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The Real Comparison Between Honda Pilot Versus Ford Explorer

Image Source: Roman Korotkov / Shutterstock

As some of the most established badges in the SUV domain, the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer share numerous similarities. Each boasts three rows of seating, remarkable safety accolades, and variations tailored for the adventurous types within families.

The newly designed 2025 Honda Pilot, updated this particular year, upgrades its eight-passenger setup with improvements. It flaunts bigger and more advanced infotainment displays, a sturdy TrailSport model, and an updated V-6 engine, yet it omits a hybrid option.

On the other hand, the 2024 Ford Explorer has aged a bit since its last refresh and its conversion to a rear-wheel-focused framework. It offers a spacious cabin in this battleground, in addition to a hybrid variant that achieves admirable fuel economy figures.

These venerable models have impressive key attributes—but which emerges as the superior choice? This is our breakdown.

Honda Pilot versus Ford Explorer pricing and options

  • The entry-level Pilot is priced at $41,000.
  • An initial Explorer model is valued at $38,225.
  • Optimal choices: Honda Pilot EX-L, Ford Explorer XLT High.

What is the cost of a Honda Pilot?

The fundamental Honda Pilot Sport begins at a minimum of $41,000—but at that sticker price, it delivers eight seats, dual-zone climate adjustment, powered amenities, and a 7.0-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus a 3-year/36,000-mile guarantee.

Buyers often gravitate directly towards the $45,000 Pilot EX-L, which, optionally, offers a second-row captain’s chair setup. It additionally benefits from cordless smartphone pairing, a larger 9.0-inch screen, an inductive smartphone charging pad, leather trim, and an automated tailgate.

At the premium end, the $56,000 Honda Pilot Black Edition includes navigational features, 12-speaker Bose sound system, 20-inch rims, a windshield-projected display, ventilated front seating, digital instrument cluster, and an encompassing camera network.

What is the price of a Ford Explorer?

Base-model Explorers now begin at a minimum of $38,000, offering powered amenities, fabric seating, an 8.0-inch display, and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. An optional 10.1-inch screen is offered.

For an upgraded experience, we recommend the $43,600 XLT model with the High trim package, which features power-adjustable front seats, keyless ignition, 20-inch rims, and imitation leather seating. All-wheel-drive demands an additional cost—so you might consider the $50,000 Explorer Timberline for standard AWD.

At the high end, the $57,570 Explorer King Ranch integrates wooden dashboard accents, perforated leather seating, and digital instruments—but Ford adds another $1,295 to package the expansive 10.1-inch screen.

Advantage: The Pilot, with more offerings at the suggested trim level.

Ford Explorer vs. Honda Pilot performance statistics and towing capabilities

  • The Explorer comes factory-equipped with a turbocharged 4-cylinder.
  • Hybrid powertrains can equip Explorers.
  • The Pilot sports a robust V-6, its exclusive powerplant.
  • All-wheel-drive can couple with any of these models.

Does the Honda Pilot offer 4WD?

While the majority of Pilots are outfitted with front-wheel-drive, a $2,100 addition equips those FWD variants with all-wheel drive; this setup is a standard feature on the Elite, TrailSport, and Black Edition trims. Honda’s system can allocate torque between the front and back axles, and even across the rear axle for enhanced power distribution.

How swift is the Honda Pilot?

The current 3.5-liter V-6 in the Pilot resonates and behaves similarly to its predecessor. It’s robust, emits a pleasant sound at higher revolutions, and its driving dynamics can be adjusted through a variety of modes tailored for conditions such as snowy terrains, towing, and off-road journeys. The 10-speed automatic transmission by Honda switches gears seamlessly, and paddle shifters afford the driver further command over power application.

From the Sport to the TrailSport, the Pilot showcases a responsive, lighter steering system that maintains a connection to the road, even when it’s equipped with larger, less sensitive 20-inch wheels (standard models feature 18-inch wheels). It’s an incredibly comfortable vehicle to travel in, thanks to its independently tuned front and rear suspensions, perfect for highway cruising and nimble enough to avoid potholes or glide over speed bumps.

The Pilot is capable of towing up to 5,000 pounds. The TrailSport edition has been upgraded with modest off-road capabilities, including all-terrain tires, a protective skid plate at the front, and an optional camera system offering a dedicated view of under-vehicle hindrances when required.

Is the Ford Explorer 4WD-equipped?

Most configurations come with standard rear-wheel-drive, and adapt all-wheel drive for an additional $2,000; the Timberline version includes AWD as a standard amenity.

How speedy is the Ford Explorer?

The 300 horsepower, 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine found in most Explorers might not seem formidable on paper, but appearances can deceive: it’s potent, adequately muted, and mated with a 10-speed automatic that efficiently utilizes the engine’s output. Ford claims a sub-seven-second sprint from 0 to 60 mph for the turbocharged 4 Explorer, while it maintains a 5,300-pound towing capacity.

This increases by a meager 300 pounds—and the price rises more substantially—in the Explorer equipped with the 400 horsepower turbo V-6. The Explorer Platinum, King Ranch, and ST are powered by the 6-cylinder engine, which can accelerate to 60 mph in even shorter times.

The Explorer reaches speeds upward of 60 mph in under six seconds, yet Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission sometimes mishandles the gear changes in the performance-oriented ST variant.

Featuring an independent suspension on both front and rear, the Explorer, with its rear-wheel drive roots, boasts a lower, more athletically inclined posture. This results in a stable ride with reduced body roll compared to many other SUVs capable of seating eight passengers. While perhaps a minor aspect in such vehicles with varying priorities, it is still noteworthy.

Advantage: Despite the matchup of turbocharged four-cylinder versus V-6 engine, the result is evenly matched.

  • 2022 Ford Explorer ST-Line
  • 2022 Ford Explorer Timberline
  • 2022 Ford Explorer ST-Line
  • 2022 Ford Explorer ST-Line

Honda Pilot versus Ford Explorer: interior and available cargo space

The Explorer accommodates seven passengers. The third row in the Honda permits greater comfort for taller individuals. The Pilot’s cargo capacity earns it the advantage

How spacious is the Ford Explorer?

Crafted to transport as many as seven individuals and their belongings, the Explorer is undoubtedly sizable, though not to the extent of certain other vehicles with three rows. For those requiring extra space, Ford directs you to the larger Expedition.

Within the Explorer, those in the front receive cloth seating which is improved with options ranging from faux to authentic leather, along with power features for the passenger seat and temperature modulating capabilities as you ascend the pricing structure. A low dashboard and SUV-elevated seats contribute to excellent visibility. Ample spaces for stowing smaller items are scattered throughout, and the premium quality of the interior work in the first row leaves a positive impression.

The second row continues the trend, with a bench that can be substituted with captain’s chairs except on the entry-level model. Roominess for both the head and legs are adequate for individuals up to six feet in height, and the bench can divide and fold in a 60/40 fashion, adaptable to the quantity of occupants.

However, the third row becomes cramped, restricting adults with no more than 32.2 inches of leg space and a reduced ceiling due to a sloping roofline. Its utility grows when collapsed, boosting storage from 18.2 cubic feet up to 47.9 cubic feet. With both back rows down, the Explorer can haul up to 87.9 cubic feet of cargo.

How expansive is the Honda Pilot?

The Pilot is noticeably larger compared to the Explorer, evident from the front seat to the rear.

At the helm, the Pilot provides superior seat support thanks to the redesigned cushions and frames. Power adjustments for the driver are a standard feature on all variants above the base LX, and the majority come with powered adjustments for the passenger seat, heated front seats, and powered lower back support. The EX-L and above grades are adorned with leather upholstery also.

An expansive console between the front seats, featuring a cushioned top, offers considerable storage and seamlessly integrates into the cup holders and a niche for cordless phone charging.

The second-row bench divides in three segments, and in certain models, includes an intriguing but not entirely practical detachable middle seat. Exclusive to the Touring and Elite Pilots, this removable seat, weighing roughly 25 pounds, can be stored within the cargo section. It doesn’t compete with the extra 2.4 inches of legroom this Pilot offers, allowing for pairs of six-footers to sit one behind the other with ease. Headroom is generous as well, though the seats are positioned approximately two inches higher than the preceding Pilot model.

A quick press of a button enables the second row to slide forward, granting better access to the third row. It boasts a heightened floor and sufficient leg space for individuals under six feet, presenting more utility than the Explorer’s third row—but its cargo capacity of 22.4 cubic feet can be expanded to 60.1 cubic feet when the third row is stowed away. By folding down the middle row, the Honda Pilot can accommodate in excess of 112 cubic feet of cargo—comparable to the capacity of a minivan.

Advantage: The Pilot takes the lead by more than 20 cubic feet.

Does the Honda Pilot excel in fuel economy?

It performs adequately. At its best, the Pilot achieves EPA estimates of 22 mpg combined for its front-wheel drive LX models. The addition of all-wheel drive reduces it to 21 mpg, and the TrailSport versions register at 20 mpg combined.

Is the Ford Explorer efficient with fuel?

It surpasses the Pilot. The all-wheel-drive Explorer XLT boasts an EPA rating of 22 mpg combined, while the turbo-four achieves 23 mpg combined. The former hybrid configuration is no longer available.

Advantage: The Explorer edges ahead by a small margin.

  • 2022 Ford Explorer
  • Ford Explorer versus Honda Pilot: safety measures
  • The Explorer performs admirably in collision scenarios
  • Both vehicles come equipped with automatic emergency braking systems
  • Available options range from adaptive cruise control to comprehensive camera systems for surround visibility

How reliable is the Honda Pilot’s safety?

Awarded a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS, and a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA, all Pilot models are fitted with adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, active lane guidance, and automatic high beam lights. Blind-spot monitors become standard from the Sport model upwards; the EX-L and above also feature sensors for front and rear parking. Depending on the configuration, a camera system providing panoramic views, inclusive of off-road angles, is installable.

How reliable is the Ford Explorer’s safety?

Receiving a Top Safety Pick accolade from the IIHS and five stars from the NHTSA, the Explorer is equipped as standard with automatic emergency braking—which gained a “Superior” rating by the IIHS—alongside blind-spot monitors, active lane guidance, and automatic headlights. The options extend to adaptive cruise control and automatic rear emergency braking as well.

Advantage: Undetermined; this section shall be revised upon availability of additional Pilot data.

  • Ford Explorer versus Honda Pilot Aesthetic
  • The Explorer flaunts a chic sport-wagon guise
  • The Pilot exhibits more quintessential SUV characteristics
  • Honda secures the victory in cabin design
  • Is the Honda Pilot visually appealing?

It introduces a refreshed outlook on the façade with lean LED headlamps and a grille featuring mesh patterns that blend harmoniously with the rear’s angular forms. The Pilot draws inspiration from the older Honda Passport from numerous perspectives—thankfully, the similarities halt at the outline. Internally, the Pilot boasts a no-nonsense motif that positions the dashboard high for enhanced sightlines, implements user-friendly controls for essential operations, and mounts a touchscreen at the crest for proficient infotainment interactions. Honda’s distinctive gear selector may not be our favorite feature, but it’s a minor issue rather than a significant fault.

Is the Ford Explorer visually appealing?

The Explorer exudes athleticism and robustness in its posture and contour, failing only when it comes to integrating standard Ford imagery. Make no mistake: the car’s sport-wagon frame is effective, as are the stylish touches like trimmings around the wheel wells and side skirts. While it could have been bolder in execution, this look is likely to remain timeless compared to preceding Explorers. Internally, the Explorer ranks lower now, appearing rather mundane. The cabin does little to differentiate it from SUVs from ten years prior, excluding the enlarged touchscreen on particular models. Predominantly, there’s an abundance of black plastic and imitation leather, with a dash of colorful threadwork if one opts for a pricier variant—and little else.

Advantage: The Pilot.

Which is superior: Ford Explorer or Honda Pilot?

The Honda Pilot offers more space, a hint of retro flair, commendable infotainment, and a bold TrailSport model. It attains a TCC Rating of 6.8 out of 10. (Discover more on how we evaluate cars.) The Explorer also scores respectably, achieving a TCC Rating of 6.5 out of 10, attributed to its impressive safety accolades and a capacious interior. The slight supremacy of the Honda in visual appeal and affordability comes with the bonus of increased roominess—and thus it triumphs.

Image Source: Roman Korotkov / Shutterstock

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