2019 Honda Pilot vs. 2019 Ford Flex

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The Pilot has a standard Collision Mitigation Braking System, which uses forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The Flex offers an available collision warning system without the automated brake feature that would prevent or reduce the collision if the driver fails to react.

The Honda Pilot has Daytime Running Lights to help keep it more visible under all conditions. Canadian government studies show that driving with lights during the day reduces accidents by 11% by making vehicles more conspicuous. The Flex doesn’t offer Daytime Running Lights.

The Pilot’s lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane and gently nudges the vehicle back towards its lane. The Flex doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The Pilot Touring/Elite has standard Parking Sensors to help warn the driver about vehicles, pedestrians or other obstacles behind or in front of their vehicle. The Flex doesn’t offer a front parking aid.

Both the Pilot and the Flex have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front-wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, rearview cameras, available all-wheel drive, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Honda Pilot is safer than the Flex:

Pilot

Flex

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Restraints

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Steering Column Movement Rearward

0 cm

11 cm

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Femur Force R/L

.1/.5 kN

2.8/2.2 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

0%/0%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Tibia index R/L

.41/.41

.53/.69

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, and its available headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Pilot the rating of “Top Pick” for 2018, a rating granted to only 91 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Flex was not even a standard “Top Pick” for 2018.

Reliability

The engine in the Pilot has a single overhead cam for simplicity. The engines in the Flex have dual overhead cams, which add to the number of moving parts and the complexity of the cylinder heads.

A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the Pilot’s reliability 15 points higher than the Flex.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Honda vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Honda 12th in reliability, above the industry average. With 12 more problems per 100 vehicles, Ford is ranked 16th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ April 2018 Auto Issue reports that Honda vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Honda 6 places higher in reliability than Ford.

Engine

The Pilot’s 3.5 SOHC V6 produces 8 lbs.-ft. more torque (262 vs. 254) than the Flex’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6.

As tested in Consumer Reports the Honda Pilot is faster than the Ford Flex V6:

Pilot

Flex

Zero to 60 MPH

7.5 sec

8.5 sec

45 to 65 MPH Passing

5.3 sec

5.8 sec

Quarter Mile

15.9 sec

16.5 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

91.5 MPH

88 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Pilot 4WD 9-speed Auto gets better fuel mileage than the Flex AWD with its standard engine (19 city/26 hwy vs. 16 city/22 hwy).

An engine control system that can shut down half of the engine’s cylinders helps improve the Pilot’s fuel efficiency. The Flex doesn’t offer a system that can shut down part of the engine.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Pilot Touring/Elite’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Flex doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Honda Pilot uses regular unleaded gasoline. The Flex Limited requires premium for maximum efficiency, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

The Pilot has almost a gallon more fuel capacity than the Flex (19.5 vs. 18.6 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Transmission

A nine-speed automatic is standard on the Honda Pilot Touring/Elite, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the Flex.

Brakes and Stopping

The Pilot stops much shorter than the Flex:

Pilot

Flex

70 to 0 MPH

180 feet

192 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

136 feet

144 feet

Consumer Reports

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

153 feet

157 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Pilot has larger tires than the Flex (245/60R18 vs. 235/60R18).

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Pilot LX/EX/EX-L has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch wheels are standard on the Flex SE.

The Pilot has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The Flex doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

The Pilot Elite 4WD handles at .80 G’s, while the Flex SEL AWD pulls only .78 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

For better maneuverability, the Pilot’s turning circle is 1.3 feet tighter than the Flex’s (39.4 feet vs. 40.7 feet).

Chassis

The Honda Pilot may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 400 to 500 pounds less than the Ford Flex.

The Pilot is 5.3 inches shorter than the Flex, making the Pilot easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

To almost totally eliminate engine vibration in the passenger area, the Pilot has an electronically controlled liquid-filled main engine mount. A computer controlled electric current in the liquid changes its viscosity, allowing the mount to dampen the engine completely at all RPMs. The Flex uses conventional solid rubber engine mounts.

The Pilot uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The Flex doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

As tested by Car and Driver while cruising at 70 MPH, the interior of the Pilot Elite 4WD is quieter than the Flex Limited AWD (67 vs. 68 dB).

Passenger Space

The Pilot has standard seating for 8 passengers; the Flex can only carry 7.

The Pilot has 3.6 inches more front hip room, 3.6 inches more front shoulder room, 2.3 inches more rear hip room, 3.9 inches more rear shoulder room, .2 inches more third row headroom, 3.5 inches more third row hip room and 6.8 inches more third row shoulder room than the Flex.

For enhanced passenger comfort on long trips the Pilot’s middle and third row seats recline. The Flex’s third row seats don’t recline.

Cargo Capacity

The Pilot’s cargo area provides more volume than the Flex.

Pilot

Flex

Third Seat Folded

55.9 cubic feet

43.2 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

109 cubic feet

83.2 cubic feet

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Pilot Touring/Elite’s liftgate can be opened and closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The Flex doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Towing

The Pilot’s minimum standard towing capacity is much higher than the Flex’s (3500 vs. 2000 pounds).

Ergonomics

If the windows are left open on the Pilot the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Flex can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The Pilot has a standard locking fuel door with a remote release located convenient to the driver. A locking fuel door helps prevent vandalism, such as sugar in the tank and fuel theft. The Flex doesn’t offer a locking fuel door.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The Pilot’s available headlights were rated “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the Flex’s headlights are rated “Marginal” to “Poor.”

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors standard on the Pilot detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The Flex doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

When the Pilot Touring/Elite is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The Flex’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

The Pilot Elite has standard automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Flex has an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Pilot owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Pilot will cost $415 less than the Flex over a five-year period.

The Pilot will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the Pilot will retain 48.36% to 52.39% of its original price after five years, while the Flex only retains 42.83% to 45.87%.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Pilot is less expensive to operate than the Flex because it costs $279 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Pilot than the Flex, including $316 less for a muffler and $600 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

The Honda Pilot has won recognition from these important consumer publications:

Pilot

Flex

Consumer Reports® Recommends

TRUE

FALSE

Car Book “Best Bet”

TRUE

FALSE

The Honda Pilot outsold the Ford Flex by almost six to one during 2017.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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