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Photos: 2009 Honda Pilot EX-L

The 2009 Honda Pilot EX-L is a solidly built SUV, but it feels underpowered for its size. Technophiles will want to step up to the Touring trim level or look elsewhere.

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Antuan Goodwin

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We're not in love with the looks of the 2009 Honda Pilot, which has gotten bigger and chunkier than the outgoing model. On the plus side, it does look and feel solidly built.
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New for 2009, the Pilot's grille is both bolder and more trucklike than before. More powerful headlamps are a welcome safety addition.
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Though the Pilot can be had with all-wheel drive, our tester was a two-wheel-drive model that delivered its power through the rear wheels only.
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The Pilot meets California's Ultra-Low-Emission Vehicle (ULEV) standard for light trucks and is EPA rated at 17 city mpg and 23 highway mpg with the two-wheel-drive drivetrain.
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At EX-L trim level, the Pilot comes equipped with a standard backup camera. Backup cameras not only help with tricky parallel parking, but they also make SUVs with huge rear blind spots more safe to be around.
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The almost coffin silent cabin does a fantastic job of insulating the driver from road and wind noise, which allows the audio system to sound its best.
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In an otherwise high-quality interior, the audio system stands out as downright gaudy. We're confused as to why Honda chose to trim the system with green frosted plastic. Fortunately, the system sounds much better than it looks.
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By mounting the shifter for the five-speed automatic transmission on the dash, Honda has freed up the Pilot's center console to be a massive storage bin.
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The steering wheel is home to buttons for volume, audio source, and cruise control, which are all easily reached with the thumb.
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The Pilot's instrument cluster consists of three aluminum and glass gauges with floating dials. The trip computer includes both average and instantaneous mpg meters.
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The Pilot's third row provided just enough space for our 5' 9" frame, but is still better suited for little ones. When not in use, the second and third row seats can be folded flat to increase the Pilot's interior volume to 87 cubic feet.
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Honda has cleverly hidden the monitor for the backup camera behind the glass of the rearview mirror. Although the screen is tiny, it's close enough to the driver's head to be clearly viewed.
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Tucked in the storage bin under the armrest is one of four 12 volt outlets and an Auxiliary input for the audio system.
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At this trim level, the audio and climate control systems are monitored with this pretty good-looking monochrome display. Even in direct sunlight, the display is crisp and easy to read.
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At the back of the center console are the controls for the rear climate control. This console can be locked from the the main screen, preventing young kids from messing with the temperature.
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The Pilot's 250 horsepower V-6 engine uses Honda's i-VTEC technology and variable cylinder management (VCM) to boost fuel economy. VCM allows the engine to operate on three, four, or six cylinders depending on the power and efficiency needs of the vehicle.

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