On the surface the 2016 Honda Pilot and the 2016 Acura MDX seem like vastly different vehicles, but upon closer inspection our comparison review will show just how similar these two SUVs really are! To obtain the fairest results, we will be comparing the fully equipped, top of the line models of each: the 2016 Honda Pilot Touring and the 2016 Acura MDX Elite.
With Acura being the premium brand of Honda, many of their vehicles share the same platforms, features and technology. The premium status of Acura theoretically means a higher price for the vehicle, a higher cost for maintenance, parts and repairs and the requirement of using premium fuel. For this higher cost you should expect to get a more refined finish to the vehicle with exquisite quality materials, a more pampered sales experience when buying from a dealership and of course you get to show off the fact you’re driving a premium brand! On the flip side when you step down to the non-premium brand like Honda, you can expect a little less luxury and quality on the finish, more economic pricing and options and less expensive parts, maintenance and repairs. Lastly, along with the premium brand status, included is a certain amount of exclusivity where you can expect to see less people driving the same vehicle you are.
Now let’s get straight into the finer details of where the 2016 Pilot and the 2016 MDX really show their similarities and differences!
ENGINE & DRIVE
Both the 2016 Honda Pilot Touring and the 2016 Acura MDX Elite are equipped with the same 3.5L six cylinder i-VTEC engine, while the MDX’s engine is tuned slightly differently to output 10 more hp (290hp vs. the Pilot’s 280hp). This is the only engine offered across all models for both the Pilot and MDX. Both vehicles are equipped with a similar torque vectoring AWD system capable of diverting power to the wheels with traction, but each vehicle has a different name for their system (SH-AWD for the MDX and VTM-4 for the Pilot). The MDX’s SH-AWD goes one step further by enhancing handling and cornering as well. The Pilot also offers an Intelligent Traction Management System allowing selection for snow, sand or mud modes while the MDX does not.
Both the MDX Elite and the Pilot Touring pair their engines with a 9 speed automatic transmission, with sport shifting, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. However, it must be noted that all other (lower) models of the Pilot are equipped with a 6 speed transmission. Both vehicles drive smoothly while accelerating, cruising and cornering. However, I found that starting from a stopped position was smoother and more controlled with the MDX.
Overall, the MDX had a sportier driving feel with stiffer steering, zippier accelerations and sportier handling versus the Pilot’s cruising driving feel with relaxed steering, slower accelerations and smoother handling. 0-60 acceleration times show the MDX being slightly faster at 5.9 seconds versus 6.3 seconds for the Pilot, which can be attributed to the 10 extra horsepower, different engine tuning and a 28kg lower curb weight for the MDX. This also leads the MDX to have a slightly better combined city and highway fuel economy of 10.7 L/100km versus 11.0 L/100km for the Pilot. Both vehicles offer optional tow packages capable of towing either 3,500lbs or 5,000lbs.
INTERIOR & EXTERIOR
Similar in size yet styled slightly differently, the 2016 MDX showcases sporty lines and curves, horizontal LED headlights, a low and wide stance and a cleaner and meaner looking exterior versus the elegant and simple exterior design of the 2016 Pilot showcasing a functional overall shape, accent lines on the hood and sides and a more traditional shape for a full sized SUV.
When you first enter the cabins of the 2016 Honda Pilot Touring and the 2016 Acura MDX Elite, you will notice a difference of materials, quality and refinement. While the MDX opts for a more luxurious choice of wood grain highlights, a dual screen display, premium leather and a refined yet shapely dash, the Pilot showcases a more utilitarian interior with black and silver plastic highlights, a single touch screen display and a simpler dash sporting soft touch materials.
Take a quick look at both steering wheels and the refinement of each vehicle will quickly become apparent. That being said, the Pilot’s interior is leagues ahead of any earlier Pilot models. My preference for controls goes to the MDX which uses a volume knob (vs. a touch toggle on the Pilot) and offers a cleaner more minimalistic look to the dash by using the touch screen display to control most features.
In keeping with the functional style of the 2016 Pilot, it offers much more space for both passengers and cargo than the 2016 MDX. It’s evident when sitting inside the Pilot that the legroom is much greater, the rear cargo space when the third row seats are in place is much roomier and overall the interior feels much larger than the MDX. By the numbers the MDX provides 3,758L or passenger volume versus 4,335L for the Pilot and the cargo space behind the 3rd row comes in at 447L for the MDX versus 510L for the Pilot. Both the MDX Elite and the Pilot Touring have seating capacity for seven passengers, but only the Pilot offers seating for 8 with its lower models.
As expected, when similarly equipped, the 2016 Honda Pilot Touring is significantly cheaper in price than the 2016 Acura MDX Elite. The Pilot Touring model starts at $50,790 versus the MDX elite priced at $65,790 – a difference of $15,000.
Also to consider is the premium price you will pay for servicing an Acura and replacing parts and while the MDX does get slightly better fuel economy than the Pilot, it also requires the use of premium fuel (vs. regular for the Pilot).
Similarities abound between the MDX and the Pilot as they share many of the same features, specifications and performance results as well as sharing the highest safety rating from IIHS. Since both are equipped with the same engine and transmission, the result is a very similar drive. If price is no concern, it’s obvious the 2016 Acura MDX has a more refined and higher quality interior along with a slightly better driving feel than the Pilot. For everyday use and when you need a true passenger and cargo hauler the extra space in the Pilot will definitely come in handy.