Over the weekend, I decided to replace the Beast. I’ve had the 2012 Escape since early 2013, and it’s been one of the best cars I’ve driven, but it was starting to show signs that it was going to cost money. I typically start thinking of replacing a car around 100K miles, and the Beast was at 97,000. Two services ago a minor fluid drip turned into ten days in the shop and a complete rebuild of the transmission (fortunately covered by extended warranty), the most recent visit included the inevitable brake work on the front, and they warned me that it looked like the shocks were next.

And now that I’m working again, it seemed a good time to think about the replacement. I’d been trying to sort out exactly what I wanted and needed. While I liked the Escape, it was at times a bit small to haul what I wanted to haul; that was one reason I added the roof box to get some of that out of the trunk area. So my first goal was to get something a bit larger and with more and better storage.

I feel like I was really well taken care of by the Ford dealership where I bought the Escape, so my preference was to stick with Ford. The problem is that their Escape is too small, and the SUV one size up, the Explorer just didn’t look good to me. Also, with my thought about possibly buying a boat, I wanted to make sure whatever I bought had the power to tow it, so I ended up taking a really close look at the F150. That would have meant putting a shell on it, but that didn’t bother me.

But… The more I researched that truck and looking at them on the road as I was running around, the more I started thinking that was too much vehicle for what I wanted. In person, it’s pretty huge and I wasn’t sure I wanted that much car. That set me off considering other options.

I quickly landed on the Honda Ridgeline, and ultimately decided it had the same problem as the Escape, just a bit small. And since my plan was to put a camper shell on it to cover up the bed, that made me start wondering why I didn’t go with another, larger SUV. And that made me start looking at the Honda Pilot.

The Pilot is a three row SUV — seats 7 in theory, if they’re small or kids, and six more rationally. The 2nd and third rows both fold down flat which gives a lot of storage room inside if I want (I haven’t measured but I expect it’ll hold a sheet of plywood). I’ve driven in them and they’re comfortable, have good visibility and I like the look.

So, about three weeks ago I decided that was my likely model, once I found the car I wanted. Things went into wait mode while I kept an eye on local inventory at the dealers.

And so last Friday I realized the dealer had just gotten a car in stock that had what I wanted on it, didn’t have anything costly I didn’t want (like the Navigation package), and I had no excuse to not go check it out. So I set up a test drive, and on Sunday headed over to the dealer kicked the tires, drove it around the neighborhood and went and convinced them to give it to me for pretty close to the number I wanted to pay, drove it home and now it’s mine.

It’s a base Pilot EX, but it has all wheel drive, the cameras and sensors, and Apple CarPlay built in, which pretty much was my preferred feature list. I much prefer AWD to front wheel drive for poor weather and gravel road driving so I was glad I found a car with it. The Apple CarPlay because, well, why not? And the cameras and sensors because, well, technology is fun and useful — and in fact, I’m already loving the back up cameras.

Mileage seems to be about what the Escape was giving me. The fuel tank has about 410 miles of capacity. I’m finding it has lots of storage — in the Escape I kept two soft-sided toolbags with car “stuff” in it (emergency stuff, fire extinguisher, emergency water, etc…) and there’s an area in the back where all of that and more fit nicely, meaning there’s nothing but my tripods in the trunk area now.

The items I’d stored in the roof rack are still in the garage, because I need to sort through and update that, but most of that will end up living with the emergency water in the back yard now that I have a storage box set up for the earthquake emergency supplies.

Initial thoughts? I’ve only gone out in it a couple of times, no real distance drive yet. But I’ve been figuring out how to configure and use the console and CarPlay, I find it comfortable. Sound system is good. It has good power and acceleration (for an SUV), and it’s comfortable. It’s a lot quieter than the Escape and the sound system seems crisp and good quality.

So yeah, I think it’s a good choice, and more importantly, the right one for me now. And at a good price, I think. One I’m happy with.

An interesting side note: by the time I was done figuring out configurations, I found that the Explorer and F150 list prices came out at more than $2000 more than the list price of this car, and that didn’t include the cost of a camper shell to add to the truck (probably another $2K). So from a cost standpoint, it was the least expensive option from the start.

I did end up adding in the extended warranty and the dealer service package, so I don’t have to worry about much with the car for the next four years (for service) and 100K for warranty. That ended up coming in really handy with the Escape, so it seemed to make sense to do again.

And now all I need to do is find a weekend to get it out to the refuges and see how it works on gravel, and figure out how I’m going to shoot images from it…