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Honda Pilot Elite vs EXL

1. Exterior Design

Adding a block of text, then "As the Elite is the cost of the Passport lineup" suggests they decided to move the needle slightly. As such, the Elite's standard roof rails add the capability for equipment like roof boxes and bike racks, aiding weekend adventures. If the goal wasn't to finish said build out to a higher degree, they could have stated "we wanted to ensure the Pilot Elite was close in specification to the Passport's top trim, while leaving some differentiation." Magnifying on the Elite's exterior style, the chrome door trim further separates it from the other trims. Honda does not specifically target whether or not door trim comes with or without the rolling doors for roof or side rail installs, but the reference is likely for window type trim. A spec change in design would be separate part reference numbers for the chromed variant or paint to match standard for the frame. Easiest way to confirm would be pulling up installation instructions for the part to cross reference the trim installation. As stated above, other standard features such as LED headlights, taillights and fog lights are matched by the Touring trim. LED lighted side mirrors however, have not been referenced on other trims and add style while providing extra vision for pilot and co-pilot when approaching the vehicle. Rounding out the key style points for the Elite are the newly designed 20" two-tone alloy wheels. Without questioning the visuals, the two-tone part number will be very interesting to keep an eye on for any new products in the future if these wheels sustain any damage. Step over to replacement part pricing will likely yield a much higher cost or Honda dealerships needing to cloud the design with color overlays. An MSRP for the set of 4 wheels has yet to be posted but eyes are currently on other parts to see if these will be considered an accessory instead of a standard part for the Elite. Overall the appropriate percentage increase of MSRP for the Elite introduction over other Pilot trims is justified by the complimenting features mentioned above. Now hoping to avoid additional luxury taxes and pilfering wheel sales from Honda other trims, we need to see some of these features trickle down to the rest of the lineup in later years. (Shah, 2022)

1.1. Elite's distinctive features

The Pilot Elite offers a higher grade of exterior features compared to the EXL. Elite's LED headlights with auto on/off and LED front-row map lights add functional style to the vehicle. LED lights use less energy, and the LED headlights provide brighter, longer-lasting illumination than traditional halogen lights. The LED front-row map lights create a distinctive, upscale look and help with visibility while loading and unloading the vehicle. The EXL also offers LED lights with the addition of LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL), but the Elite provides a more premium experience. The Elite comes standard with a panoramic roof. The panoramic roof is a class-exclusive feature that accommodates all of the Elite's passengers. This is a nice addition for an open-air feel. Although some customers in warmer geographical areas may have concerns about the glass roof and increased temperatures inside the vehicle. The power tailgate is an Elite feature to aid with unloading the vehicle. This also creates a more premium experience and is great for when hands are full. The EXL has a power tailgate feature as well, but the Elite features "hands-free access" to make opening the tailgate more convenient. High-end wheels are 20 inches Alloy for the Elite and 18 inches for the EXL. Step up to the Elite is a more premium experience with exclusive features like Roof Rails and automatic dimming, power-folding mirrors. Elite is loaded with added exterior features for a more premium look and added functionality.

1.2. EXL's unique styling elements

The EXL model comes with body-colored door handles, power tailgate, and one-touch moonroof. It has a more sophisticated appearance with the absence of roof rails. The rear end looks cleaner with better visibility without a third brake light. The Pilot emblem on the tailgate adds a premium touch. The EXL uses the same 18" alloy wheel design as the Touring. The Elite model uses a unique "smoked" silver finish, but beyond color, these wheels are identical to the EXL and Touring trims. Although the EXL does not come with functions such as puddle lights on the door handle or a panoramic roof, which some may argue would be fitting for a vehicle in its price range, Honda has included key features from the Elite, such as the power tailgate and one-touch moonroof, but saved you several thousand dollars compared to the Elite.

2. Interior Features

Elite's luxurious cabin amenities The pilot's interior is where the contrast among the 2 trims is quite pronounced. The Elite takes a extra luxurious approach to its interior. This trim boasts heated and ventilated front seats, heated second row seats, and a heated steering wheel. The leather appointed seats will feature evaluation piping and the dash will also be wrapped in leather, which gives the Elite a upscale appearance. Ambient interior lighting can also be determined in the Elite. Some other import spotlight is the panoramic roof. The EXL comes fashionable with a sunroof, however the Elite's roof is significantly large and it opens up to the second row of seats. This could be a completely unique feature in this phase and it provide the cabin an open airy feeling. The Elite takes it a step in addition with the addition of 2nd row captain chairs which lowers the passenger capability to 7, however those chairs can be very handy and they may be portion of 2nd row middle console that offers more cup holders and garage. This becomes the choice for the ones whose kids have outgrown the want for 2d row bench, however nonetheless want the 2nd row seats to be impartial. The ultimate features --> in built GPS navigation and a blue ray rear entertainment system, those functions are not to be had on every other trim stage. (Nicoletti et al.2021)

2.1. Elite's luxurious cabin amenities

Heated second-row captain's chairs replace the standard three-person bench seating for a six-passenger capacity. This is a subtle change that results in more comfort and less shifting around for the second-row passengers. A sizable center console separates the two front seats and offers plenty of storage, complete with a roll-top cover. Honda has included lighted cup holders, a practical and luxurious feature found in today's high-end cars. The Elite comes with a panoramic roof with a dual glass panel that tilts and opens for fresh air. The rear panel is fixed and allows natural light to all passengers. This is a feature that is not commonly found in a top-trim level of a midsize SUV and further emphasizes the Elite's emphasis on luxury. Third-row passengers benefit from an extra USB charging port, an increase in comfort for those extraneous passengers. The second-row sunshades are a small but practical touch that further benefit the comfort of second-row passengers. A welcome addition is the heated steering wheel, a luxury feature that is now becoming standard among top-trim levels in various vehicles. It is this abundance of practicality and luxury features that distinguishes the Elite from the EXL.

2.2. EXL's comfortable and practical interior

The EXL and the Elite Pilots resemble siblings with the EXL's comfortable cabin needing to fit its status as a class-better rather than the first-class Elite. The EXL has an eight-way power-adjustable driver's chair with lumbar support (four-way for the copilot), and both front seats are finished in leather. The contrast-color combination might be a bit brash for a few, but the materials and texture are incontestable. All Pilots have a tilt/telescope steering wheel, with auxiliary audio and cruise-control buttons, and well-positioned major controls. Getting into the second (or third) seating row is especially easy, with large rear doors that open nearly 90 degrees. The EXL and the Touring have a three-across 60/40 split-folding second row, but the EXL strives to be better than most with a removable center section that gives easy access to a child seated there and also allows these outboard seatbacks to fold forward and move the seats far out of the way for third-row access. Although the captain's chairs in the Touring and Elite models may be more comfortable for adults and give a bit easier third-row access, they eliminate the possibility of an eighth occupant, and the second-row console in those models makes for a tighter space back to the third row. All said, we like the first and second row accommodations in the EXL and lower-line Pilot models the best.

2.3. Comparison of seating options

The 2016 Honda Pilot Touring also comes in a 7-passenger seating capacity with a Beige or Gray interior. It features similar seating features like the EX-L variant, only missing the powered-adjustable front passenger's seat. This is only available in the earlier Elite variant. (Nicoletti et al.2021)

The 2016 Honda Pilot EX-L comes in a 7-passenger seating capacity with a Beige interior. It features Leather-Trimmed Seats and heated front seats. It also comes in an 8-passenger seating capacity with Cloth Seats without the heated feature. Compared to the Elite features, this lineup might only be beneficial on the 1st and 2nd row of passengers due to no significant feature difference in the Elite's 2nd-row captain chairs and 3rd row seats.

The 2016 Honda Pilot Elite offers a 7-passenger seating capacity with an Olive/Black interior. It features Perforated Leather 2nd-Row Captain's Chairs, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and numerous other features to make it comfortable for all occupants - front seat, 2nd row, and third row.

Comparisons of seating options

3. Performance and Technology

Stepping up to Elite from EXL, you get Honda's suite of safety and driver-assistive technologies known as Honda Sensing, as the former is the cheapest Pilot to offer this option. Essentially, this is a range of safety features that are geared towards avoiding accidents and collisions rather than protecting occupants afterwards. This is predominantly achieved by monitoring and alerts aimed at keeping the driver in lane and aware of movement in their surrounding environment, in addition to preparing the vehicle to react in the event of an emergency. This is accomplished using the input from a millimeter wave radar sensor located near the rear of the front of the vehicle and a monocular camera mounted on the upper part of the windscreen. The data from both devices is assessed to make the system determine and act upon the potential risk of a collision. Overall, Honda Sensing adds a considerable amount of safety technology to the vehicle and is one of the key reasons to buy an Elite over lower grades of Pilot.

Elite is significantly better equipped than EX with a host of additional features to make life easier, safer, and more comfortable. The highlights are the blind spot camera (which displays an image from the adjacent lane when the left or right indicator is used), rear cross traffic alert (alerts you to approaching traffic when reversing out of a parking space or driveway), and the panoramic sunroof. Additionally, Elite has a huge tailgate in which the bottom section can be extended to form a picnic seat, plus the usual remote tailgate opener that is also found on EXL. In terms of safety features, Elite uses parking sensors (4 front and 4 rear) as opposed to a rear camera only on EXL, and speed sensing variable intermittent windscreen wipers replace the intermittent type found on EXL.

3.1. Elite's advanced technology and safety features

Notably, the Elite series shares some characteristics with the EXL safety features, such as the vehicle stability assist, anti-lock braking system, and all-wheel drive. However, the technology found on the Elite series guarantees the safety and prevention of accidents in comparison to the base safety features of the EXL series. Being the wife of a husband disabled in a car accident and a mother of 2 young children, the added safety features alone will be the defining factor for my wife's choice of a new family car.

In the security department, front and rear airbags are fitted to protect passengers from injuries sustained in a crash. Additionally, the elite series has curtain airbags for all 3 seating rows. The ACE body structure is designed with body frame construction to help disperse frontal crash energy through a greater percentage of the floor, increasing passenger protection. The Elite Honda Pilot is also equipped with 3 different road departure systems to prevent the driver from accidentally veering off the road, a lane keep assist system, active control engine mounts, and remote engine start.

The elite Honda Pilot series is the prestigious line to boast about above all things the most superior and advanced technology features. These include a Blind Spot Information System, which is a system linked to the side mirrors and alerts the driver when a car is in the blind spot. If the driver signals at this point, the car will beep and apply brake pressure on the opposite side of the signal to avoid a lane change collision. There is also a front and rear parking assistance system to detect objects and warn the driver, cross traffic monitoring system to assist the driver when backing out of parking spaces, and rain sensing windshield wipers.

3.2. EXL's performance capabilities and tech offerings

The Honda Pilot EXL consists of several thrilling technology features and capabilities which exhilarate the overall experience of the car. The car consists of Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System which contains maps for guidance and has lane guidance, live search functionality as well as voice recognition and Honda HD Digital Traffic. The car also has a rear entertainment system which includes DVD and Blu-ray disc compatibility. This also includes a 115-volt power outlet and HDMI Interface. In terms of audio performance, the car contains a 540-watt premium audio system with 10 speakers, this is ideal for audiophiles looking for a premium sound system. The car also includes a built-in smart device which can provide information about the car and its surroundings outside of the vehicle. It has an application that allows users to save the car's location whether it's in a car park, on the side of the road, or a specific location from a trip. The application can guide them back to the destination step by step. The app also includes the ability to schedule reminders and notifications for the car. This app is useful for people who lose their car in shopping centers or massive car parks. The smart device is connected to the internet and can provide weather updates, emergency weather information, and automatically request roadside assistance as well as contacting the vehicle owner if the car detects a lift off the gas pedal or a harsh steering or braking and deployment of the airbags. This is to ensure the driver and passengers' safety.

3.3. Comparison of engine options and driving experience

Both the FWD and AWD models of the EX-L and Elite share the same estimated fuel economy. FWD models are expected to achieve 20/27/23 MPG (city/highway/combined) and AWD models are expected to achieve 19/26/22 MPG. This is made possible by a combination of improved aerodynamics, reduced weight, and the new Earth Dreams engine technology. The lighter weight and improved aerodynamics also pay dividends in the Pilot's driving dynamics with a more agile feeling despite the large size and the reduced weight improving braking and handling performance. The end result is that the driver will have a more responsive feeling Pilot with greater fuel efficiency and the ability to change the driving characteristics based on the situation.

Rather than having different engine sizes and power outputs like the previous generation Pilot, both the EX-L and the Elite share a nearly identical powertrain setup. The only difference is that the Elite has engine start/stop functionality which the EX-L does not share. The powertrain is a 3.5 liter i-VTEC V6 with Variable Cylinder Management producing 280 horsepower at 6000 RPM and 262 lb-ft of torque at 4700 RPM. The engine is paired with a ZF 9-speed automatic transmission with different shift mappings for regular and sport driving modes. The AWD system is a lighter and more intelligent generation of Honda's Variable Torque Management.

4. Pricing and Value

From first look, it's apparent the main difference between the EX-L and Elite is the Elite's premium price point. The Pilot Touring costs $42,520 to start, while the Pilot Elite costs $46,420. Comparing either one to the EX-L at $36,205, it is a significant jump. The first thing Honda points out is the new AWD system and i-VTM4 torque vectoring for the rear wheels both standard on the Elite. This is an upgrade over the standard AWD, and Honda's previous electronic AWD system on the Touring. The new AWD system would cost an additional $1,800 on the EX-L. Elite also comes with new 20-inch alloy wheels replacing the 18-inch wheels on the EX-L and Touring, as well as standard on the Elite power folding mirrors and rain sensing wipers. Honda claims customers requested second-row captain's chairs, so they replaced the bench seat in the second-row with two captain's chairs lowering seating capacity from 8 to 7. Standard on Elite are heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row captain's chairs, and a heated steering wheel that is leather wrapped and power tilt and telescoping. Elite adds to the audio system including a subwoofer and has audio features including truck-bed audio and a two-prong AC outlet. Advanced safety and driver assist features were only available on the Touring, but now with Honda Sensing standard on all Pilots including the EX, it has a feature that EX-L and Touring do not have. Road Departure Mitigation is standard on all trims as well as all the other Honda Sensing features, but the Elite being Honda's only Pilot trim with the new torque vectoring AWD system has an exclusive feature for AWD models not just the Elite. This feature is called Intelligent Traction Management and is effectively traction control for all types of terrain. EX-L and Touring have snow mode and all the FWD models now have snow mode standard. AWD models however have snow mode, mud mode, and sand mode. The driver selects the terrain and the system will adjust torque distribution and electronic stability control to a system that benefits that type of terrain. This is useful especially for your family man who does some mild off-roading, or if you decided to tow your boat or other heavy load and launch it on a slick boat ramp.

4.1. Elite's premium price point and added value

The base model EXLR Pilot starts at $32,120, while the all-wheel drive version starts at $34,120. The Touring Pilot with premium features comes in at $41,620, and the Elite starts at $46,420. To say that the Pilot Elite’s price is steep is an understatement, but the value and premium features that the Elite has over the other Pilots are hard to overlook. Elite Pilots have all the features of lower models, but with several additions and improvements, making the Elite the most refined and luxurious Pilot of them all. The Elite comes with all standard and optional features found on lower models, and then adds the following revisions: a blind spot information system, a standard DVD rear entertainment system, HD (720P) rear backup camera, and 20-inch alloy wheels to the exterior. The cherry on top is the interior with second-row captain’s chairs and a center console, and ventilated front seats for extra comfort. These added features, combined with the Pilot’s already renowned versatility and reliability, are what make the Elite worth the price difference. A customer will probably pay more initially for an Elite, but when comparing the overall value of different Pilots over time, the positive factors of the Elite easily measure up to its price point.

4.2. EXL's affordability and cost-effective features

The EXL does take a considerable step down in pricing from the Elite, but it does not take a similarly sized step down in terms of features and overall value. The lower price point is certainly the first and most obvious benefit. The MSRP for the EXL starts at $30,545, a full $7,210 less than the starting MSRP of the Elite. A price reduction of over $7,000 is significant and very noticeable. The EXL enjoys a similar price discrepancy when it comes to overall cost of ownership. Remember that the Elite's cost of ownership was calculated to be over a thousand dollars more than the national average. The EXL comes in about equal to the national average with a projected 5-year ownership expense of $39,017. Given the fact that the actual cost of ownership relative to the national average is often higher for new vehicles, it is quite probable that the EXL will be significantly less costly to own than the Elite.

4.3. Comparison of overall value and cost of ownership

Both the Elite and EXL trims come in at more expensive price points. The Elite has an MSRP of $30,895-$46,420, compared to the EXL's $27,095-$41,870. This results in an increased tax and more expensive insurance depending on state and coverage, a marginal increase in insurance. In fact, a sample auto insurance quote run on Progressive for the EXL and Elite yielded a $400/year difference, with the Elite being more expensive. Additionally, higher priced vehicles tend to come with higher repair costs. This is because labor is typically billed at a higher hourly rate, and replacement parts are more expensive due to specialty parts and more advanced technology. The Pilot is no exception to this, as it will cost more on average than an equivalent model year mid-sized sedan. For example, brake pad replacement for a 2015 Honda Accord costs $150-$190, a whopping $320-$400 for the same for a 2015 Honda Pilot. The only cost that the Elite model will save is the fuel cost, with an estimated $1000 cost saved over 5 years due to the Pilot's top of the line fuel economy in its class, at 20/27 mph city/highway. Realizing these costs factored with annual depreciation and interest rates, it is very likely that the Elite model will cost the consumer at least $4000 more over a 5-7 year ownership period than an EXL model. The value comparing to the initial price of each vehicle largely favors the EXL as the Elite is about a 10% increase in cost for additional features. Both models are likely to have similar mechanical reliability despite the Elite having more driver assist features. However, the current cost to benefit ratio for installing these technologies in vehicles is low, and their long-term reliability and cost of repair on these features does not match Honda's proven mechanical reliability on older Pilots. Finally, new car buyers need to consider how fast their vehicle will depreciate in value over the years they own it. According to Kelly Blue Book, while both models have better than average 5-year cost to own estimates compared to other vehicles in their class, the EXL comes in at an outstanding 5-year cost of about $44,356 with only a 36% depreciation, compared to the Elite model with a 5-year estimate of $48,600 and a 38% depreciation. This means that not only do consumers have to pay a higher initial price for the Elite, it will be more costly to insure and repair at the same time that the value of the vehicle is depreciating at a faster rate.


Shah, A. B. (2022). Recycling Of Automobile in India. researchgate.net

Nicoletti, L., Romano, A., König, A., Köhler, P., Heinrich, M., & Lienkamp, M. (2021). An estimation of the lightweight potential of battery electric vehicles. Energies, 14(15), 4655. mdpi.com