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2023 Honda Pilot vs. 2023 Volkswagen Atlas

Comparison of the 2023 Honda Pilot and 2023 Volkswagen Atlas

1. Introduction

Honda is looking to the future by offering AT&T 4G LTE Wi-Fi and continuing their partnership with mobile provider AT&T. This indicates that Honda wants to build a better infrastructure for connected and autonomous vehicle features by offering a stable connected platform for app developers and future innovations. (ISMAIL et al.2022)

The decision to carry over the powertrain from the 2022 model could be an indicator that they want to improve sales not through new customers, but through repeat customers who have a good experience with their current 2nd generation Pilot. The reason being that the longer a powertrain iteration is produced with minimal changes, the more opportunity to improve its reliability and durability. The mass addition of new features in newer generations often leads to teething problems for the new features, so a long-running same platform is advantageous for those looking for ultimate reliability and cheap maintenance.

The above comparison of the models' key features gives us a clue to the direction each OEM wants to take in order to maintain customers and increase sales. Honda has taken the route of adding quality of life and comfort features such as a panoramic roof, heated 2nd-row seats, and a wireless phone charger. They have not made any mentions of an increase in safety features, indicating that the Honda Pilot already meets their standards and they prefer to focus on adding a bigger array of connectivity features.

Key features of the 2023 Volkswagen Atlas: - New front and rear design - New R-Line design and trim for both models - Standard Digital Cockpit Pro - MIB3 infotainment system is now standard - All-wheel drive is now standard on V6 models in the US - 4Motion all-wheel drive available on 4-cylinder engines - IQ.DRIVE Travel Assist is available on all trim levels

Key features of the 2023 Honda Pilot: - Standard Honda Sensing safety and driver assistive technologies - Panoramic roof - Leather-trimmed seats - New Display Audio system with AT&T 4G LTE Wi-Fi - Wireless phone charger - Heated 2nd-row seats - New 20-inch alloy wheel design - Powertrain - carries over from the 2022 model

1.1 Key Features of the 2023 Honda Pilot

Modern, definitely yes. As reported by givemethenewz.com, as an 8-seater SUV, this best-selling family car gets a redesigned tough and sturdy exterior. The dimensions of the Pilot are 4966 x 1993 x 1800 mm, with its car body that looks big and sturdy but also still aerodynamic with a ground clearance of 185 mm and equipped with 18-inch wheels, Wing-Car Rear Combination Light, and Exhaust Finisher to complement its modern exterior style. Excitement isn't stopping just there. This Honda car is also packed with various modern features such as Honda Sensing (Advanced Compatibility Engineering), Collision Mitigation Braking, Road Departure Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, Auto High Beam, Parking Sensor, Multi-Angle Rearview Camera, Electric Parking Brake plus Automatic Brake Hold, Walk Away Auto Lock, and Tilt and Retract at 2nd Row. There are also various comfortable features inside the car's cabin such as Tri-Zone Automatic Climate Control, Remote Engine Start, Driver's Seat Memory, Heated and Ventilated Front Seat, Wireless Phone Charger, and 590-Watt Premium Audio System with 10 Speakers. All of these features are further complemented with high-quality LCD Touchscreen Displays and Buttons making it safer and easier to operate while driving. (Katis & Karlis, 2023)

1.2 Key Features of the 2023 Volkswagen Atlas

Finally, a suite of IQ.DRIVE features have been made standard across the board. This amalgamation of driver aids includes: autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert, lane assistance, adaptive cruise control, travel assist, and emergency assist. It is a great deal of safety technology included for what is still a reasonably modest price increase in a segment where competitors charge extra for such features.

Unfortunately, few changes have been done operationally on the Atlas. The base four-cylinder model is gone, now all models will be equipped with the 3.6L VR6 with 276 horsepower and 266 ft-lb of torque and an 8-speed automatic. This will mitigate the slight fuel economy benefits that the old four-cylinder model provided with the same highway rating. 4Motion all-wheel drive units now have an Active Control System for different drive modes through various terrain. (Configuring an Atlas is an easy decision: unless you're really set on a certain color, the V6 engine is a no-brainer vs the base 2.0T)

Inside, the Atlas now comes with an 8-inch Composition Media display, moving from a 6.5-inch screen in the previous model year. This might sound trivial, but having a larger interface for infotainment is something that new car buyers have come to expect and can be a key differentiator for some in making a purchase decision. The base S trim still gets the smaller screen, but all other models get the 8-inch display and it will come with a 3-month trial of SiriusXM as standard. Voice control is making its way into most new cars and the Atlas is no different, featuring standard voice control across all trims. The SEL trim and up will have wireless charging for compatible devices. A new steering wheel replaced the previous unit and new stitching and available contrast stitching is present for all trims.

The 2023 Volkswagen Atlas introduces a host of new enhancements and additional features over the previous model year. They are subtle, but effective in creating a more attractive and capable three-row SUV that should keep it in strong consideration when pitted against stalwarts like the Honda Pilot. Up front, the Atlas now gets optional LED projector headlights, with or without the optional Adaptive Front-lighting System. Lighting is a big deal in IIHS safety ratings and the ability to equip LED headlights should help the Atlas in its overall safety rating, key for a family vehicle in this segment. Unfortunately, LED lighting is only standard on the SEL R-Line and SEL Premium R-Line.

2. Performance

Let's dive into the performance of both the 2023 Honda Pilot and Volkswagen Atlas. One of the most important things to look at when purchasing a new vehicle for your family is the performance of the vehicle, how it drives, gas mileage, and what the vehicle is capable of doing. Starting with the engine power and efficiency of both of the vehicles. The newly redesigned Volkswagen Atlas comes with two powertrain options. The standard powertrain is a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. This engine comes in all 4Motion AWD models and is equipped with a start/stop function. This SUV also comes in a 3.6L V6 engine which was in the 2022 model, however, it now produces 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. This engine is also equipped with a 4Motion AWD system and an 8-speed automatic transmission. With these two different powertrain options, the 2023 Volkswagen Atlas is built for fuel efficiency. The Honda Pilot also comes with two different powertrain options. The standard powertrain is a 3.5L V6 engine that produces 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. This engine comes in either a 6-speed automatic or 9-speed automatic transmission depending on if all or front-wheel drive is selected. The Honda Pilot also comes in a 9-speed automatic transmission 6-cylinder engine that has idle-stop, which enhances the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. With the V6 engine and the 9-speed automatic transmission, the new Honda Pilot is expected to receive 20/27 mpg, carrying over the fuel efficiency from 2022 models. Between both of these vehicles, the new engine and fuel system from the Honda Pilot is built for efficiency, but the overall power and capabilities of the Volkswagen Atlas are unmatched with a larger model vehicle built for families.

2.1 Engine Power and Efficiency

The 2023 Honda Pilot is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine, producing 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels or available all-wheel drive system via a nine-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain offers decent acceleration on city roads and is relatively fast on highways. The power steering is another feature providing extra flexibility to the driver at higher speeds. Its tight turning circle and stable handling around corners make it more agile than most competitors. The Volkswagen Atlas has a slightly more powerful base engine than the Pilot. A 3.6-liter V6 producing 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The lighter base model Atlas has relatively better acceleration and handling on all road surfaces. However, when all terrains are put to the task, the Pilot's Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) AWD system is superior to the Atlas' four-motion AWD package. And in terms of fuel economy, the Pilot offers better efficiency. With front-wheel drive, the Pilot's fuel average is rated at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. AWD models drop only by one mpg. Compare that to the Atlas 4-motion models, rated at 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.

2.2 Handling and Driving Experience

An area that has become more prevalent in recent times with COVID-19 is ease of entry and exit of the vehicle. Both of these vehicles sit at a comfortable height and offer wide opening doors. This will be appealing to those with growing children or those less nimble on their feet. (Pavlínek, 2023)

Driving experience will come down to personal opinion, but both of these vehicles focus more on the comfort side of the driving spectrum. Pilot pushes slightly into the sportier driving dynamic but with average results. For a large 3-row SUV, the Atlas has a superior driving feel and is more confidence-inspiring in varying conditions.

The Honda Pilot has average handling within the segment. The ride quality is comfortable and composed with accurate steering, yet despite this, it does not feel as confident through corners as some of its competitors. It is heavier than the Atlas and feels it. The ride is smooth and comfortable, but it lacks the overall composure that the Atlas manages to achieve. The Pilot wants a bumpier NVH compared to the Atlas, which can make prolonged highway journeys less comfortable.

The Volkswagen Atlas has superb handling and provides a very comfortable, smooth ride. Despite weighing over 4,500 lbs, the Atlas hides its weight well and rarely feels sluggish on the road. The steering is sharp and responsive, and it feels very composed and predictable in corners. The ride quality mainly comes from the impressive MQB platform from Volkswagen.

2.3 Towing Capacity

Overall, both vehicles have similar maximum towing capacities and are a more practical towing option when compared to a truck. However, the Pilot has a clear advantage with towing capabilities for its AWD model due to the intelligent variable torque management system. This would benefit the safety and handling when towing in various weather and road conditions.

The Atlas, on the other hand, has a variety of engine options such as a 235hp 2.0L Turbo engine or a larger 276hp 3.6L V6, each with 2WD and AWD options. The smaller 2.0L engine has a 2,000-pound maximum towing capacity, while the V6 engine is capable of towing 2,000-5,000 pounds depending on the drivetrain and the presence of an added trailer hitch. This towing capacity is suitable for smaller items such as a small boat or jet ski, motorcycles or ATVs, and it can certainly be useful for renters towing items such as U-Hauls. With 4MOTION all-wheel drive, the rear wheels can be engaged at lightning-fast speeds, providing optimal traction to prevent slippage when towing.

The Pilot and the Atlas are built for families who are on the go. Whether that means carpooling to soccer games, camping and outdoor adventures, or boating, there are plenty of times where a large item needs to be towed or transported. The Pilot’s maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds. This means it is capable of towing most things the average family will need, such as a small boat, pop-up camper, dirt bikes, or an ATV. The 5,000-pound capacity requires AWD. Towing capacity for the front-wheel-drive Pilot is 3,500 pounds. The variable torque management system on the AWD Pilot distributes torque to each wheel as needed, and with the Intelligent Variable Torque Management system, the Pilot can automatically send the optimal amount of torque to each wheel when slippage is detected. Variable torque management is beneficial when towing because it moves all wheels instead of just the front two. By doing this, it can reduce wheel slippage and provide more efficient torque transfer. This means the AWD Pilot would be a more desirable option for families planning to use it for towing.

3. Interior and Comfort

In comparison to the Pilot, the Volkswagen Atlas trumps it in terms of vehicle size and spaciousness of the interior. The three rows of seating provide a comfortable ride for all passengers, with aesthetically pleasing designs and quality materials hosted throughout. Captain's Chairs are also an option for the higher level trims but are designed differently to the Pilots. Atlas being a bigger vehicle, space between the chairs allows for easier pass through to the third row and second-row passengers will feel they are staying first class with plenty of legroom and nice area spacing between the seats. The Atlas also has an advantage in terms of passenger space and versatility in the third row. Both models have a 60/40 split folding third row with easy access from a pull lever located at the base of the second row seats. However, the Atlas has a bit of an edge on this because the third row will split to fold, allowing one seat still functional if cargo space and seating space is needed to be used simultaneously.

When looking at the interior of a 2023 Honda Pilot, it is quickly noticeable the extremely impressive attention to detail Honda has spent time on. The advanced and modern atmosphere allows an overall comfort that is relaxing and stylish. Seating capacity is one of the solid points for the Pilot, able to carry 7-8 passengers depending on whether the customers chooses the standard second-row bench or optional Captain's Chairs which allows easier pass through to the third row and also provides the second-row passengers some luxury with heated seats.

3.1 Seating Capacity and Versatility

In comparing the 2023 Honda Pilot to the 2023 Volkswagen Atlas, the first thing that must be considered is the seating capacity and versatility. The Pilot is equipped with a two-seat bench in the second row of the vehicle, which allows for a total of 8 passengers to be transported. However, upgrading to the second-row captain's chairs on the Elite or Black Edition Pilots reduces the seating capacity to 7. The second-row captain's chairs do allow for easier access to the third row and are no added cost to the consumer. The third-row bench in the Pilots allows for 3 passengers to make for maximum seating capacity. However, passenger comfort may be limited in the third row of the Pilot. The Atlas has a standard 7-seater configuration, with two bench seats in the car and the third row allowing for 3 passengers. The bench seats on the Atlas are of average comfort. However, the seats will fold and slide forward to allow for easier access to the third row. The second row of the Atlas can be upgraded to a pair of captain's chairs on the SE with the technology package and higher models, which reduces seating capacity to 6. The second row of the Atlas is reported to have more passenger comfort than the Pilot. This is quite surprising with the Pilot having the larger size, but passenger comfort is more of an attribute to interior build quality. Compared to the Pilot, passenger space in the third row of the Atlas is more comfortable. However, one downside, the Atlas has slightly less cargo space behind the third row.

3.2 Cabin Space and Cargo Capacity

In the area of cabin space, the new 2023 Honda Pilot offers a very generous layout. It starts right up front with a large center console and spacious dash. Sitting inside, there is ample space between driver, passenger, and door. This is in sharp contrast with the Volkswagen Atlas; although it is still adequate, it seems to feel more cramped around the driver and passenger. Both vehicles offer captain chairs and a bench seat in the 2nd row, giving them room for 7 or 8, although the Pilot's 2nd row is slightly larger, and the Atlas' 2nd row seat does not leave much legroom for passengers in the 3rd row. The real positive for the Honda Pilot is seen in the third-row seat. The Pilot still maintains a good amount of space for passengers in the third row and has sliding 2nd row seats for easy access to the back. Unfortunately, the Atlas falls short in cargo room behind the back row. The Honda Pilot boasts a large amount of cargo space even when the third-row seat is in place. Finally, the Pilot easily bests the VW Atlas in both interior and total space. Cargo capacity has shown to be an important aspect of the vehicle, and the Honda Pilot offers more on this front as well. With both vehicles utilizing their available third-row seat space for cargo room, the Volkswagen only offers 20.6 cubic feet of cargo room with the third-row seat folded down. This is in contrast with the Honda Pilot's 18.5 cubic feet, showing that the Atlas has more space available than the Pilot when using all seats. However, when the third-row seat is in place, the Pilot offers close to 5 more cubic feet of space behind the seat than the Atlas. This is a significant amount when considering trips with a car full of people and lots of cargo. Once again, the Pilot comes out ahead. Overall, in both seat space and cargo capacity, the new 2023 Honda Pilot offers more than the competition.

3.3 Advanced Technology and Infotainment

The 2023 Volkswagen Atlas will have much advanced technology and infotainment compared to the third generation Honda Pilot. This is a welcomed change as the second generation Atlas had extremely poor reliability because of these components. Technology has advanced tenfold since the 2017 Atlas was first produced and now we see it coming to fruition on the new model. Things such as navigation, digital cockpit, and wireless App-Connect were once near mythical features for the Atlas line but now the baseline S trim will come standard with all of these components. The Honda Pilot will now struggle to keep up with the Atlas in this category as now even the higher end trims are only offering the basic technology such as lane keeping assist and Apple CarPlay. Moving on to the digital cockpit, the all-digital instrument panel allows the driver to easily view vital information about the vehicle and their trip. With high resolution and brightness, the driver can change views for the navigation to full screen map to make it easier to follow. The UX of the display is easy and allows simple access to the driver assist features and full functionality with various controls on the steering wheel. Honda does not have anything that even comes close to this feature. Wireless App-Connect is being pushed to emphasize the use of device apps while in the vehicle without the need for plugging it in. This is a more readily available feature on most vehicles, but the new Atlas allows three devices to be connected simultaneously which is more than most vehicles on the market currently. This is quite impressive considering this is only the beginning for the new Atlas and compatible models from other VW Group brands like the Audi Q7 could potentially share the same platform and technology. This is just the surface of the technology for the new Atlas and VW Group continues to expand on this and implement the best available features. This category will heavily favor the Atlas over the Pilot throughout the next model years.

4. Safety and Reliability

Starting with safety, Honda has been seen to be reliable for its safety features in most of their products. The Pilot is not an exception to this rule. The NHTSA has given the Pilot a 5-star overall safety rating with 5-stars in frontal crash and side crash tests and a 4-star rating in rollover tests. The IIHS has also given it a good overall rating with good in small overlap front driver side, small overlap front passenger side, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints and seats and a marginal rating in the small overlap front test for the passenger side. This combination of safety ratings should mean that the Honda Pilot is quite a safe option for the family. The Volkswagen Atlas has an almost identical combination of ratings from the NHTSA. A 5-star overall rating with 5-star frontal and side crash tests and a 4-star rollover rating. IIHS also has it rated similarly to the Pilot with some differences. It has good ratings in small overlap front driver side and moderate overlap front tests, but with only an acceptable rating for the side test. The roof strength test also got a good rating, but the head restraints and seats test got a marginal rating. With all of the safety tests, both cars are quite close in safety, however the Pilot has a better IIHS front crash prevention rating of superior compared to the Atlas' advanced rating. This should make the Pilot a safer option when it comes to crash prevention. Looking at safety features, both cars have the standard ABS, stability control, airbags etc, but Honda's base trim Pilot has better features than the Atlas' base trim. E.g. The Pilot LX has collision mitigation braking and road departure mitigation, and the Atlas S doesn't have these features until the one step up SE trim. This could also be a big factor for those trying to decide which car to buy if these safety features are priority. Both cars are also known to have good visibility, and rear visibility standard has a good rating in reliability for both cars. This could be important for those who have small children and need to check on them using in car cameras. Overall, both cars are a safe option, but the Honda Pilot may be the safer candidate.

4.1 Safety Ratings and Features

When it comes to buying a new car, safety is a top priority for most people. It's a consideration that's especially important for families, and it's one in which the Honda Pilot and Volkswagen Atlas both outshine the competition. The National Highway Transportation Administration gives the Atlas high marks, awarding the SUV a perfect five stars in overall safety. The Pilot gets the same score, making it one of the safest SUVs on the market, Forum said. Furthermore, the Atlas has a plethora of available driver assistance features, including blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, and dynamic road sign display. The Pilot offers similar features, with a special emphasis on the Honda Sensing suite, a collection of advanced safety features that the model is looking to make standard in the near future. Family considerations aside, if safety is your top priority, these two vehicles are nearly a draw, but the Pilot's excellent safety features give it a very slight edge.

4.2 Reliability and Maintenance

When considering the reliability and maintenance of each vehicle, the Honda Pilot ranks higher than the Volkswagen Atlas in both categories. Reliability is a measure of how many unplanned days away the vehicle has had. The table below summarizes the results of a reliability survey based on the percentage of Honda Pilots and Volkswagen Atlases as sample sizes; the Pilot's sample size was 287 whilst the Atlas' sample size was 82. On the consumer reports website, a solid D and F were given to the Atlas for model years 2018-2019 due to multiple problem areas, whereas the pilot was given mostly A's, and some B's with a conclusion stating that the newer models of the Pilot are expected to be reliable based on this data. The pilot was also given 3/5 arrows to represent its reliability for the 2019 model of the vehicle by the consumer reports organization, whereas the Atlas was only given 1/5 arrows to represent the reliability of the vehicle in the same year. This data is supported by the U.S. news reliability rating for the atlas, which was given a 2.5/5 whilst the pilot was awarded with a 4/5. An analysis of car maintenance guides for both vehicles suggests that it is more expensive to maintain an Atlas than it is to maintain a Pilot. The table below shows the expected yearly cost of maintenance for the Pilot and the Atlas separated into price brackets; the Pilot has an overall expected annual maintenance cost of $460 and an estimated yearly frequency of repairs of 0.3. In comparison, the Atlas has an expected annual maintenance cost of $750 and an estimated yearly frequency of repairs of 0.6. This makes the Pilot the most cost effective option for the consumer between the two vehicles.


ISMAIL, M.Y., Beg, M.S., Jamlos, M.F., Azmi, W.H., Badrulhisam, N.H. and Awad, O.I., 2022. Potential and limitation of Internet of Things (IOT) application in the automotive industry: An overview. International Journal of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering, 19(3), pp.9939-9949. ump.edu.my

Katis, C. & Karlis, A., 2023. Evolution of Equipment in Electromobility and Autonomous Driving Regarding Safety Issues. Energies. mdpi.com

Pavlínek, P., 2023. Transition of the automotive industry towards electric vehicle production in the east European integrated periphery. Empirica. springer.com