Home Technical Talk The Debate: Honda Pilot vs. Acura MDX

The Debate: Honda Pilot vs. Acura MDX


The 2016 Honda Pilot is an all-new design. If you compare it against the 2016 Acura MDX, you will find they are almost mechanically equivalent. Below are some analysis:

For the car body structure, both the Pilot and MDX are sharing similar design and material usage, as shown below: the first one is Honda Pilot and the next is the Acura MDX.

2016 Honda Pilot Body Structure
2014 Acura MDX Body Structure

You can also tell their similarity in the body construction from their IIHS crash test results (40% and 25% overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength).

Regarding the powertrain, although MDX’s engine has 10hp more output than the Pilot, but they are actually the same J35Y series 3.5L V6 engine, just with slightly different tuning. They have the same advanced technology features such as the fuel direct injection, VCM (variable cylinder management), VTEC etc.

Talking about the transmission, the 2016 Honda Pilot can be optioned with the same 9-speed automatic transmission as the MDX, sourced from ZF.

For the previous generation of Honda Pilot, the VTM-4 all-wheel-drive system on it is quite different than the Acura SH-AWD system on the MDX, mainly in lacking the torque vectoring feature in the VTM-4 system (for a detailed analysis and comparison of the SH-AWD and VTM-4 system, please see our previous article).

However this is no longer the case for the new i-VTM4 system in the 2016 Pilot – it has the same torque vectoring functionality as the SH-AWD in 2016 MDX. They are basically mechanically equivalent.

Therefore the main differences between the Pilot and the MDX are in the exterior/interior styling, and some minor electronic features. What’s more, the Pilot has bigger interior room than the MDX, and is cheaper than the MDX when equipped equivalently.

Therefore in some people’s opinions the Pilot is even more appealing than the MDX (and objectively speaking, this is true). So why Honda is doing this? Won’t this harm MDX’s sales?

There must be many reasons and I have no way to confirm since I do not work in Honda corporation. Here I provide a simple analysis that may explain why. Please see the below chart, it tells you why Honda HAS TO make the new Pilot so good.


The reason is: the potential of the moderately-priced mid-size SUV market is so big that Honda cannot afford to miss. However from the above chart, you can clearly see the old Pilot is losing the market, while its major competitors going up and taking away its market share. Therefore this prompts Honda’s effort to build a exceptionally good Pilot, with the risk of threatening the MDX.

Since the new Pilot has just started to arrive in dealership’s inventory for less than a month, how it will perform in the market and its impact on the MDX sales are both unknown at this moment. However one thing I am pretty confident: the new Pilot will be more popular than the previous generation.




  1. I have 2008 MDX and more than happy with it. It is likely that I will buy a new model of MDX as my next car. It all depends how you treat and drive your car. I had my original rotors and pads for 105000 km beleive or not. Transmition is still great and I put on more that 240000 km .
    Beside that in all these years I have replaced only pair of fuses and switch which cost me 120.00 at Honda dealership.
    Happy owner


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