonintuitive functions. That’s balanced by an impressive available Sony audio system.
The Explorer also offers both parallel and perpendicular automatic parking systems that are handy for maneuvering the large crossover into tight spaces.
All Pilots come standard with push-button start and a multiple angle rearview camera. Upper trim models use an infotainment interface that is frustrating to use, as it has no volume button and most functions are controlled through a touch screen that’s not very responsive. Many also wish for knobs rather than buttons to quickly and easily manage the climate control system.
Cargo Space – Winner: 2016 Honda Pilot
If you need to haul lots of cargo, the Pilot’s the winner with 83.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row, compared to the Explorer’s 80.7. With the middle row up, the Pilot still comes out ahead, with 46.8 cubic feet, besting the Explorer’s 43.8.