During the past decade, the automotive market as we know it underwent a radical change. Today, there are hundreds of types of cars to choose from. So much, in fact, it’s confusing the buyers.
Among all categories, the SUV segment became very popular, and for a good reason. As the name suggests, Sport Utility Vehicles can be used for everything and anything. But there are so many options, making it hard to pick the right one.
Toyota 4Runner is a family-friendly mid-size SUV that can practically go anywhere thanks to its off-road capabilities. But so is the Honda Pilot, and it can seat up to eight. This argument has been going on for long enough!
In this article, I will show you the difference between the two, which one is better, and the best option for you to get.
Bottom Line Up Front
Both vehicles are fantastic people haulers, and both have their ups and downs. The Toyota 4Runner is a beast when it comes to conquering tough terrains, and it is made for having fun on the weekends. On the other hand, the Honda Pilot is more practical, cozier, and built for daily use.
As a result, my choice would be the Pilot simply because I don’t go off-road, and it chugs less fuel than the 4Runner. Plus, I think it rides a bit better.
Main Differences Between the Honda Pilot vs 4Runner
Just by looking at both vehicles, you will struggle to believe they belong to the same segment because they are totally different.
- Toyota 4Runner is a Truck-based SUV, whereas the Honda Pilot is a car-based SUV. In other words, the 4Runner is a truck wannabe, and the Pilot is a minivan wannabe.
- The 4Runner is more focused on off-roading, whereas the Pilot is more on-road oriented.
- The Pilot is a third-row mid-size SUV, whereas the 4Runner is a five-seater with optional third-row seats.
The Honda Pilot is one of the few family SUVs that still follow the same formula and got very few subtle changes. It prioritizes function over form, and it works. Still, neither time nor competition was nice to this poor vehicle.
The market is moving forward, and the competition adapted to the changes — so has the Pilot. This year is the last for the current generation as Honda is releasing a new Pilot based on the Acura MDX platform.
And to be honest, it took way too long!
The main reason why I am not so keen on the styling is that it looks more like a minivan than a rugged family SUV. And the new black edition makes the wheels look small inside the wheel wells.
Besides that, the Honda Pilot is a decent family hauler that does the job better than most competition.
The front has the same large grille with chrome accents and the big Honda badge. The headlights are LEDs with daytime running lights wrapping around the exterior edge. The blinkers are separate and placed lower near the fog lamps.
The wheels start at 18-inches in the entry-level models and rise to 20s with different styling. The special edition and black edition models get a set of 20-inch black alloys. The side mirrors are quite large, fitted with the latest features, and integrated turning signal light.
Depending on the trim level you opt for, the chrome continues on the window surrounds, door handles, and roof rails. The lights are all premium LEDs at the back, like the front with a massive boot lid.
Similar to the Pilot, the 4Runner got subtle changes concerning the exterior looks. In other words, Toyota was too lazy to figure out something new for the 4Runner. Despite being outdated, the design held its own against the power of time.
It kind of grows on you after a while.
The front is bold and features a large grille with different styles. The luxury models get a chrome grille with Toyota’s emblem and a thick chrome bar underneath it. The sports models get a more aggressive look, lower bumpers, and a hood scoop. The off-road trims get “Toyota” on the front grille with raised-up bumper and skid plates.
The 4Runner gets automatic LED headlights. These lights block part of their beams so as not to dazzle oncoming road users. Under the headlights, you will notice black vents that lead down to a set of foglights.
The boxy rugged look continues down the sides all the way to the back. The door handles are usually body color painted, but on the deluxe models, they are chrome, as is the window surround trim. Some models get black accents instead of chrome.
The roof is tall, and the beltline is higher, which crunches the windows as it goes further back. It gives the vehicle a sporty look similar to a Range Rover.
The Pilot is not a class leader in terms of interior space, but it’s a couple of inches behind the competition. Honda deserves warm applause because they did a sublime job in making the Pilot practical. It might be the smallest in the segment on the outside, yet the interior feels like you’re sitting in your living room.
The front row seats offer up to 40 inches of legroom and 38 in the second row. Surprisingly, the third is roomy enough for adults, with 31 inches of legroom. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough for you to stretch your legs on long journeys.
Behind the third row is 16.5 cubic feet of space for your bags. It seems small on paper, but the shape of the boot and position of the seats allow you to fit a lot in the back. Plus, you get under-floor storage. However, unlike the Kia Telluride, the storage space is wider and can fit a whole suitcase.
Behind the second row, the cargo space rises to 46 cubic feet and a jaw-dropping 83 cubic feet behind the first-row seats. Again, not the best in class, but a worthy competitor for sure.
P.S: if you opt for the captain chairs for the second-row seats, you will get a fixed center console. That means the console will intrude and take some of the space when you fold the seats flat to load more stuff.
As standard, the 4Runner can seat only five passengers, but the SR5, SR5 Premium, and Limited trims have third-row seats as an option. The cabin can only be described as vast. It’s not particularly a class leader, but it is voluminous.
In the front, you get 41 inches of legroom. The number takes a massive fall in the second row to 32 inches. Having the optional third-row seats leaves you with 29 inches of legroom. Overall, if carrying more than five people in the car is important, I recommend getting a bigger seven-seater like the Pilot or Highlander.
Still, the 4Runner puts the competition to shame in terms of cargo space. Behind the second-row seats, you get 47.2 cubic feet for your suitcases and luggage. The floor is reasonably low and has an optional cargo deck that slides out. The latter makes loading things easier.
If you fold down the seats, the cargo capacity increases to 89.7 cubic feet. The space is enough to carry a max load of 1500 pounds or one full-grown Grizzly Bear.
Powertrain and Performance
Honda was a bit cheap with its powertrain options for the Pilot. Well, the competition was not that generous either. All Honda Pilots are powered by the same 3.5-liter V-6 making 280 horsepower and 262-pound feet of torque. The same engine can be found in the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palside producing the exact same torque figures and ten more horsepower.
The V-6 is powerful enough to take the Pilot from zero to 60 in 7 seconds flat, which is faster than its Kia and Hyundai counterparts.
I don’t know about you, but to me, that doesn’t add up! I think Honda is lying about the engine output figures.
Anyways, the Pilot gets a nine-speed automatic gearbox and front-wheel drive as standard on the lower trims. A four-wheel drive is an option but standard on the top models. With front-wheel drive, the Pilot can tow 3,500 pounds. Equip the four-wheel drive, and the numbers rise to 5000 pounds.
Taking a closer look under the hood of the 4Runner is not very exciting. It comes with one engine, a 4.6-liter V-6 to be exact, pushing 270 horsepower and 278 pounds-feet of torque. Some of its rivals offer a variety of powerplants and more power output.
For instance, the Defender has three engines to choose from and makes more than 500 horsepower, while the Wrangler has five engine options, including a 400 horsepower V-8.
The 4Runner makes enough horsepower to go from zero to 60 in 7.5-8 seconds. Trust me! It is slow. On the other hand, the torque is more than enough to tug 5000 pounds. The V-6 is mated to a standard five-speed automatic gearbox and rear-wheel drive. But, off-road models get four-wheel drive.
The Pilot comes with a 19-gallon gas tank that will make your bank account cry thanks to the current gas prices. With front-wheel drive, it achieves 20 miles per gallon in the city, 27 on the highway, and 23 combined. On a 200-mile journey, the Pilot can average 25-26 mpg. If you got for the four-wheel drive, the numbers fall by a mile.
All in all, the Honda Pilot can hold its own against the competition when it comes to fuel efficiency.
Fuel consumption is not the 4Runner’s strongest suit. It is very heavy, it has the aerodynamics of a cinder block, and the massive tires on some models are the perfect mix for horrific gas mileage. As a result, the 4Runner averages about 16 miles per gallon in the city, 19 on the highway, and 17 combined.
And the 23-gallon gas tank will wreck you financially to fill it up.
Trim Levels and Prices
For the latest model (2022), Honda axed the entry-level LX and EX. It is kind of bad news because they were the most affordable models at $33,000. This means that a new unnamed base model (possibly Sport) is the new entry-level trim at almost $40,000. But the good news is the available models are loaded with amenities like a new infotainment system.
The EX-L gives a preview of the luxury that doubles up with each upper trim. It gets 18-inch alloy wheels, LED lights, a power liftgate, and heated mirrors. Its price starts at $41,000.
If you spend about a grand more, you will be able to get the SE or the Special Edition model. It comes with special style black paint, 20-inch wheels, roof rails, and a hands-free liftgate.
There is a TrailSport model offered for $46,000. Basically, it’s an EX-L with four-wheel drive as standard, fender flares, 18-inch wheels with off-road tires, and half an inch of additional ground clearance. This trim is made for Off-roading.
And by off-roading, I mean simple dirt/gravel roads leading to a farm.
The Touring model gets all the specs of the previous models except a bit more premium and has the same price as the TrailSport. Top-of-the-line Elite trims come with auto-dimming power side mirrors, automatic wipers, and a $51,000 price tag.
Last but not least, the Black Edition. The latter is just an Elite model with a black exterior and red stitches on the inside. Yet, somehow it costs more! $53,000 for the Black Edition.
The 4Runner is offered in several trims and endless configurations. More accurately, you can get the 4Runner in 8 different trim levels. The base model is the SR5, starting at $39,000. It’s loaded with decent amenities for an entry-level spec. It comes with LED lights, 17-inch wheels, roof rails, and skid plates to protect the engine.
You can have the SR5 in a Premium spec, hence the name (SR5 Premium). To be honest, it’s a base model with an upgraded interior and a higher price tag ($42,000). The Trail Special Edition shares most of its components, except the price, of course, with SR5. But, the Trail Edition gets blacked-out wheels and exterior trims alongside a Yakima roof rack and sliding cargo deck with underfloor storage.
The TRD Sport has extra features to separate it from the pack. It comes with six-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels, a hood scoop, lower bumpers, and a tuned suspension for better handling. The cost of this model is $42,000.
The TRD Off-road and TRD Off-road Premium are no different from the SR5, except for additional settings when off-roading and a rear locking differential.
In addition, these models get an optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) to enhance the wheels’ articulation when tackling rough terrains. But they are expensive and cost upwards of $46,000
The Limited is the deluxe model in the lineup. It features a special four-wheel-drive system to provide a comfortable and smooth ride. It also has 20-inch alloys and a lot of exterior chrome. Not to mention $49,500 for this bad boy!
Leading the group is the TRD Pro. It is the most expensive of the bunch, with $53,000 MSRP. This model is made specifically for extreme off-roading. It is fitted with a TRD roof rack, wheels, skid plates, all-terrain tires, and an off-road-tuned suspension with FOX dampers.
Interior Features and Comfort
On the inside, the Pilot is more than pleasant. The driving position is perfect and high enough to provide the driver with a commanding view of his surroundings. In addition, the windows are very large, and the pillars are thin and don’t block the view.
If you need to seat eight people inside, the Pilot comes with a second-row bench seat perfect to fit three adults. Upper trims come with captain chairs in the middle reducing the number to only seven passengers. The seats are generally relaxing and fit drivers of all shapes and sizes.
The only complaint I have about the third-row seat is the low seating position and the tight access. Overall, the seats are nice and cozy. The dashboard is reasonably structured, and the buttons are within reach. If you are a bit impatient, the infotainment might ruin your days. It is easy to use, but it can be frustrating and laggy.
The 8-inch touchscreen display has sharp graphics and simple menus, which you may not end up using at all because it has integrated Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. However, it could use an upgrade, considering many family haulers today come with a 12-inch display.
But it is not all bad. You get a panoramic sunroof that lights up the cabin and a nice tri-zone automatic climate control. You also get power-adjusted and heated front seats, 16 cupholders all around, and lots of cubby spaces to store small items.
The top models get leather upholstery, a wireless charging pad, ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The passengers in the back can enjoy the rear entertainment system, wi-fi hotspot, ambient lighting, and a 10-speaker sound system.
Concerning the ride quality, the Pilot handles the bumpy roads very well, and the body is barely noticeable during corners. Wind and tire noises are not a problem because you get sound-reducing windows.
The 20-inch wheels may affect the ride quality, but it’s hard to feel it. Plus, it improves the vehicle’s looks. The V-6 sounds great and has lots of punch to overtake on the highway. In addition, it works perfectly with the nine-speed auto.
The steering is light and takes away any feeling of the road. However, it is very handy when going around tight parking lots.
The interior of the 4Runner is not necessarily Avant-Garde — in other words, sophisticated or futuristic. Still, it is functional and accommodates the style of the vehicle. The windows are huge, allowing you to see in every direction. In addition, the high ground clearance enables you from looking down at other road users.
I mean that literally!
Despite its stone age interior, the 4Runner fits five people comfortably alongside their carry-on luggage and suitcases. The seats are large, comfy, and pleasing even on long journeys. The legroom is a bit tight in the second row, but it’s not too tight to ruin your trip. As for the third seat, it’s cramped and good for kids or dogs.
Or punishment for someone you don’t like.
Anyways, some trims get optional heated and ventilated seats with power adjustment and leather upholstery. The cabin is full of small cubbies for storage, but some are too small to fit modern devices.
The design is blocky yet practical, featuring massive rotary knobs and buttons that you can operate using gloves. The dash has a simple layout, and everything is where you expect it to be. Plus, the gauge cluster is clear and easy to read.
The highlight of the dash is a disappointing 8-inch touchscreen display. It does simple tasks like changing radio stations fairly easily, but the graphics are poor, and it is not very responsive.
And the lag is contagious!
It has integrated Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, and Sat Nav. However, other competitors offer much better infotainment systems. Another downside is the excessive use of plastic. Keep in mind that this vehicle costs 40 grand!
Overall, the 4Runner is functional and does what it’s meant to do, but there is much to improve. In terms of ride quality, it has mixed views. The sports models handle well on the road and have little body roll on curvy roads.
The problem is the underpowered V-6. In other words, the 4Runner is slow, and the five-speed auto is almost useless and doesn’t help at all.
Compared to the Car-like mid-size SUVs, the 4Runner is noisy and sloppy when it drives. When compared to other off-roaders like the Wrangler or the Bronco, it is quiet and more civilized.
PS: if you are looking to use the 4Runner as a daily driver, avoid the off-road-oriented trims because they are bad on the road.
Speaking of the devil, Off-roading is what the 4Runner does best. The locking rear differential, Crawl Control, and KDSS work hand in hand to improve wheel articulation and provide better traction on tough tracks.
The trim we recommend the most is the EX-L. It is nicely equipped and great to use on daily basis. You can splash a grand more and get the SE since it’s not far off, price-wise. It has a few added convenience features, and the 20-inch wheels really make a difference.
If your goal is to drive from one grocery store to another, the SR5 Premium is your best option. It falls right in the middle of the pack with loads of features and an affordable price. If you intend on hitting the dirt road more frequently, the TRD Off-road is the recommended trim. It is not as extreme as the TRD Pro, but it does not disappoint.
The Pilot received notable ratings from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS). Five stars, to be exact, thanks to its standard safety features.
Honda is fitted with:
- Forwards collision warning
- Automated emergency braking
- Lane departure warning and lane keeping assist
- Adaptive cruise control
The 4Runner received a good rating from the IIHS and a four-star score from the NHTSA.
It is fitted with Toyota’s safety package, which includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, and lane departure warning. All models are equipped with eight airbags and emergency braking. It is worth noting that the vehicle’s nose dives under heavy braking.
Honda covers the Pilot with basic warranties, average for its class. It comes with a basic 3 years/ 36,000 miles warranty, 5 years/ 60,000 miles for the drivetrain, and 5 years for rust. Other competitors like Hyundai offer longer warranties, and Toyota has complimentary maintenance.
Thankfully, The 4Runner gets the full Toyota care treatment. In other words, Toyota covers all 4Runners with a basic Limited warranty of 36,000 miles/ 3 years, 5 years/ 60,000 miles covering the powertrain, and 2 years of complimentary scheduled maintenance.
Honda Pilot Pros and Cons
The good thing about the Honda is:
- The interior is spacious
- It is versatile
- It has lots of smart storage cubbies
- The ride is smooth and comfortable
- It achieves better mileage than most rivals
What I don’t like about Honda is:
- The high price tag on the entry-level trims
- Tight access to the third-row seats
- The cruise control system being too sensitive
Toyota 4Runner Pros and Cons
Some of the benefits that come with the 4Runner are:
- Ample cargo space
- The mind-blowing off-road performance
- High resale value
But even the moon has a dark side. The 4Runner is:
- Slow because of the heavyweight and underpowered engine
- Thirsty for fuel
- The design is outdated
- The ride quality is poor compared to other modern SUVs
The SUV market is massive and contains other rides that can give you a better bang for your buck than the Pilot. For instance, Toyota Highlander and Kia Telluride offer more space, more power, and cheaper starting price.
Other rivals like the Subaru Ascent may be down on power but provides better fuel economy and off-road performance.
The 4Runner is one of the last truck-Based SUVs with magnificent off-road capabilities. As a result, there are a few rivals that can give it a run for its money. The Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler are not to be messed with. They offer a variety of powertrains, modern features, designs, and better-quality interiors.
Question: What is the Best Luxury SUV You Can Buy Today?
Answer: When looking for a deluxe SUV, nothing beats the Germans. The best luxury SUV you can buy today comes from Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, and BMW.
Question: Is a Sedan Better than an SUV?
Answer: Overall, SUVs are more practical than sedans. They go everywhere while carrying upwards of eight passengers. In addition, some SUVs can offer better ride quality, luxury features, and more power.
Question: Are Honda and Toyota Reliable?
Answer: Both Honda and Toyota are considered the most reliable brands in the market. According to consumer reports and studies made by JD Power, Honda and Toyota can live well past 200,000 before needing major repairs.
You know what they say: when in doubt, buy an SUV.
You can’t go wrong with both vehicles, but the Honda Pilot is a better choice overall. It offers a high-quality build and different configurations, all while carrying at least seven people in deluxe comfort. Not to mention, it achieves better mileage than most SUVs.
On the other hand, if you are looking for an SUV purely for off-roading, the 4Runner is perfect for you.