Great page. I just bought a 2016 Honda Pilot Touring 2WD and have been playing around with the ECON button along with the Idle-Stop features. For those not familiar with the Idle-Stop feature, when the car comes to a stop, the engine automatically shuts off to conserve fuel and improve fuel economy...and the engine starts up when the brake is released.
First of all, I agree with others that the acceleration is noticeably more gradual with the ECON mode on as the computer software adjusts the engine for gentle throttle. So the decreased performance in ECON mode is real...so the question is, is the increased fuel economy real as well. So, I've tested the ECON mode on and off but with the Engine Idle Shut Down feature on and off respectively to get a bigger difference in fuel economy. Unfortunately, I didn't see a huge difference.
With the ECON mode off and the Engine Idle Shut Down was deactivated, I got 23.2 mpg. In comparison, with the ECON mode on and the Engine Idle Shut Down on (to get maximum fuel economy), I got 24.0 mpg...only a 3.4% mpg improvement. So a 0.8 mpg saving and with a 19.5 gallon fuel capacity (0.67 gal saving) and use of premium unleaded gas price of $2.42/gallon in Tucson, AZ, that's a savings of only $1.62 each time I fill up. Honda claims 20/27 mpg city/hwy and 23 overall, so my driving appears to be in line with their claims. From what I've read, smaller and lighter "economy" cars can benefit more from these fuel saving features so I'm not too surprised by the limited savings on my 4,140 lb SUV.
My numbers are "real life" setting from driving to and from work (no hwy) in a smaller city with minimal traffic congestion. I'm certain that different driving habits can amplify the small savings that I personally experienced. For example, living in the desert, my air conditioner was always on. I've seen reports in Edmunds.com where a 10 mpg improvement can be gained by shutting off the A/C in smaller economy cars and thus the difference in ECON is likely higher...but I'm not willing to try that here. Granted, I didn't test just the ECON feature alone so the fuel saving could have been just from the Idle-Stop feature, but it is likely a combination of the two. Bottomline, the ECON is not likely a placebo but with it's limited fuel saving, it is probably best equipped on a smaller/lighter car where the benefit may be larger...but it should not be a feature considered as a major reason to buy the car.