Auto review: TrailSport takes Honda Pilot to higher ground

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Business News

SEDONA, Arizona — The Honda Pilot is an excellent three-row SUV to drop the kids off at school or take them up Broken Arrow mountain trail to 4,200 feet for one the most breathtaking views in America.

Oh, I’m not kidding.

Broken Arrow is a bucket list item for anyone who enjoys the American West. It’s the exclusive territory of Sedona-based Pink Jeep Tours that load families into three-row, battle-hardened Wranglers that crawl three miles over tortuous red mud and slippery rock to the trail’s grand finale: Chicken Point. Ooooh.

If you dare, you can take your own Jeep Wrangler or 4x4 or side-by-side and join the Pink Jeeps nearly a mile up on Chicken Point. Above you are some of the West’s most famous rock formations: the Two Sisters, Madonna and Child, Chapel Butte. Below you: the red abyss. It’s as heavenly as the names suggest.

I’ve made the trek twice in Pink Jeeps in recent years. Pals have conquered it in their own Wrangler Rubicons. I hadn’t seen anything but truck-based 4x4s or side-by-sides ... until this January.

With all-wheel drive and all-terrain tires, the 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport can scramble up slippery rocks on the Sedona trails.


My Pilot TrailSport tester made quite a sight next to these off-road bruisers. A side-by-side driver waggled a Hang Loose! sign at me. Pink Jeep pilots stared like Porsche drivers at Waterford Hills Raceway upon seeing, well, a Pilot doing hot laps.

Track-focused performance cars are a common sight. Pilot TrailSport is the intersection of production and performance, but aimed at off-roading. It’s a growing trend as Americans have gone bonkers for sport utes. TrailSport joins an elite list of three-row SUVs (Ford Explorer Timberline, Kia Telluride X-Pro) hardened with off-road essentials — all-terrain tires, skid plates, all-wheel drive and lifted suspension.

WHUMP! Pilot’s front skid plate took a hit as I descended Broken Arrow. The chassis was unscathed and I kept on muddin’.

Got skid plates? A display of the twin skid plates standard on a 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport to protect the underbelly from off-road harm.


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