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2004 Honda Pilot

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San Francisco: Mary Poppins would have no need for a car - after all, why drive when you have a flying umbrella - but chances are she'd be awfully tempted by the Honda Pilot. Like Ms. Poppins, Honda's latest attempt at satisfying America's voracious appetite for SUVs is among the best mannered, civilized, kid friendly vehicles on the road.

The Pilot's interior is crammed full of thoughtful features, like nine-cup holders and versatile storage bins, and its roomy seats can accommodate up to eight chimney sweeps. It has good acceleration, fantastic road handling, and even looks sharp with its trendy body and tidy proportions. In fact, one could say it's practically perfect in every way.

Well, almost. People with a penchant for off-road driving will be disappointed because it's clearly not meant for leaving the pavement. It has the truck like look of an SUV but no guts to back it up.

Rather than trying to design a vehicle for the Amazon rainforest, Honda chose to tame the urban jungle by essentially creating a bulked up version of the popular Accord sedan. Just like the Accord, the Pilot is sensible and solid with a comfortable ride, nimble handling, sporty steering, and a well-built interior. Unlike the Accord, the Pilot has three rows of seats and enough cargo room to haul the contents of Mary's magic carpetbag.

Despite its truck like versatility, it includes sumptuously plush materials and fancy options, like a DVD player and satellite navigation system. In its most expensive trim, the Pilot resembles a luxury SUV more than mere family transportation, yet its price is still impressive.

The base LX model starts around $27,000, which includes four-wheel drive, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks, and dual front and side air bags. Step up to the EX model ($29,470) and you'll get automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver's seat, upgraded stereo, and fold-down "activity tray" for the kids. Add leather seats and some electronic gadgets, and you'll have a full-blown luxury SUV for around $33,000.

Both models come with a fantastic 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes an inspiring 240 horsepower, more than enough to pull the 4,000-pound Pilot around town. It also sounds heavenly by combining a mechanical purr with a mild grunt befitting of its SUV style.

While pictures make the Pilot look strikingly similar to Honda's mini-ute, the CRV, it actually is much closer in size to a Ford Explorer or Chevy Tahoe, both of which are industry benchmarks. Nowhere is this more evident than in the interior, where first and second row seats have plenty of leg and shoulder room, leaving just enough space to cram in a third row bench that's meant mainly for children.

But the Pilot's true magic lies in its versatile and well thought out cabin with features like a storage tray for pocketsize game machines and a special holder for those plastic sauce containers you get at the drive thru. It also has a multi-function console with a large center storage bin, dedicated cell phone cradle, 12-volt power outlet, CD storage tray and removable cup holders.

And especially important for families, safety was a key goal for Pilot engineers. Dual-stage air bags are standard, along with three-point seatbelts for every seat, side-impact door beams, and headrests for every passenger.

Overall, the Pilot is as close to the perfect family vehicle as America has seen in a long time. It has the practical appeal of a sedan, the safety consciousness of a Volvo, the family-friendliness of a minivan, and the popular look of an SUV. Yep, Ms. Poppins would be proud.

Why buy it? For families, few vehicles come as close to perfection as the Pilot. It seats eight people in a cabin that's loaded with kid friendly features, and its performance and price are both impressive. Better yet, it’s styling doesn't have the stigma of a wagon or minivan. By Derek Price AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  Mid-size Honda SUV is practically perfect
Topic:  2004 Honda Pilot
Word Count:   714
Photo Caption:  2004 Honda Pilot
Photo Credits:  Honda Internet Media
Series #:   2003 - 51

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