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How does the new Honda Pilot stack up against the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander?

Published:Sunday | December 3, 2023 | 12:05 AM
The Honda Pilot’s distinctive TrailSport trim has a raised stance and all-terrain tires to enhance 
off-road capability.
The Honda Pilot’s distinctive TrailSport trim has a raised stance and all-terrain tires to enhance off-road capability.
Toyota Highlander.
Toyota Highlander.
Toyota Highlander interior.
Toyota Highlander interior.
It has a spacious and versatile cabin, with room for seven or eight passengers and a deep underfloor storage compartment.
It has a spacious and versatile cabin, with room for seven or eight passengers and a deep underfloor storage compartment.
The test unit featured a panoramic sunroof, a 12-speaker Bose sound system, and a hands-free power tailgate.
The test unit featured a panoramic sunroof, a 12-speaker Bose sound system, and a hands-free power tailgate.
The 2024 Grand Highlander three-row SUV. It has an upscale cabin with plenty of room for passengers and cargo.
The 2024 Grand Highlander three-row SUV. It has an upscale cabin with plenty of room for passengers and cargo.
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The Honda Pilot is a popular midsize SUV for shoppers in need of a versatile family-oriented hauler. For years, buyers have enjoyed its three rows of seating, loads of storage, and clever features. Now, there is a new generation that debuted for 2023. It has fresh styling, more interior room, and a new TrailSport version with enhanced off-roading capabilities.

But savvy shoppers will know that the Pilot isn’t the only pick in the class. Notably, Honda’s longtime rival, Toyota, is looking to usurp the Pilot’s standing with its all-new Grand Highlander. As its name implies, the Toyota Grand Highlander is bigger and more spacious than the regular Highlander. It also gets a handful of upgrades that make it a compelling rival to the Pilot. Which three-row SUV is best?

FUEL ECONOMY AND POWER

Every Honda Pilot comes with a V6 engine that makes 285 horsepower. Depending on its configuration, the Pilot gets an EPA fuel economy estimate of 20-22 mpg in combined city/highway driving. Both power and fuel economy are fairly typical for a midsize three-row SUV.

Most Grand Highlander buyers will end up with the vehicle’s 265-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It gets slightly better EPA estimates than the Pilot: 22-24 mpg combined. Toyota then goes even further by offering two available hybrid power trains in the Grand Highlander. The first is the regular Grand Highlander Hybrid. It is a little underpowered — 245 horsepower — but comes up big with an EPA estimate of up to 36 mpg combined. There is also a Hybrid Max version that ramps up to 362 horsepower and still gets 27mpg.

While the Pilot’s V6 meets expectations, we like that Toyota offers far more economical options and variety.

Winner: Grand Highlander

INTERIOR AND TECHNOLOGY

Storage is important for a family-oriented SUV, and Toyota prioritised it in the Grand Highlander. Open up the rear lift gate, and you’ll find 20.6 cubic feet of storage space behind its third row, which is a bit more than the Honda’s 18.6 cubic feet. The Grand Highlander continues to have a space advantage when you fold down the second- or third-row seats, too. Its third-row seating area is also slightly more comfortable for adults.

Toyota no longer trails in tech either. The standard 12.3-inch centre touchscreen responds quickly and looks sharp. It also dwarfs the Pilot’s base 7-inch screen. A bigger 9-inch screen is available in the Pilot, but that’s it. Standard driver-assist features, such as traffic-adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance systems, are pretty well represented on both SUVs. Yet there are a couple of extras on the Grand Highlander that Honda doesn’t offer such as a low-speed hands-free driving mode in congested traffic situations.

Winner: Grand Highlander

DRIVING AND COMFORT

The Grand Highlander is easy to drive. It has a smooth ride and doesn’t get skittish over big bumps. Acceleration is fine around town for the base Grand Highlander and Highlander Hybrid, but those models start to feel a little underpowered when you’re trying to make a pass on the highway or when you have a full load of passengers aboard.

The Pilot doesn’t quite ride as smoothly as the Grand Highlander, but it does have some advantages. Off-road, the available Pilot TrailSport version, which has a slightly higher ride height and all-terrain tires, is more capable than any Grand Highlander. And around turns, the Pilot feels sportier and more responsive. We also like the V6’s smooth and responsive acceleration in a variety of driving situations.

Winner: tie

PRICING AND VALUE

Honda starts out the 2024 Pilot lineup with the base LX trim that starts at US$38,465 including the destination fee. It has a decent set of features but it’s not until you get to the US $43,775 EX-L that you’ll find features such as leather upholstery, a power rear lift gate and the bigger 9-inch centre touchscreen. Topping the line-up is the Elite trim level at US $53,855.

Pricing starts out higher for the Grand Highlander with the base XLE trim at US $44,465. However, the features you’re getting are generally comparable to the Pilot’s EX-L. Plus, some desirable features can be had for less on the Grand Highlander. Ventilated front seats, for example, are on the next-step up Limited trim, but on the Pilot they’re reserved for the top-spec Elite trim. Toyota prices the top Grand Highlander Platinum at US$54,940. Hybrid versions are typically a few thousand dollars more but can help save money on gas in the long term.

Winner: Grand Highlander