The 2012 Honda Pilots are probably known for their economic gas mileage and their legendary reliability, but I was surprised to find out that they aren't really known for their towing capacity. I did a lot of research online and compiled all of the information in this article, the best I could and I was quite surprised to find out how much they could actually pull.
In this article, you will find charts and other helpful information that I gathered and took screenshots of that will give you an idea of how capable these little SUVs actually are. Let me know if the article helped anybody out there!
Always read through your owner's manual to get familiar with your vehicle and to make sure you adhere to Honda's recommendations when it comes to towing or anything else regarding your vehicle.
2012 Pilot Overview
Overall Towing Capacity: The overall towing capacity for the 2012 Honda Pilot range from 0-4,500 lbs., depending on how many passengers you have in the vehicle, whether you have a two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive model and if you had the optional ATF cooler installed on your vehicle.
The highest capacity ratings were reserved for the four-wheel drive models and the lowest ratings (0 pounds) were listed if you had multiple passengers in the vehicle with you.
Engine Options: There was only one engine option listed for these model year SUVs and this was a 3.5 L engine, that came in a V6 configuration. This is why the charts only show different ratings depending on the number of passengers in the vehicle and whether you had a two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive model.
Trim Levels: You had the choice of four different trim levels for these SUVs, but the trim level did not dictate the maximum trailer weight specifications in the charts. In other words, you did not need to know the trim level you had on your vehicle in order to know your maximum trailer weight rating.
Assumed Weight: Since Honda specified trailer weight ratings, depending on the number of passengers in the vehicle, there was no need to have an assumed driver weight for the ratings. It is important to note that in the charts for the number of occupants in the vehicle, each person is assumed to weigh around 150 lbs. and have 15 lbs. of luggage, for a total of 165 lbs. per passenger.
There were a total of three different charts for the 2012 Honda Pilots and if you look at the screenshots I posted below, you can see that they were divided up into two-wheel drive models that did not have an ATF cooler installed, two-wheel drive models that did have a cooler installed and then four-wheel drive models.
The four-wheel drive models have the highest capacity numbers, followed by the two-wheel drive models that had the cooler installed, which had roughly about one thousand pounds less capacity than the four-wheel drive models and the two-wheel drive models without the cooler installed had the lowest capacity ratings.
Tongue Weight Rating:
The maximum tongue load weight rating for your vehicle is pretty standard when it comes to all model year Pilots and was specified as 5 to 10% of the total trailer weight, if you were towing a boat trailer and a slightly higher 8 to 15% if you're pulling any other type of trailer behind you. The screenshot below is an image I took directly from the owner's manual that talks about the tongue load ratings.
Trailer brakes are always a requirement when planning on towing a trailer with your vehicle and Honda recommends that your trailer has its own brakes installed if it weighs 1,000 lbs. or more. This is pretty much the standard for all Honda Pilots, from what I've seen so far, anyway.
You will want to check with your local laws to see if Honda's recommendations lineup with your local law enforcement's recommendations and you will want to abide by the lowest number that is specified, either by Honda or your local law enforcement agency.
There were four different trim levels available for the 2012 Pilots and these were listed in the brochure as the: LX, EX, EX-L and Touring editions. The trim level you had did not affect your overall capacity rating, instead the number of occupants in the vehicle and whether you had a two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive model and the optional ATF cooler were the three main factors when it came to how much your SUV could pull.
GCWR, GVWR and GAWR Figures:
All of the gross combined weight rating specs, along with a gross vehicle weight rating specs and gross axle weight ratings we're specified in the owner's manual, which I took screenshots of and posted below. This is a huge benefit to those of you out there that want to make more complex calculations for your loads.
GCWR: The Gross combined weight rating was listed in the owner's manual for two wheel drive vehicles at a maximum weight limit of 8,466 lbs., while the four-wheel drive models were listed at a higher 9,579 lbs. maximum. I do want to point out the note at the bottom of the image that states that you must reduce the overall gross combined weight rating by 2% for every 1000 feet of elevation change, starting at 1,000 ft.
For example, if you were going somewhere that was at the 5000 elevation mark, you would have to reduce the gross combined weight rating by 10%, which is quite significant and would affect your overall trailer weight rating and gross vehicle weight rating as well.
GVWR: The gross vehicle weight rating for the 2012 Pilots ranged from 5,952-6,096 lbs., depending on whether you had a two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive model. The image below is also taken out of the manual, and it states the two different maximum gross vehicle weight ratings for both the two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive models.
GAWRs: The gross axle weight ratings were also listed and as you can see from the image below for the two-wheel drive models these figures range from 2,921-3,196 lbs. for the two-wheel drive models and ranged from 2,921-3,362 lbs. for the four-wheel drive models. If you did happen to have a four-wheel drive model, with the LX trim, then you did have that 3,251 pound rating instead of the 3,362 pound rating that was for all other trim levels.
Extra Cooling For Towing...
I was able to find some of the equipment that was offered for these SUVs that helped them achieve those higher-capacity ratings, and posted a screenshot of what I found below. You can see that a heavy-duty radiator was an option that had dual fans, a power steering fluid cooler and an ATF cooler that seemed to be a standard option on four-wheel drive models and an option on the two-wheel drive models.
Do I Have An ATF Cooler Installed?
Since the two-wheel drive models had the option of having the automatic transmission fluid coolers installed, in order to achieve higher capacity ratings that were listed in the charts, you will have to verify that it is actually installed on your vehicle. This is harder said than done though because you will have to verify that you have transmission lines running to your radiator or to an auxiliary cooler somewhere around the radiator.
For those of you out there that aren't so mechanically inclined, you might want to take it into a dealership to verify that it has an ATF cooler installed to verify what your maximum trailer weight rating actually is. Remember, this is for two-wheel drive models.
Other Notes I Found:
There we're a couple of other notes in the owner's manual that I found the talks a little bit about pulling a trailer off-road and, as you can see from the top image below, the maximum trailer weight rating is only 1,000 lbs., with a tongue weight of 100 lbs. max. This is very different than what we saw in the charts. It is also not recommended by Honda that you use a weight distributing hitch with these SUVs.
The research I gathered for this article came from two main sources and these were the owner's manual and the 2012 brochure, which I posted links to both resources below. The owner's manual came directly from Honda's website and unfortunately I could not find the brochure on that same website, so I had to use a third party source instead. The information in the brochure is still accurate though and seems to be the literature that came from Honda back in 2012.