The 2021 Honda Pilot was able to achieve an astounding 5,000 lbs. of towing capacity, when properly equipped, but if certain circumstances were met, then that capacity dwindle down to zero!
There are a few things you have to know in order to achieve those higher ratings and you have to be sure that you have the proper accessories and drivetrain configuration in order to achieve those numbers. I go through all of that in this article.
Read through your owner's manual to get familiar with your vehicle and make sure you adhere to all of Honda's requirements when it comes to towing or anything else regarding your SUV.
2021 Pilot Overview
Overall Towing Capacity: The overall towing capacity for the 2021 Honda Pilots ranged from 0-5,000 lbs. if you had an ATF cooler installed but if you did not have one installed then your range was reduced to 0-3,500 lbs. Only the all-wheel-drive models had the ability to have the optional cooler accessory.
Engine Options: The only engine that was available for the 2021 models and every other model Honda Pilot out there was the 3.5 L engine. With only one engine choice, the charts were much simpler to read without all of the different variations that sometimes come with different engine configurations.
Trim Levels: There were a total of 7 different trim options available for these model year SUVs, but the trim level you had equipped and not affect any maximum trailer weight ratings. Keep in mind that some trim levels only offered one of the drivetrain configurations (AWD or 2WD) which would indirectly impact the capacity numbers, but they did not directly affect them.
Assumed Weight: Since Honda specified the maximum trailer weight ratings based on the number of occupants in the vehicle, then there would have to be an assumed weight for each occupant in the vehicle, which was stated at 150 lbs. per occupant, plus an additional 17.6 lbs. for luggage per occupant, giving you a grand total of 167.6 lbs. per occupant.
The 2021 Honda Pilot chart is identical to the 2022 models and is broken up by the number of occupants in the vehicle, with the maximum trailer weight ratings attached according to how many people are in the vehicle, the more occupants you have the less capacity you have.
There are three additional columns to the right of that that list all-wheel drive models that have an ATF cooler installed, all-wheel drive models that do not have the cooler installed and two-wheel drive models which did not have the option of having the cooler installed.
The all-wheel-drive models without the ATF cooler and two-wheel drive models had the same exact specs and a maximum trailer weight rating of 3,500 lbs. because any more than that, Honda requires that you have the ATF cooler.
Tongue Weight Rating:
The maximum tongue weight ratings were also provided in a chart type of form, that I attached a screenshot of below and they coincide with the trailer's maximum weight.
Remember, these are just the maximum tongue weight and the recommended tongue weights are listed above that in the text and are as follows: for boat trailers, Honda recommends a 5-15% tongue weight on the hitch of your vehicle and for all other types of trailers that amount is increased to 10-15%.
The percentages represent the trailer's total weight and will be a more helpful metric when pulling lighter loads than the maximum rating specified in the charts.
If you are planning on pulling additional weight behind your SUV, then you will need to have trailer brakes installed on your trailer that are independent of your vehicle's braking system, by law.
Honda requires that your trailer have its own braking system equipped if the weight of the trailer is 1,000 lbs. or more, which may or may not satisfy your local law enforcement's vehicle code requirements, so you will have to check those and make any necessary adjustments.
There were seven different trim levels available for the 2021 Pilots, all of which you can find listed in the spec sheet I have linked to at the bottom of this article and they were listed as the: LX, EX, EX-L, Special Edition, Touring, Elite and Black Editions.
It didn't matter what trim level you had equipped on your vehicle, as the maximum trailer weight ratings that were specified in the chart did not apply to a specific trim level, as all trim levels were able to achieve the specified ratings.
The only difference I noticed in the trim levels were whether you would have the option of having a 2-wheel drive versus an all-wheel-drive model, in which it would affect the ratings, in that aspect. Some trim levels only came with either a 2-wheel drive option or an all-wheel drive option and did not give you the choice between the two like other trim levels did.
GVWR, GCWR and GAWR Figures:
The gross vehicle weight ratings, along with the gross combined weight rating and gross axle weight ratings were listed in the owner's manuals well, which is nice because a lot of the times you have to search this information out elsewhere and it can be quite difficult to find, in some cases.
GVWR: The gross vehicle weight rating was listed at 5,545 lbs. for two-wheel drive models and a slightly higher figure of 5,842 lbs. for all-wheel-drive models. I do want to note, that the gross vehicle weight rating was listed as just gross vehicle in the chart that I have posted above.
GCWR: The gross combined weight rating metrics show a listing of 8,025 lbs. for two-wheel drive models and 9,755 lbs. for all-wheel-drive models, a pretty substantial difference. The gross combined weight rating is how much the vehicle can handle plus the maximum trailer weight and is usually the rating given for your maximum amount of weight combined.
GAWRs: The gross axle weight ratings were listed separately, like they usually are and for the front axle, you could expect a 2,734 lb. rating for two-wheel drive models and a slightly higher, 2,855 lb. rating for all-wheel-drive models. For the rear axles, the two-wheel drive models had a maximum rating of 2,965 lbs., while the all-wheel drive models had a 3,142 lb rating.
ATF Cooler Notes (AWD Models):
I wanted to mention that the ATF cooler was only available for all-wheel-drive models and it was not available for the two-wheel drive models. In the owner's manual, it states that the ATF cooler is required if you're planning on pulling more than 3,500 lbs. with your vehicle and this is why the maximum trailer weight ratings in the charts were limited to that number, if you did not have one of these coolers equipped.
What's Included With The Trailer Package?
I was also able to find a little note that talks about what's included in the trailer package that comes from the factory and if you look at the screenshot I have posted below, you can see that it included the receiver and hitch, along with all the other necessary gear plus wiring harness kit for your trailer lights and trailer brakes and an ATF cooler.
Other Notes I Found:
I kept on searching through the owner's manual and was able to find a couple more small nuggets of information that I think people should be aware of and why I recommend reading through your owner's manual yourself, to get familiar with all of Honda's requirements and recommendations.
The first bit of information talks a little bit about conditions that may exist that could put excessive strain on the vehicle like uphill grades, higher outside temperatures and higher altitude areas. These types of situations are even worse when you were pulling additional weight behind your vehicle, so you will want to take extra precautions when encountering these scenarios.
The other piece of information I found talked a little bit about weight distribution hitches and for the 2021 models, they don't really need them, but you can use one if you really wanted to, just make sure that it is installed properly or you could have problems with certain elements of your vehicle like steering, braking, Etc.
Believe it or not, I gathered all of the information for this article from only two resources and out of those two resources, one of those provided more than 90% of the information that I needed, including the images I have posted in the article.
The main resource I used was the owner's manual which included all of the required information and all of the images you see, but I also used the 2021 spec sheet that gave you a pretty good idea of some of the specs at a glance and I liked comparing the information via the chart that was provided there.