Honda Pilot: Which Should You Buy, 2020 or 2021?

Most significant changes: Nine-speed automatic transmission now standard; new Special Edition trim slots between EX-L and Touring trims

Price change: Increases of $200 for Touring, Elite and Black trims; $400 for EX and EX-L trims; $600 for LX 

On sale: Now

Which should you buy, 2020 or 2021? 2021. With minimal price changes between the two model years, the addition of a standard nine-speed automatic transmission to every trim makes the 2021 model the one to buy.

The seven- or eight-seat, mid-size Honda Pilot was last completely overhauled for the 2019 model year. Updates for 2021 consist of a new trim and the nine-speed automatic transmission becoming standard across the lineup.

Related: 2021 Honda Pilot Commits to 9-Speed Automatic Transmission, Adds Special Edition and Content to Base Model

The Pilot’s new SE trim adds popular features such as new 20-inch black wheels and accents, roof rails, a hands-free liftgate, a wireless device charger and standard dual-zone climate control. It slots between the EX-L and Touring trim levels.

Also for 2021, the nine-speed automatic transmission previously standard for Touring trims and above will be standard across the Pilot lineup. That change also adds paddle shifters; stop-start is now standard, as well.

The Pilot impresses with its family-friendly attitude and generous interior space. While it lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard equipment, the Pilot offers up to seating for eight people; LED headlights; a 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6; and a long list of safety features via the standard Honda Sensing suite of safety tech, which includes a collision mitigation braking system, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist.

The Pilot’s interior amenities and tech offerings feel dated against more youthful competition, however, and its pricing doesn’t help. The base Pilot LX starts at $33,370 (all prices include destination), $600 more than the outgoing model, and the range-topping Black Edition hits $51,040, a $200 increase from 2020. Those numbers may best rivals like the 2020 Toyota Highlander’s price range of $35,775 for the base L to $49,975 for the all-wheel-drive Platinum, but they are also a a bit higher than the Subaru Ascent’s range of $33,345 for the base model and $46,495 for the top seven-seat Touring trim.

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Despite having been overhauled for 2019, the Pilot is showing its age and losing some ground to the competition. The Ascent hit the market in 2019 and brought standard all-wheel drive to the party, and Toyota released a new version of its Highlander SUV with a long list of updates for the 2020 model year.

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