EX 6-Speed Transmission Vs. Elite 9-Speed - 2016 Honda Pilot Long-Term Road Test

Edmunds.comEdmunds.com Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 10,305
edited July 2017 in Honda
imageEX 6-Speed Transmission Vs. Elite 9-Speed - 2016 Honda Pilot Long-Term Road Test

We compare the 6-speed automatic transmission found in the 2016 Pilot LX, EX and EX-L to the 9-speed that comes in the Touring and the Elite.

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  • throwbackthrowback Member Posts: 445
    So the 9 speed is there to help justify the higher price tag of the Elite. Makes some sense and EPA stickers are what is used in advertising. Is this the same ZF 9 speed Chrysler uses under license?
  • reminderreminder Member Posts: 383
    I've owned 2 Accords. Both had 5-speed autos.
    They were the best automatics I had ever driven. Perfectly programed to work with the 4 cylinder motor.
    Never caught flat-footed or searching for the right gear.
    If their 6-speed is anything like those 5's, no need to mess with three more gears.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 North Central OHMember Posts: 18,098
    How about the weight? That makes a difference. The fact the 9 speed is better in the stop and go loop is a benefit, since if used as a family hauler there tends to lots of shorter trips. That said, it's not a whole lot better.
    2020 Ford Explorer XLT, 91 Mustang GT vert
  • allthingshondaallthingshonda Member Posts: 878
    throwback said:

    So the 9 speed is there to help justify the higher price tag of the Elite. Makes some sense and EPA stickers are what is used in advertising. Is this the same ZF 9 speed Chrysler uses under license?

    Yes it's the same ZF 9-speed that Chrysler uses. The 6-speed is a Honda designed transmission they have been using for a while.
  • longtimelurkerlongtimelurker Member Posts: 455
    Thanks for this. Now tell us the weight difference and the acceleration difference and we'll have the whole picture.
  • yellowbalyellowbal Member Posts: 234

    Thanks for this. Now tell us the weight difference and the acceleration difference and we'll have the whole picture.

    The acceleration difference is minimal according to Car&Driver. They tested a 2WD EX vs a AWD Elite. The Elite was a bit faster to 60 but the EX was faster to 100.
  • nate001nate001 Member Posts: 102
    It looks like the weight doesn't change that much, the EX-L weight is between 4284- 4301 depending if they have navigation and the rear entertainment center installed. The elite is 4317, so a difference of 16-33lbs depending on configuration.
  • actualsizeactualsize Santa Ana, CaliforniaMember Posts: 451
    We took both to the track, Unfortunately, our scales were unavailable because of a severed cord when the EX AWD (with Honda Sensing) 6-speed was here. But they were working when our long-term Elite was at the track on a different day, and it weighed 4,301 pounds. So we'll have to go with the manufacturer's weight specs, which says the EX w/Honda sensing weighs 71 lbs less than an Elite - 4,246 vs. 4,317. I don't think this weighs heavily (pardon the pun) on the mpg results.

    On the strip, this 6-speed EX AWD accelerated from 0-60 in 6.4 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds and 93.7 mph.
    Meanwhile, our long-term Elite 9-speed did 6.6 seconds and 14.8 @ 92.9 mph, respectively - a tad slower. The 0-60 difference may indeed be related to a combination of shift timing and the 71-pound weight difference, and something like that would be expected to carry on down the strip, as we see here.

    Worth noting: Some weeks earlier we tested a pre-production Elite. But it only weighed 4,250 pounds on our scales for some reason. It ran 0-60 in 6.4 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 14.6 @ 93.7 mph -- a near dead heat with this 6-speed. But with this being a pre-prod car that's mysteriously 50-something pounds lighter, I prefer to ignore this one and use our long-term Elite results.

    Either way, there isn't enough difference to worry about when deciding which one to buy.

    Twitter: @Edmunds_Test

  • legacygtlegacygt Member Posts: 599
    This is kind of fascinating because their really selling the 9-speed as a premium feature. This isn't a CAFE gambit where the EPA test numbers of the 9-speed are so advantageous to Honda's bottom line. If that were the case, they'd put the 9-speed in all Pilots and in any case the gain isn't that great. They are really trying to sell it as a more desirable option than the 6-speed by bundling it in the higher trim levels. And this would be fine if it provided a better driving experience in any way but that doesn't seem to be the case. It isn't faster. It isn't more efficient. And it's more annoying. Seems like Honda needs to go back to the drawing board on this one.
    All that being said, those are some pretty good acceleration numbers in a 3-row CUV.
  • ebeaudoinebeaudoin NE IllinoisMember Posts: 509
    Thank you for doing this! It's really helpful to see the real-world difference. Having driven both transmissions in the new Pilot, my vote goes to the 6-speed by a landslide. It just feels right, like a transmission ought to. I've voiced my opinion that one of the best automatic gearbox ratio-counts is the 8-speed. I've driven 8-speeds in a Hyundai Genesis 3.8L, a Ram 1500 Hemi 4x4 and a couple of BMW vehicles and it has always felt like the right amount of ratios. 9-speed just seems like too many. The Pilot's 9-speed feels like it's complicating a simple task.
  • actualsizeactualsize Santa Ana, CaliforniaMember Posts: 451
    edited February 2016
    I'm with you, but I'm not as convinced that nine is one gear too many in an absolute sense. There's something about this ZF-sourced transverse nine-speed gearbox that isn't right. It's in the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Jeep Cherokee/Renegade, too, and even though all of them presumably have their own take on shift-schedule software tuning, none of them have made it feel right. There must be a hardware limitation, and I'm not yet convinced is a simple matter of "8 is enough". That could be the case, but I'm not convinced.

    Twitter: @Edmunds_Test

  • chase300chase300 Member Posts: 6
    The ZF 9-speed uses a dog-clutch for shifting, so yes, it has different hardware from the ZF 8-speed which gets so much praise.
  • longtimelurkerlongtimelurker Member Posts: 455
    Thanks for the reply. Yeah, there is not enough difference here to see...perhaps in part-throttle acceleration where the engine could stay closer to a sweet sport torque-wise the 9-speed would do better seat-of-the-pants.

    Probably the biggest real-life difference would be in mountainous terrain, where the 6-speed would drop from 6th to 5th or even to 4th and the 9-speed would have more intermediate ratios to play with, it could make a difference, both ascending and decending, there would be a performance and/or mpg difference, but that's it.
  • oluapoluap Member Posts: 5
    Alex Dykes at TTAC did a really good writeup on why the ZF 9-speed is such a dog (pardon the pun) when downshifting under acceleration: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/zfs-9-speed-9hp-transmission-puts-dog-clutches-on-the-leash/

    Those dog clutches in the ZF 9 speed (as chase300 pointed out) force a slower downshift with a lot more power reduction during the shift.
  • metalmaniametalmania Member Posts: 167
    Just over 6 seconds to 60, really? Wow - maybe I'm out of touch with the times but that's pretty quick for something this big and with that kind of mass. I was expecting somewhere between 8-9 sec, maybe edging into the high 7's, and I would have thought either of those was pretty decent given this car's intended use and market.
  • jakek66jakek66 Member Posts: 60
    0-60 in 6.4 is pretty damn fast for a good sized SUV
  • hamopw1asthamopw1ast Member Posts: 1
    I'm considering a 2016 Pilot EX. I tow a travel trailer and figure loaded it weighs about 4100 lbs. My 07 Ridgeline tows it easily with a 5000lb tow rating and wonder if the new Pilot with the same rating will be ok with it? And what is the $800 option some of the dealers are saying it requires to be able to tow? Said unknown option is not listed in any docs I can find. Is this a dealer scam to get more $ or a legit item that for whatever reason is not mentioned anywhere? My wife and I really like the new Pilot. Thanks for your answers.
  • marvinlee1marvinlee1 OregonMember Posts: 51
    The nine speed automatics are near the beginning of their design cycle while six speeds are now quite mature. It will be interesting to see how a similar comparison fares in three or four years. As for ZF-specific design limitations, that may indeed be the case. GM, on its new ten speed automatic, goes to great lengths to emphasize the rapidity of its gear ratio changes.
  • merc1956merc1956 Member Posts: 1
    I bought new 2016 Pilot EX_L with 6 speed transmission.When going from reverse to drive,sometimes there is a pause of 3 to 6 seconds before the transmission engages and the car starts forward. Dealer cannot duplicate the problem. I wrote Honda and they said has to be duplicated to attempt to fix. Has anyone else had this problem?
  • bryanfitebryanfite Member Posts: 1
    I concur with Dan Edmond's opinion. Avoid the 9 speed automatic. Both my wife and I were in need of new vehicles due to our growing family. Honda Accords no longer fit our need. Let me be clear, I have owned 10 hondas since the late 80's. All have been mechanical perfect and utterly dependable. We were happy to see the refresh of the Pilot as we felt the previous gen was a bit ugly. I know that is subjective. I purchased a 2016 Honda Pilot Elite (July 2015) for my wife and a 2016 EX for myself (Jan 2016). The Elite were plagued by sloppy shifting, jerky shifts, strange noises under load, multiple dealer visits. In the end we received a full transmission replacement under warranty. It was deemed that the transmission cooler had a fault and had contaminated the transmission fluid with antifreeze. When I questioned the possibility of the contamination causing an eventual engine fault the dealer was mum. I din't pay nearly 50k for a vehicle that may or may not have future problems. I have never been so disgusted with a Honda vehicle in 29 years of loyal Honda ownership. Our Elite was traded for a 2017 Toyota Highlander. The 9 speed is a marketing ploy to make you step up to the more expensive model and it is not a honda design. Google ZF 9 Speed transmission issues and you will find numerous stories of fault and unreliability. See motor trend for their 2016 Pilot long term test. I can validate that the daily mileage is unnoticeable between the trim levels. Despite the 20k difference in price the EX always drove like a better vehicle. I have a 150 mile daily commute, and as of this writing my EX has 51, 254 miles or absolute readability. It shifts are smooth, it is 100% reliable, and I couldn't be happier. That being said my Honda loyalty is shaken.
  • jettoolsjettools Member Posts: 1
    This stinks, I want a 2018 Pilot with all the tech and no ZF 9 tranny, Honda forces you into the Touring to get all the TECH... any one get around yet?
  • evrr954evrr954 Member Posts: 1
    MANY failures of the ZF9 (9-speed) transmission being reported on the Piloteer forum! Same symptoms leading up to full transmission replacement required... but only if the customer catches the right code popping up for Honda corporate to admit the issue and cover it! Some customers are reporting their Pilots with ZF9 have been stuck at the dealer for weeks with mechanics waiting for the right code!! Several customers state they are on their second - and one even on their third - full-transmission replacement.

    I have only just found any of this out because my 2016 Pilot Touring (ZF9 tranny) is now in the shop with the same issues and I did a Google search. Wow, many hits came back. The issue is even permanently pinned to the top of one of the forums!
    I'm into Day 2 and my dealer says same thing - transmission needs to be replaced, but it is all dragging out as they working through the codes to get approval from Honda corporate for the inevitable.
  • psl714psl714 NYCMember Posts: 1
    I bought a 2016 Pilot EX-L brand new when it first came out. First 20k was smooth pretty much nothing wrong with the car. Then the transmission started slipping, (jerky shifts, cant hold rpms when given throttle) so I took it to the dealer and they said I needed to flush the transmission and that these automatics need to be flushed every 25k or so. This was in 2017, and 95% of transmissions dont have to be flushed for at least 60-80k. But whatever I still got it done anyway and the car drove smooth again. Then at about 40 it started slipping again, so brought it in and they said I need to flush it again. At 55k, it started slipping again. I told them I wanted the transmission replaced because I knew the transmission would crap out after warranty. They told me no, but flushed my transmission like four times saying that its normal. I went crazy saying this is BS and they offered to do the service for free. Now Im at 70k and to my surprise its slipping again and these idiots are probably going to tell me the same thing that I have to get it flushed again. I WILL NEVER BUY A HONDA AGAIN, and they're service departments suck as well.
  • Paul_P65Paul_P65 Member Posts: 1
    I wish I'd read your post before I paid $30k for a 2016 Pilot with under 100k miles. In four months the tranny is shot, just as you describe above. Honda's quote for a new tranny is $10k. A used tranny with 100k miles is $7k (why on Earth would I even consider this option?). Bottom line is, a car is not worth $30k without a transmission. I may buy Honda again, but I will check this website thoroughly as well as carcomplaints.com.
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