2020 Honda Pilot vs. 2019 Ford Explorer

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 Explorer offers an available collision warning system without the automated brake feature that would prevent or reduce the collision if the driver fails to react.

Both the Pilot and the Explorer 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, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive, blind spot warning systems, rear parking sensors and rear cross-path warning.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Honda Pilot is safer than the Ford Explorer:

Pilot

Explorer

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

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 Explorer:

Pilot

Explorer

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

MARGINAL

Restraints

GOOD

MARGINAL

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Steering Column Movement Rearward

0 cm

13 cm

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Femur Force R/L

.1/.5 kN

3.7/2.2 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

1%/0%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Tibia index R/L

.41/.41

.87/.61

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Honda Pilot is safer than the Ford Explorer:

Pilot

Explorer

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Chest Movement

.6 inches

.9 inches

Abdominal Force

101 G’s

159 G’s

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Hip Force

304 lbs.

713 lbs.

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

15 inches

17 inches

HIC

406

407

Spine Acceleration

45 G’s

56 G’s

Hip Force

838 lbs.

909 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, rear impact and roof-crush tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, its “Acceptable” rating in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test, and its available headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Pilot the rating of “Top Pick” for 2019, a rating granted to only 88 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Explorer was not even a standard “Top Pick” for 2016.

Reliability

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

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Honda vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Honda 3 places higher in reliability than Ford.

Engine

As tested in Motor Trend the Honda Pilot is faster than the Ford Explorer turbo 4 cyl.:

Pilot

Explorer

Zero to 60 MPH

6.2 sec

8.2 sec

Quarter Mile

14.8 sec

16.3 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

93.9 MPH

84.5 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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

MPG

Pilot

FWD

9-spd

3.5 SOHC V6

20 city/27 hwy

6-spd

3.5 SOHC V6

19 city/27 hwy

AWD

9-spd

3.5 SOHC V6

19 city/26 hwy

6-spd

3.5 SOHC V6

18 city/26 hwy

Explorer

FWD

6-spd

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

19 city/27 hwy

6-spd

3.5 DOHC V6

17 city/24 hwy

AWD

6-spd

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

18 city/25 hwy

6-spd

3.5 DOHC V6

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 Explorer doesn’t offer a system that can shut down part of the engine.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Pilot Touring/Elite/Black Edition’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 Explorer 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 Explorer Sport/Platinum 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 Explorer (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/Black Edition, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the Explorer.

Brakes and Stopping

The Pilot stops shorter than the Explorer:

Pilot

Explorer

60 to 0 MPH

119 feet

123 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

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 Explorer doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

The Pilot (except LX)’s optional drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The Explorer doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

The Pilot Elite 4WD handles at .83 G’s, while the Explorer Limited 4WD pulls only .80 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

Chassis

The Honda Pilot may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 350 to 600 pounds less than the Ford Explorer.

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 Explorer 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 Explorer 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 Explorer Sport 4WD (67 vs. 70 dB).

Passenger Space

The Pilot has standard seating for 8 passengers; the Explorer can only carry up to 7.

The Pilot has 1.8 inches more front hip room, .5 inches more front shoulder room, .5 inches more rear hip room, 1 inch more rear shoulder room, 1.1 inches more third row headroom, 3.9 inches more third row hip room and 6.8 inches more third row shoulder room than the Explorer.

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

Cargo Capacity

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

Pilot

Explorer

Third Seat Folded

55.9 cubic feet

43.9 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

109 cubic feet

81.7 cubic feet

Towing

The Pilot’s minimum standard towing capacity is much higher than the Explorer’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 Explorer can only close 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 Explorer 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 Explorer’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

When the Pilot Touring/Elite/Black Edition 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 Explorer’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Pilot owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Pilot will cost $185 to $1940 less than the Explorer over a five-year period.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Pilot is less expensive to operate than the Explorer because it costs $391 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Pilot than the Explorer, including $189 less for a muffler, $426 less for a timing belt/chain and $353 less for a power steering pump.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Honda Pilot will be $5264 to $6447 less than for the Ford Explorer.

Recommendations

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

Pilot

Explorer

Consumer Reports® Recommends

TRUE

FALSE

Car Book “Best Bet”

TRUE

FALSE

Motor Trend performed a comparison test in its January 2016 issue and they ranked the Honda Pilot Elite 4WD higher than the Ford Explorer Limited 4WD.

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

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