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Hey everyone, I am in the market to buy an SUV and I was pretty sure I wanted to get a Pilot until my research brought me to transmission issues on both the 6 speed and 9 speed (including the redesigned 9 speed in 2019+).

6 speed tranny better than 9 speed for long term reliability?
Or is 9 speed better than 6 speed?
Or is it best to hold off for a couple years and wait.
Is there a particular year that is best?

I typically like to keep my cars for the long haul (~10+ years) and if I am spending $40k on this pilot, I really don't want to regret it a month later.

Thanks a million.
 

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By my observations they are both pretty good.

The 6-speed (what I have) is basically the same unit that has been in the Pilot, Ridgeline, and Odyssey for years. The weak spot is heat control...there is no factory cooler (unless you get the tow package and ATF cooler installed), so if you live in a hot climate or spend a lot of time in traffic the fluid gets burned up which causes poor shifting and transmission/torque convertor problems. (The cylinder deactivation system exacerbates these problems, which many people disable as a precaution.) Often these are solved (if caught early) by a transmission fluid change or software update. Many install an ATF cooler as a precaution as well as more frequent transmission fluid changes. Annoying, but very manageable.

The 9-speed is new to the Honda lineup (first Pilot, now Odyssey too), and got a lot of complaints at first but after a series of TSBs and software updates it appears to be holding up well. It uses a new type of transmission fluid that requires less frequent changes (every 60k vs 30k for the 6-speed), and doesn't seem to have the same heat-related problems as the 6-speed. The biggest complaint with the 9-speed is the associated stop-start system that cuts the engine when you come to a stop. There are some unknown issues (vehicles randomly not starting back up) appearing as those vehicles age with no solution seen yet. Fortunately you can disable that system with the push of a button every time you drive if you wish.

IMO you are safe with either one, just have to treat them right!

See here for some more reading if you want to hear what other vehicles Pilot owners considered and why:
 

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The 9 speed in my 2020 Touring is a pretty great transmission! You might find it weird at first, but after it learns how you drive, it's literally like butter. First thing I noticed in the Pilot was just how smooth the powertrain was. I personally wouldn't get a lower trim just for the transmission. Now if it was before the 2019 refresh I would've said get the 6 speed, but after 2019, there's hardly any issues. If price isn't a huge issue for you, then the upper trims are totally worth it. The 9 speed is the smoothest transmission that I've been in, but it also sometimes had rough shifts. Now that I'm at 2000 miles, the transmission knows how we drive so now it's smoother. Only issue I have is the auto stop/start is pretty annoying. There is a way to permanently disable it, but I don't want to take the risk of my dealer voiding my warranty.
 

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We bought our 2020 EX-L specifically to get into the 6-speed before everything migrates to the 9.
First, our drive cycle is predominantly highway, and I don't know the 9 offers much of an advantage there (it's certainly designed to in city cycle).

Second, we tend to keep our vehicles for at least 6-7 years, and in that case, the idea of changing fluid more frequently or adding a transmission cooler doesn't bother me. What does, however, is the "sealed for life" fluid (that's also allegedly quite expensive) and the nearly inacessible internal filter on the 9 speed.

To each their own. I'm not suggesting one is better than the other, just that for us, it didn't make sense, and it also turned me off from a servicibility standpoint.
 

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Just replaced my 2017 6 speed with a 2021. As it is only a few days ago I cant speak to reliability but I do prefer the 9 speed so far
 

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Our 2018 Touring with the 9 speed is currently at the dealership having the transmission replaced after 73000km. I don't know what failed in it, it seemed like it was working just fine until the car went into limp mode. I assume they'll be replacing it with the updated version.
 

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Our 2018 Touring with the 9 speed is currently at the dealership having the transmission replaced after 73000km.

I assume they'll be replacing it with the updated version.
It should be replaced with the same version. The updated version with second-gear start, quicker restarts and smoother acceleration after engine stop, reduced engine restarts, engine remaining off when shifting to Park, and modified clutch packs, hydraulic system, and software for smoother, more refined shifts is for 2019 and newer Pilots only.
 

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2016 EXL AWD Nav with sensing , 2008 Corolla SE
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I just read an old Car and Driver review of the 2016 EX and Touring models and the Touring with the 9 speed was a little quicker to 60mph but slower to 100mph compared to the 6 speed mostly due to the Touring being heavier and having the same engine horsepower as the EX. I didn't like the 9 speed in the 2016 either as it was always seemed to be shifting and wasn't as smooth as the 6speed.

Car and Driver Review
 

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After reading a ton on here I would go with the 6 speed. It's a solid transmission. Mine only has 20k miles but has been great. Drove from TX to VA this summer when I transferred to VA and it did amazing.
 

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Mine is approaching 70,000 km and no issues noticed after five years of ownership, not sure if that’s still too early to say about its reliability. Definitely a little worrying when reading some failures in the 9-spped.
 

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I just traded in my 2016 Chevy Silverado because the tranny was starting to act up. The replacement was going to be north of 5 grand if/when they could find parts. Barely made 60k miles
 
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