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Toyota 4Runner vs Honda Pilot: A Comparison of Specs

1. Introduction

1.1 Overview of the Toyota 4Runner The 4Runner has been in production for decades now and has always been considered a workhorse when it comes to reliability and off-road ability. It is the longest-lasting mid-size SUV in its class and also one of the last of a dying breed of body-on-frame truck-based SUVs. It is built in Toyota's Tahara plant in Aichi, Japan, which is a Toyota City. The fifth-generation 4Runner was introduced in September 2009 for the 2010 model year. For this generation, it no longer shares the platform with the Toyota Tacoma and FJ Cruiser. Instead, it is now more closely related to Toyota's mid-size pickup, the Hilux. The 5th generation 4Runner is still utilizing body-on-frame construction which helps keep its off-road capabilities top-notch. The 4Runner comes with full-time 4-wheel drive or two-wheel drive.

In a world where the car has become an extension of the driver, it is ever more important to pick the right vehicle for the right individual or family. The Toyota 4Runner and Honda Pilot are both mid-sized SUVs that offer versatility to a wide range of consumers. This is because each brand offers a variety of specific "trim" options. While these vehicles may be similar in size, price, and options, comparing the two side by side will reveal many differences consumers may want to be aware of when making their purchase. This analysis will make a side by side comparison of the base model 4Runner and Pilot using detailed information on price, powertrain, interior features, exterior features, and safety. Then the study will briefly compare the other trim options available for these vehicles. This analysis will help consumers get the big picture of what these two vehicles are all about.

1.1 Overview of the Toyota 4Runner

Available in either two or four-wheel drive, the mid-size SUV that is the Toyota 4Runner is beginning to show its age. Marking its fifth model year now, the 4Runner rolled out revised front fascia changes last year that gave it a slightly different look, but it's still based on the same platform it has used since the current iteration was introduced in 2002. Having dropped the four-cylinder engine option in 2010, a tried and true 4.0-liter V-6 produces 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque powers all 4Runners. Carrying a five-speed automatic transmission, the V-6 performs its job well, offering seamless and adequate acceleration. For those seeking a true off-road vehicle, the 4Runner comes equipped with a two-speed transfer case and in Trail trim adds Toyota's Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) for improved wheel articulation. With Toyota's Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select packaged along with (or available on) the KDSS suspension, the 4Runner has more off-road gadgets than ever. Benefiting from hill start and downhill assist controls, any 4Runner equipped with four-wheel drive will capably navigate harsh terrain. Though the KDSS and off-road oriented additions improve trail performance, the 4Runner is still most frequently used as a family vehicle. Both SR5 and Limited trims are available on seven-passenger configurations, with a five-passenger third row delete option also offered (the Trail is only offered in a five-passenger configuration). The seven-passenger 4Runners are equipped with a sliding and reclining 40/20/40 second row seat, while five-passenger models feature the option of a power rear sliding cargo deck that can hold up to 440 pounds of gear. After making slight changes to its audio system it is the Trail trim that gets the most notable add for 2014, with an optional Premium Package that includes an Entune premium audio system with navigation and app suite. All told, the 4Runner doesn't provide the smoothest ride and its truck heritage still shows, but those seeking a well-equipped and capable mid-size SUV for off-road excursions with occasional third row or large storage use may find it to be the best choice in its class.

1.2 Overview of the Honda Pilot

The Honda Pilot comes with a 280-horsepower EarthDreams engine and has a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Pilot rides very well due to its independent suspension. This SUV can pretty much handle all types of weather with the available all-wheel drive. It has intelligent traction management with modes for normal, mud, sand, and snow. This will affect the amount of torque that is being distributed to the front and rear axles. With the all-wheel drive, it gets a towing capacity of 5,000 lbs. This is a very comfortable and quiet riding vehicle. Remember though that with the all-wheel drive, this is a very capable off-road 8-seater SUV.

Compared to the 4Runner, the Pilot gets slightly better gas mileage. The two-wheel drive model gets 20/27 mpg city/highway, whereas the four-wheel drive model gets 18/26 mpg. It also has a larger gas tank capacity, so it can go further with a 19.5-gallon fuel tank. The Pilot has an ample amount of cargo space compared to the 4Runner. It has 18.5 cubic feet behind the third row, 55.9 cubic feet behind the second row, and 109 cubic feet behind the front row. A huge advantage of the Pilot is that the third row can fit adults, so if you need to move around a lot of people but still want a large amount of cargo space, this is the vehicle you are looking for. It features a lot of space for children too with available rear seat entertainment and second-row captain's chairs.

The Honda Pilot is a traditional midsize SUV. It is a very reliable vehicle with many features. The Pilot is an 8-seater, so this is the choice for you if you have a large family. It also has many available safety features such as adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and collision mitigation braking system. These features are what make the Honda Pilot a 2016 top safety pick (IIHS).

2. Engine Performance

The 4Runners engine is a 4.0-liter V6, while the Pilot boasts a 3.5-liter V6. Both vehicles come with 2-wheel drive as standard, with an option to upgrade to 4-wheel drive. The 4Runner transmission is a 5-speed automatic, while the Pilot has a 5-speed automatic with an additional overdrive feature. The 4Runners V6 produces 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque. This allows the 4Runner to stay competitive in its class for acceleration and towing capacity. The Pilot has a higher hp at 280, but its 250 lb-ft of torque is significantly less than the 4Runner, a direct result of its smaller engine. The smaller engine provides less stress on the transmission, which ultimately contributes to slightly better fuel efficiency. Overall, the 4Runner has the edge in terms of engine power and acceleration. Both vehicles claim to have enough power to tow up to 5000 lbs. A detailed spec comparison is provided at the end of this article.

2.1 Toyota 4Runner Engine Specs

The Toyota 4Runner provides a best-in-class 4.0-liter V6 engine with 270 horsepower and 278 lb.-ft. of torque. The kind of Dual Independent Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) is added to provide power and upgrade productivity. VVT-i modifies to the outdoors and temperature of the motor for better execution over the life of the vehicle. The Honda Pilot gives an efficient 3.5-liter V-6 engine with 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. torque. It is clear here that the 4Runner has prominent motor execution in force and torque while having the capacity to keep up a more than focused efficiency rating. A vast piece of the 4Runner lineup features a 5-speed Electronically Controlled Transmission with intelligence (ECT-i) and the Trail Edition comes standard with a Part-time 4WD framework including a 2-speed exchange case with order and electronics. This framework has been proven to be reliable and offers improved handling no matter what the conditions are. The 4Runner V6 models are evaluated to tow a maximum of 5,000 lbs. On the other hand, the Pilot 2WD models are evaluated to tow a maximum of 3,500 lbs and 4WD models can tow a maximum of 4,500 lbs. The V6 4Runner has an extra 500 lbs of towing capacity over the Pilot. With the 4Runner's extraordinary power and torque, towing trailers, toys or whatever else has never been easier or safer.

2.2 Honda Pilot Engine Specs

The Honda Pilot 2019 offers only one engine option. This is a 3.5-liter V-6 which is the same as the outgoing Pilot. This engine is offered in the LX, EX, and EX-L models and in the 2WD or AWD. The Touring and Elite use the same 3.5L V-6 that is offered in the lines above, in addition to a 9-speed transmission. The 9-speed transmission is something that is a new development with the Pilot after some serious transmission issues that were seen in the last generation Pilot. The 9-speed transmission is supposed to provide a smoother and more refined shifting pattern, which will generate extra MPGs. This transmission is something new to Honda and it was tested and tuned to perfection in the latest Acura models before being installed in the Pilot. The MPG ratings for this 9-speed transmission in line with the 3.5L V-6 are very strong, with 20 combined in the 2WD line and 22 combined with the AWD line. The 2WD gets 19 city and 27 highway, while the AWD models get 19 city and 26 highway. The Touring and Elite have a unique powertrain setup with the 3.5L V6 and 9-speed transmission, but it also includes the Honda Idle Start Stop or sometimes referred to as start-stop technology. This is an interesting fuel-saving feature that kills the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop and then restarts when the brake is released. The device is disengaged by a button that can easily be turned off or on, and it showed promising results in Acura models ranging from a 5-10% increase in fuel economy. This AWD system with Idle Stop Tech gets 22 combined with 20 city and 27 highway. Step up 1 mpg in the city with the AWD line.

2.3 Fuel Efficiency Comparison

Overall, it is clear that the cost to keep the Pilot on the road is not a great deal more but enough said for some to justify that it is worth it. This makes fuel efficiency a point worth further consideration for the Pilot and 4Runner on future vehicles as the cost of gas continues to rise.

Next would be the fuel efficiency expected out of the engine. It is important to compare these two vehicles with a 5-speed automatic as few Runner and Pilot owners still drive vehicles with optional 4-wheel drive. The 2008 V6 4Runner gets an estimated 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. This is compared to the Pilot getting an estimated 17 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway. That's 1 mile per gallon more in the city and 2 on the highway. Based on an average of 15,000 miles a year, 55% of them in the city, and at a fuel cost of $4.402 per gallon, the fuel cost for a year for the 4Runner would be $3,652 and the cost for the Pilot would be $3,246. This would be a $406 difference in fuel costs for the year, which is not a great deal of fuel money considering the difference in safety, comfort of the vehicle, and increased resale value of the Pilot. Those driving older vehicles looking to replace one of them with a Pilot retrieve even less cost difference.

Fuel economy is very important in any vehicle and exceeding fuel efficiency is exceeding its ability as a mode of transportation. It is poor effect to have an ultra comfortable and safe vehicle to drive for oneself, family, and friends if the cost to keep the vehicle on the road is more than friendly in the long run. Hence, there is good reason to compare fuel economies and costs of the 4Runner and the Pilot. The surface or basic cost of fuel can be a major consideration in one's decision to purchase a vehicle. To some buyers, it is much easier and clearer to weigh out the fuel costs of two different vehicles running similar driving patterns. Both vehicles use regular unleaded fuel, which makes for a cleaner and less expensive cost. This fact may appeal mostly to Pilot owners due to the more family-oriented nature of the Pilot.

3. Interior Features and Space

Honda Pilot interior features include an available right front passenger's seat with 4-way power adjustment, and 60/40 split adjustable second and third-row seats. The Honda Pilot also has a tri-zone automatic climate control system with humidity control and air filtration, available heated front seats, and a 10-way power driver's seat with lumbar support. Leather and the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System are available options on the Honda Pilot. The Honda Pilot's interior is spacious and one of the few in the SUV category that can seat up to eight passengers. The front and second-row seats are comfortable and it has excellent storage spaces, as well as a simple and easy to fold or move second-row seat making it great for families with young kids. Visibility is also good in the Honda Pilot with a commanding view and large side mirrors. Its boxy shape provides plenty of headroom and comfortable seating in the third row. The third-row can also be turned into a tailgate seat for that perfect day at the park.

Toyota 4Runner interior features include a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and Optitron electronic gauges with a 3.5-inch multi-function display. It is also equipped with cruise control, a remote keyless entry system, a rear liftgate window with auto up/down function, map/glove box lighting, and 12V and 120V power outlets. A power moonroof is an available option on the Toyota 4Runner. As for seating, the 4Runner comes equipped with front bucket seats and a 40/20/40 reclining and fold-flat second-row bench. The Limited model adds leather seat trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and heated front seats. The Toyota 4Runner is great for off-road adventures as it has a comfortable interior, good visibility, and plenty of cargo space. The cabin looks rugged and has a simple, clean, and functional design. Controls are easy to find and use. The 4Runner is also easy to get into and out of. Driver and passenger have plenty of space and its large windows provide great visibility.

3.1 Toyota 4Runner Interior Features

Built for the outdoors and adventures that come with it, the 4Runner is a rugged, off-road machine. This can be seen in its interior features, which are basic compared to the Pilots but are more practical for those who venture into the great outdoors. One key difference is that the 4Runner is one of the last midsize SUVs to still be built with a body-on-frame design. Although this isn't the most efficient design for on-road driving, it does mean that the 4Runner is still a true off-road vehicle, boasting more off-road capability than the Pilot or other crossover SUVs. Also signaling its off-road capabilities is a standard locking rear differential, something no other car in its class offers. This can be very useful in low traction conditions such as snow, ice, or mud and essentially allows the 4Runner to keep moving if only one of the rear wheels has traction. Other features aimed at off-road drivers include a multi-terrain select system, which allows the driver to choose the type of terrain they are driving on and will optimize traction by adjusting wheel spin. An optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) allows for more wheel travel at the front and rear of the vehicle when driving off-road by temporarily disconnecting the stabilizer bars, providing greater off-road traction and more composure on-road. The downside to this is that off-road oriented features such as these can detract from on-road driving and handling and likely won't be of much use to those who don't intend to take their 4Runner off-road. The 4Runner also has a maximum towing capacity of 5000 lbs compared to the Pilot's 3500 lbs. This is useful for those with heavy trailers or boats.

3.2 Honda Pilot Interior Features

Honda Pilot has 7 and 8 seat configurations dependent upon the trim levels. It is entirely possible that both these configurations (7 and 8 seat) be installed in the same car as all Honda Pilots are prewired for the installation of the additional 8th seat regardless of trim level. This means that any Honda Pilot can be taken to a Honda dealer, and the seat can be installed without the need for drilling, cutting or modifying the vehicle in any way. Toyota does not offer an 8 seat configuration for the 4Runner. This means that if you are looking for 8 passenger seating, you are automatically disqualified from purchasing a 4Runner. If you want to safely and legally transport 8 passengers, you simply cannot do that with a 4Runner, and you must go with Honda Pilot. Pilot's 8 passenger configuration is good for short trips around town. The 2nd and 3rd row seats in the Pilot all have headrests with easy access and exit to the 3rd row seat thanks to large rear door. In addition, the 1 touch walk-in lever on the 2nd row seats allows them to be folded and slid forward to access the 3rd row with only 1 hand, making it unnecessary for any passenger to get out of a 2nd row seat to allow access to the 3rd row. This feature is a huge convenience for parents with young children, as well as anyone chauffeuring adults on a regular basis to various events.

3.3 Cargo Space Comparison

On the contrary, the 4Runner has 89.7 cubic feet behind the front seats with 46.3 cubic feet behind the second row. That gives the Pilot a slight edge in total cargo space, but the 4Runner has much more usable space. The second row seats can be reclined and also have a center fold-down armrest. The rectangle design and large opening of the 4Runner's rear cargo area leave a lot of usable space for storage and make loading and unloading very efficient. This design has also allowed people to build a sleeping platform or drawer system in the rear of their 4Runners for camping and overloading purposes. The rear window is also powered, and it still rolls down into the tailgate like older 4Runners. This is good if you have dogs and you want better air circulation in the back. The 4Runner has a household-style power outlet in the cargo area and a party mode button on the stereo. This button is supposed to make the sound quality better for when the liftgate window is open, but what it really does is increase bass and treble to maximum settings.

The cargo space comparison section is important to anyone who is constantly hauling stuff around, and the cargo space and design is a very specific area where 4Runner really shines. Honda Pilot has 87 cubic feet of cargo space with the second and third row folded down and 47.7 cubic feet with just the third row folded down. They also claim 18.0 cubic feet with all seats in place, but this must be a typo because that is almost impossible to achieve because the refrigerator in the 4Runner below takes up more space than that. The refrigerator test failed miserably for the Pilot; it would not even come close to fitting in the back.

3.4 Passenger Comfort and Technology

The Honda Pilot's most notable technical feature is the standard Variable Torque Management 4-Wheel Drive System on the EX, EX-L, and Touring models. This system allows the driver to the option of using the 4WD on dry pavement, and it will automatically engage if front-wheel slippage is detected. The Honda comes with standard 8-passenger seating, and did someone say new driver's seat? The Pilot's got a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat and 4-way power adjustable front passenger seat. 10 is bigger than 8 last time I checked, so Toyota may want to look out with that one. Also, the standard tri-zone climate control with humidity control and air filtration is a feature better than the 4Runner's Dual Zone control, so I see a pattern is starting to develop here. Heated seats are also an option with the EX-L and standard on the Touring model. All valid comparatives of course, but nothing compared to a heated windshield wiper de-icer! The Pilot also stands out with standard integrated sunshades in the 2nd row to help block the sun's rays and keep the backseat passengers cool. But the 4Runner takes it up a notch with an available pull out cargo area sunshade, sorry passenger.

The Toyota 4Runner comes standard with an 8-way power adjustable driver's seat and an optional 4-way power adjustable front passenger seat. The 4Runner also has an optional 50/50 3rd row that's easy to fold, lean, and slide. The most exciting technical feature is the standard Smart Key System. The driver can simply leave the key fob in his pocket and touch the inside of the door handle to unlock it. Then simply press the start button and the ignition will turn on. Pricing and model grade information is still pending for this 2010 model, but I'm hoping it's a standard feature on at least the SR5. Step it up to Limited and the 4Runner comes with a standard Dual Zone Climate Control with an Air Filter.

Features seem to be used as an out to avoid a detailed discussion of the mechanical aspects of a vehicle, considering the fact it's much easier to talk about heated seats than to explain the technology behind Honda's Variable Torque Management 4-Wheel Drive System. But nonetheless, here comes some important information about the technology present inside each vehicle.

4. Safety and Technology

Despite having more features designed to prevent a collision, the most effective safety feature is the one that helps protect the driver and minimizes injury to passengers in the event a collision is unavoidable. Both SUVs have good structural performances, with the 4Runner having received a 4-star ANCAP safety rating and the Honda Pilot predicted to receive a 5-star ANCAP safety rating. Both perform well in offset and side impact crash tests.

The 4Runner has an array of features including eight airbags throughout the vehicle, vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock brake system, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and smart stop technology. All of these features are developed to prevent a collision from occurring. This is compared to the Honda Pilot, which comes with six airbags, vehicle stability assist, anti-lock brake system, brake assist, and a multi-angle rearview camera. Like the 4Runner, all of these features are designed to prevent a collision.

Safety is of the utmost importance to any vehicle on the road. The current trend in safety features is to protect the driver as well as the passengers. Safety features are designed to help the driver either avoid a collision or, in the worst-case scenario, protect the passengers in the event a collision is unavoidable. The Toyota 4Runner and the Honda Pilot, both being SUVs, will have similar safety features, but how effective are they?

4.1 Toyota 4Runner Safety Features

Safety is prioritized over everything else when it comes to vehicles. The 4Runner has acquired an overall rating of 4 stars due to its crash test performance. The 4Runner has standard antilock brakes and stability control to keep the vehicle going straight on certain slippery terrains. The 4Runner has guaranteed seatbelts that withstand the forces. The 4Runner also has front and rear airbags that deploy when the vehicle is in a collision. The 4Runner has an airbag on the driver's knee area which prevents the driver's lower body from engaging with the dashboard in the event of a collision. Side airbags are also deployed in the event of a side collision, and side curtain airbags cover both rows. The 4Runner has headrests on all seating to reduce the severity of a whiplash injury on the vehicle's neck. The 4Runner is also equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system that will indicate when the air pressure fails at either low or high levels. An available safety feature for certain 4Runner models is the back-up camera. This enables the driver to clearly see what's behind the vehicle on the screen of the audio system when in R or when at a stoic position. Another unique feature is the roll-se sensor which aids in restoring the previous setting and returning the seat to an upright position. This will enhance occupant safety by properly maintaining the seating posture in the event of a collision. Roll-se will also work in conjunction with the vehicle's side and curtain shield airbags.

4.2 Honda Pilot Safety Features

Having a wide array of modern and innovative safety features has contributed to the Honda Pilot consistently receiving good safety ratings in the USA and IIHS crash testing. This, along with the safety features themselves, goes a long way to providing peace of mind for Pilot owners, and it is a real strong point for the Pilot as a family vehicle.

The final safety feature that is included with the Pilot is a multi-angle rearview camera that comes with guidelines to help with parking. This camera will essentially allow the driver to see what is behind the vehicle, whereas a standard rearview camera only shows directly behind the vehicle. This is a great aid for reversing and parking, and the addition of guidelines is even better as it will help to accurately judge the distance between the vehicle and any obstacles behind it.

The blind spot information system is also included on the Elite trim of the Pilot, but the Elite trim also has a rear cross-traffic monitor, which is an extension of the blind spot information system that is intended to cover when the vehicle is in reverse. This will warn the driver if a vehicle is approaching from either side and the system determines that a collision with the approaching vehicle is likely. This is a really great safety feature that provides an effective collision prevention measure.

The Touring edition of the Pilot comes with an innovative blind spot information system. This system uses sensors in the rear bumper to detect whether there is a vehicle in the driver's blind spot and illuminates a light on the corresponding wing mirror. If the driver then indicates on that side, it will start flashing, and if the driver tries to change lanes when there is a vehicle in the blind spot, it will flash and give an audio warning. This system provides an excellent visual warning and is a great aid on motorways where you may not be able to check a blind spot due to traffic in the next lane.

A child seat restraint system is another thing that comes standard on all trims of the Pilot. This is great for families with younger children as it provides an added measure of safety above simply installing a child seat.

The EX and higher trims of the Pilot come equipped with an interesting intelligent traction management system. This system is designed to optimize the handling of the vehicle in a variety of weather and terrain conditions. Although this may not stop the vehicle from skidding down an off-road track, it will ensure that the vehicle reacts in the safest possible way. Such an example could be if the vehicle was to go from a muddy track on a hill and back onto a tarmac road, the system would optimize the torque distribution to best suit the conditions to ensure safe handling of the vehicle.

The Honda Pilot, being a large SUV, is sure to keep the family safe and sound with its range of safety features that cover a wide spectrum that will be discussed. All trims of the Pilot come standard with the usual front airbags and front side airbags, as well as side curtain airbags for all three rows of seating. This means that in the event of a collision, Pilot passengers will be protected from all angles. In addition to this, the Pilot has front seat belt pretensioners to ensure that front seat passengers are securely strapped in for the duration of a trip.

4.3 Infotainment and Driver-Assist Technologies

It is also worth mentioning that the overwhelming electrical system of the 4Runner's Limited and Limited Nightshade editions, with the plethora of features such as puddle lights and the 4-zone key-linked automatic climate control system, is something that has caused an increased amount of reported problems of electrical failure compared to the rest of the 4Runner lineup or other Toyota vehicles. Consider also that this is a major comparison to make with the 5th generation 4Runner, which has virtually no changes to the safety or electrical system since its debut in 2009.

This is a stark contrast to the 4Runner, where Toyota has tried to make small improvements by adding safety features to the higher trims in recent years but is not on par with the level of the Pilot. While the base trims of both vehicles have similar features, such as Rearview Camera and Auto High Beams, the availability of additional key features on the Pilot, such as Blind Spot Information System and the Cross Traffic Monitor, are things you will not find on the 4Runner. This goes even further with the Pilot's Touring trim and above, where the front and rear parking sensors and the auto-dimming, power-folding side mirrors are all testaments to the level of utility and sophistication that Honda has been able to provide, while Toyota continues to struggle in this category due to the 4Runner's outdated design.

More importantly, Honda has made ever-increasing strides in adding safety technology to their vehicles and has made a commitment to standardize the key features across all trims. With this, all Honda Pilot trims come standard with the Honda Sensing® suite of safety and driver-assistive technologies, which comes with features that are not available at all on the 4Runner, such as Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist System, and Road Departure Mitigation. This provides an extensive, no-compromise solution to safety, with it being present in every Pilot regardless of the price.

Even the base models of the 2020 Honda Pilot include a long list of infotainment and technological features that are hard to beat in the Toyota 4Runner. All trims come standard with the 8-inch Display Audio touchscreen system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto integration, Sirius XM Radio, and the CabinControl app. The Toyota 4Runner's base model only comes with an 8-inch touchscreen and one app suite (Apple Carplay, but no Android Auto). Step up to a higher 4Runner trim and it adds navigation but no key additions to the app suite. Now compare that to a fully loaded Pilot which adds navigation that can be sent to the car from your phone, and a 10-speaker/590-watt premium audio system. This makes it clear that the Pilot has far more to offer when it comes to advancements in the audio system.