2021 Honda Pilot vs. 2021 Ford Explorer

2021 Honda Pilot vs Ford Explorer

Whether it’s taking the kids to soccer practice or taking that much-awaited weekend camping trip, the SUV is the vehicle of choice for America’s families from coast to coast. So, it’s not surprising that SUVs - with their unmatched versatility, cargo space, and go-anywhere capabilities – continue to be perennial best sellers.

Sitting at or near the top of the list with SUV car buyers are the 2021 Honda Pilot EX and comparably equipped 2021 Ford Explorer XLT. But which one is best? Let’s compare the two and find out.


Rugged Athleticism vs So-So Styling

Ready for the boulevard or the back roads, the 2021 Pilot EX offers stand-out styling that artfully combines rugged athleticism with timeless sophistication. Its clean lines are complemented by a bold front end that’s bisected with chrome accents and features Honda’s signature badge front and center. The Pilot’s athletic countenance is evident from every angle of its aerodynamic and sculpted silhouette, guaranteeing admiring looks no matter where the road might take you.

2021 Pilot - Rugged Styling

Redesigned last year, the Explorer XLT gets just a few minor changes for the 2021 model year. The Explorer tends to blend in with the crowd thanks to its rather bulbous front end, rear end with smallish tail lights, nondescript character lines across its flanks, and a choppy, upright appearance.


Pilot Interior Soars with Roomy Versatility

With seating for up to 8 passengers, 2021 Honda Pilot is built for on-the-go families. The Explorer, however, can only accommodate up to 7 passengers. The Pilot also shows off its versatility with multiple seating configurations to maximize your comfort and perfectly fit your lifestyle. This includes 60/40 flat-folding third-row bench seats, one-touch second-row seats for easy access, standard 10-way adjustable power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, and front heated seats.

Additionally, the Pilot provides more overall shoulder room, more third-row hiproom, and more overall passenger volume.

2021 Honda Pilot - Roomy Versatility

To top it off, the Pilot offers the last word on quality, with upscale materials used throughout its spacious and quiet cabin. The Explorer, on the other hand, has been faulted for the lackluster and chintzy quality of its interior. Mark Takahashi of notes that, “’s kept in check by its comparably expensive sticker and an interior that doesn’t meet the standards of its price.”

2021 Honda Pilot EX 2021 Ford Explorer XLT
Front Row Shoulder Room 62 inches 61.8 inches
Second Row Shoulder Room 62 inches 61.9 inches
Third Row Shoulder Room 57.6 inches 54.6 inches
Third Row Hiproom 44.6 inches 40.9 inches
Total Passenger Volume 152.9 cubic feet 152.7 cubic feet
One-Touch 2nd-row Seats Standard Not Available

Features & Technology

The Tech You Crave

The Tech You Crave

The 2021 Honda Pilot EX comes well-equipped with new-age tech. Complementing your connected lifestyle, the Pilot offers a standard 8-inch, high-def Display Audio infotainment touchscreen with integrated Apple CarPlay®* and Android Autotm *, plus Bluetooth®* Hands-Free and Streaming Audio capabilities.

Additionally, the Pilot EX also comes with Honda’s exclusive CabinControl® remote compatibility that allows passengers to adjust various features from their compatible smartphones.

Another exclusive feature is HondaLink® that puts control of your Pilot in the palm of your hand, right from your smartphone. You’ll rock out to your favorite playlists with a powerful, seven-speaker, 215-watt audio system with a subwoofer -- because we know you love those bass drops.

The Explorer counters with a standard infotainment system that includes an AM/FM radio and MP3 compatible audio system with six speakers. But you’ll have to pay extra to upgrade to Ford’s SYNC3® tech package.


Honda Sets the Standard for Safety

Honda continues to lead the way with a comprehensive suite of standard safety features designed to give you and your passengers peace of mind no matter where you travel. The entire Honda lineup features Honda’s advanced Honda Sensing® suite of integrated active safety technologies as standard equipment. These include Collision Mitigation Braking, Road Departure Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, Lane-Keeping Assist, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Traffic Sign Recognition.

Another important safety benefit exclusive to Honda is its Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE™) Body Structure. It’s specifically engineered to absorb the impact of a frontal collision for an added layer of passenger protection.

With the Explorer, you’ll get Ford’s Co-Pilot360tm suite of safety features that includes their Blind Spot Information System, Lane-Keeping System, Automatic Emergency Braking, and Auto High-Beam Headlights. But you’ll have to pay more for Ford’s optional Co-Pilot360tm Assist safety package, which comes with adaptive cruise control, and evasive steering assist.

2021 Pilot EX 2021 Explorer XLT
Adaptive Cruise Control Standard Optional
ACE™ Body Structure Standard Not Available
Traffic Sign Recognition Standard Not Available

If you’re looking for a roomy, versatile, and feature-packed family SUV that gives you more than the competition, then you should put the spacious, stylish, and well-equipped 8-passenger Honda Pilot at the top of your list.


Apple CarPlay is a registered trademark of Apple, Inc.

Android and Android Auto are trademarks of Google LLC

HondaLink Subscription Services come with complimentary trials of Security for one year and Remote/Concierge for three months. Enrollment is required to access the Remote/Concierge trial and to access certain features of Security. At the end of each trial period, purchase of a subscription is required to continue the respective services.

The Bluetooth® word mark and logos are owned by the Bluetooth SIG, Inc., and any use of such marks by Honda Motor Co., Ltd., is under license.