2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2019 Honda Pilot

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

Both the Explorer and Pilot have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The Explorer has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The Pilot’s child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.

The Explorer has standard Post Collision Braking, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The Pilot doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Explorer ST/Platinum has standard Reverse Brake Assist that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The Pilot doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

When descending a steep, off-road slope, the Explorer 4WD’s standard Hill Descent Control allows you to creep down safely. The Pilot doesn’t offer Hill Descent Control.

The Explorer Limited/ST/Platinum has a standard 360-Degree Camera to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Pilot only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

The Explorer’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Pilot doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Explorer and the Pilot have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras and available all wheel drive.

Warranty

There are almost 3 times as many Ford dealers as there are Honda dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Explorer’s warranty.

Reliability

The Explorer has a standard “limp home system” to keep drivers from being stranded if most or all of the engine’s coolant is lost. The engine will run on only half of its cylinders at a time, reduce its power and light a warning lamp on the dashboard so the driver can get to a service station for repairs. The Pilot doesn’t offer a lost coolant limp home mode, so a coolant leak could strand you or seriously damage the truck’s engine.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Ford vehicles are better in initial quality than Honda vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Ford fourth in initial quality, above the industry average. With 15 more problems per 100 vehicles, Honda is ranked 16th, below the industry average.

Engine

The Explorer’s standard 2.3 turbo 4 cyl. produces 20 more horsepower (300 vs. 280) and 48 lbs.-ft. more torque (310 vs. 262) than the Pilot’s 3.5 SOHC V6. The Explorer’s optional 3.3 DOHC V6 hybrid produces 38 more horsepower (318 vs. 280) and 60 lbs.-ft. more torque (322 vs. 262) than the Pilot’s 3.5 SOHC V6. The Explorer Platinum’s standard 3.0 turbo V6 produces 85 more horsepower (365 vs. 280) and 118 lbs.-ft. more torque (380 vs. 262) than the Pilot’s 3.5 SOHC V6. The Explorer ST’s standard 3.0 turbo V6 produces 120 more horsepower (400 vs. 280) and 153 lbs.-ft. more torque (415 vs. 262) than the Pilot’s 3.5 SOHC V6.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Explorer gets better fuel mileage than the Pilot:

MPG

Explorer

RWD

10-speed Auto

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/28 hwy

AWD

10-speed Auto

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

20 city/27 hwy

Pilot

FWD

9-speed Auto

3.5 SOHC V6

20 city/27 hwy

6-speed Auto

3.5 SOHC V6

19 city/27 hwy

AWD

9-speed Auto

3.5 SOHC V6

19 city/26 hwy

6-speed Auto

3.5 SOHC V6

18 city/26 hwy

Regenerative brakes improve the Explorer Hybrid’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Pilot doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

Regardless of its engine, the Explorer’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) Honda only offers an automatic engine start/stop system on the Pilot Touring/Elite.

Transmission

A 10-speed automatic is standard on the Ford Explorer, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a nine-speed automatic is available for the Pilot.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Explorer’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the Pilot:

Explorer

Explorer ST

Explorer ST opt.

Pilot

Front Rotors

13.6 inches

13.6 inches

14.3 inches

12.6 inches

Rear Rotors

12.4 inches

12.8 inches

13.8 inches

13 inches

The Explorer ST’s optional front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the Pilot are solid, not vented.

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Explorer has larger standard tires than the Pilot (255/65R18 vs. 245/60R18). The Explorer ST/Platinum’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Pilot (275/45R21 vs. 245/60R18).

The Explorer ST/Platinum’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Pilot Touring/Elite’s 50 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Explorer ST/Platinum offers optional 21-inch wheels. The Pilot’s largest wheels are only 20-inches.

Having a flat tire is dangerous, inconvenient and expensive. The self-sealing tires available on the Explorer can automatically seal most punctures up to 3/16 of an inch, effectively preventing most flat tires. The Pilot doesn’t offer self-sealing tires.

Suspension and Handling

The Explorer has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Pilot’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Explorer’s wheelbase is 8.1 inches longer than on the Pilot (119.1 inches vs. 111 inches).

For greater off-road capability the Explorer has a greater minimum ground clearance than the Pilot (7.9 vs. 7.3 inches), allowing the Explorer to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.

Chassis

The front grille of the Explorer (except 3.3 V6 non-Hybrid) uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The Pilot doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

Passenger Space

The Explorer has .6 inches more front headroom, 2.1 inches more front legroom, .1 inches more front hip room, .3 inches more rear headroom, .6 inches more rear legroom, 1.8 inches more rear hip room and .3 inches more third row legroom than the Pilot.

Cargo Capacity

Pressing a switch automatically lowers the Explorer’s second and third row seats, to make changing between passengers and cargo easier. The Pilot doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

Towing

Maximum trailer towing in the Honda Pilot is limited to 5000 pounds. The Explorer offers up to a 5600 lbs. towing capacity.

Servicing Ease

The engine in the Explorer is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the Pilot. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because there are no rear spark plugs and the accessory belts are in front.

Ergonomics

The Explorer’s power parking brake sets with one touch and releases with one touch or automatically. The Pilot’s parking brake has to released manually.

The power windows standard on both the Explorer and the Pilot have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Explorer is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Pilot prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Explorer’s exterior PIN entry system. The Pilot doesn’t offer an exterior PIN entry system.

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the Explorer Platinum has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The Pilot doesn’t offer cornering lights.

The Explorer’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Honda only offers heated mirrors on the Pilot EX/EX-L/Touring/Elite.

The Explorer’s power mirror controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The Pilot’s power mirror controls are on the dash where they are possibly hidden by the steering wheel and are awkward to manipulate.

The Explorer has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning is only available on the Pilot EX/EX-L/Touring/Elite.

The Explorer ST/Platinum’s Active Park Assist 2.0 can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The Pilot doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Recommendations

The Ford Explorer outsold the Honda Pilot by 64% during 2018.

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

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