Honda Pilot named ‘Official Winter Vehicle of New England’

PILOT PROGRAM: Honda’s new-for-2016 Pilot is the Official Winter Vehicle of New England.
PILOT PROGRAM: Honda’s new-for-2016 Pilot is the Official Winter Vehicle of New England. –Honda

Honda’s redesigned 2016 Pilot has been voted the Official Winter Vehicle of New England by members of the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA).

The award will be presented on May 26 at MIT during NEMPA’s annual awards dinner.

Voters cited the Pilot’s family-friendly design, combined with advanced technology, upgraded V-6 engine, and combination of traction management selections and improved all-wheel-drive system. Honda’s AWD system now not only distributes torque between front and rear wheels but also between the left and right rear wheels as needed.

The Pilot succeeds last year’s winners, the Ford F-150 pickup and the Jeep Grand Cherokee; the Cherokee had a three-year hold on NEMPA’s Official Winter Vehicle of New England title.

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Pilot buyers can opt for either seven- or eight-passenger seating in the new Pilot. The eight-passenger configuration has a sliding second-row bench seat while seven-passenger models have second-row captains’ chairs with a passageway between them for third-row access.

Safety features include a standard rearview camera and an available suite of Honda Sensing driver assists, including LaneWatch (a camera view of the lane to the right of the vehicle), blind spot information, forward collision warning with collision mitigation braking, and adaptive cruise control.

Also available are lane departure warning and lane keeping assist and, new to Honda, road departure mitigation and rear cross-traffic monitoring.

The new 280-horsepower V-6 has variable cylinder deactivation technology and can be mated to either a six- or nine-speed automatic transmission, depending on trim level.

AWD models feature buttons for normal, snow, mud, or sand operating conditions; front-wheel-drive versions offer drivers the choice between normal and snow settings—as if it were designed with New England in mind.

The awards dinner follows the sixty annual MIT-NEMPA Technology conference. This year’s symposium features a panel of industry, research, and outside experts discussing what’s happening at the intersection of technology and design in building automobiles.

Naturally, the road to self-driving vehicles will be among the topics.

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A limited number of tickets are available to the public with details at NEMPA.org.

[You can find local deals on Hondas here.]

5 for the Road

With all the new safety systems, fuel-saving technologies, and connected capabilities of today’s cars, the advances fall into three broad categories: 1) Must haves, 2) Take them or leave them, 3) please go away.

I’m a big proponent of the new safety systems, blind spot, lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control, but there are some features that I have no use for.

1. Push-button starting or keyless ignitions. A minor irritation is what to do with my keys. Leave them in a briefcase or carryall or purse is one suggestion and works for some, but I’m used to having them in a pocket and don’t like driving with a big keyring and fob(s) in a pocket. So the keys go on the seat or in the cupholder. My main dislike of the system is that it can be dangerous if you’re careless, as most of us are at some time. It’s just too easy to leave the car running. If you do a normal stop and shutdown, everything’s fine. But people forget to do things, like shut the windows, so you’re pushing that on/off/start button again to bring the car back to life. Some features don’t work on “acc,’’ so the easiest thing to do is start the car, then shut it down again, but it doesn’t always work that way. Twice, I’ve inadvertently left a car running in my driveway, and readers and neighbors have their similar stories. That’s embarrassing and, fortunately, we discovered it quickly. However, it could be deadly if done in your closed garage. Give me a keyed ignition and both problems go away.

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2. TPWS. That’s Tire Pressure Warning System. I don’t know about you, but I glance at the tires when I approach a car. If one looks a bit low, I investigate. Over the past three years, I’ve had one troublesome tire (a leak around the rim) but a half-dozen false alarms from warning systems. In total they’re more annoying and time-consuming than actually dealing with a flat. Further annoyance: The sensors are fairly fragile and expensive to replace.

3. Idle-stop. This is a fuel-saving and (perhaps) emissions-reducing technology that’s becoming more and more common. For some reason, hybrids seem to do it seamlessly. Other cars aren’t so smooth. There’s noise, vibration, and probably extra engine-starting emissions released plus added wear and tear on starting systems and engine components. No matter what OEMs say, the restart isn’t instant. It takes time. Even after you get over the initial panic that something’s gone wrong, the system still is disconcerting. Fortunately, in some models you can bypass it and shut it off.

4. Paddle shifters. Really? If you want a manual, buy a car with a clutch. I suspect paddle shifters get used less than one-thousandth of 1 percent of the time, if that often. Play with them regularly and you’re more likely to do damage by over-revving the engine than accomplishing anything positive. If your car has paddle shifters, it also likely has the option to go manual with the console-mounted shift lever. Enough said.

5. The tachometer. The tach has two possible uses, to show you optimum shift points either for power or economy and to show that you’re near the red line, which basically is impossible unless you are in the wrong gear with an automatic transmission (see paddle shifters). Because only a minuscule minority of cars come with manual transmissions, this is a case of the tail wagging the dog AND using valuable space that can be better used for a more visible driver’s display.

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