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2003 Midsize SUV Buyer's Guide
by Steve Siler

Honda Pilot
Honda Pilot

Ever since hitting American roads just about a year ago, Honda's Pilot has been a knockout hit for the company. It was designed for Americans and is built here in America, and demonstrates Honda's understanding of what we Americans like in our vehicles.

The Pilot is Honda's first real mid-size SUV that it can take credit for; the Isuzu-designed Honda Passport wasn't really a Honda. What really is Honda is quality, which the Pilot has in excess. It also has tons of space, revealing how closely it is related to Honda's sterling Odyssey minivan (with which it shares its architecture). This design also brings with it a smooth ride quality and a reasonably low center of gravity.

Now, the Pilot's strengths are numerous, not the least of which is the standard fitment of the same type of "disappearing" third-row seat as the Odyssey, as well as the availability of a kid-friendly DVD entertainment system and/or a user-friendly navigation system. The base LX comes with just about everything, except keyless entry, power driver's seat, rear privacy glass, steering wheel audio controls and a cassette player for the standard CD stereo. All of that is standard on the EX, which also offers leather appointments as an option.

Power comes from a smooth, gutsy 240-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a five-speed automatic works smoothly and seamlessly. And in contrast to many in the midsize crossover and SUV class, all-wheel-drive is standard. Prices start at about $27,000 for the LX and rise to about $33,000, which represents an absolute steal for this much vehicle.

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