By Chris Tonn on September 6, 2019
|2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite|
|3.5-liter V6, SOHC (280 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm)Nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive19 city / 24 highway / 21 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)12.5 city / 9.8 highway / 11.3 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)23.2 (observed mileage, MPG)Base Price: $44,725 US / $50,916 CADAs Tested: $44,725 US/ $50,916 CADPrices include $1,045 destination charge in the United States and $1,926 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.|
For those who don’t know, my day job isn’t in the automotive industry. Rather, I’m in sales – I represent various product lines in an industrial setting, and I talk to countless small business owners and technicians who look to me to help get their job done.
I’d like to think that the better part of two decades in sales has inoculated me to obvious marketingspeak – I can see through the jargon and bullshit most of the time, as I’m usually the one distilling the bullshit for my clients. It carries over outside the office, of course, so I was skeptical when presented with Honda’s tagline for this two-row crossover: “Passport To Adventure.” Surely the 2019 Honda Passport isn’t an overlanding rig meant to tackle the worst terrain the world can offer. That said, some of Ohio’s roads must be some of the worst terrain to be called “paved” in the western world.
Every commute is an adventure.
The farthest off the tarmac I was able to take the Passport was a rough trail through some southern Ohio woods to drop the kid at summer camp. Not a lot of public lands in this area where I can try and get myself good and stuck, I’m afraid. Really, however, I’d imagine that my jaunt up the hill was more representative of most driving this big crossover will see, and it handled it well. The cavernous cargo hold easily swallowed all of the gear my always-overpacking kiddo decided to take for a week in a yurt.
The drive to and from camp was pleasant, as one would expect from a long-wheelbase crossover from Honda. I was a bit surprised to see that the Passport has an identical 111-inch wheelbase to the larger Pilot – the length difference (6.2 inches) comes from the overhangs, especially in the rear. This, and a slightly taller ride height, combine to give better approach and departure angles, making the two-row Passport a bit more capable off-road.
The rolling stock is decidedly road-focused, with 245/50-20 Continental CrossContact tires fitted to 20-inch alloys. I’d have preferred a taller sidewall both off-road (a bit of wheel protection from rocks) and on-road (ditto, just substitute potholes).
On the tarmac, however, the Passport shines much like the big sibling Pilot. Other than maybe the faintest wind noise over the A-pillar, the ride is quiet and calm. A bit of harshness comes from those shallow sidewalls over expansion joints, but it’s not unpleasant. Steering is typical Honda – light and direct, with just enough feedback to remind what the wheels are up to.
The 280 hp V6 is plenty for most driving situations – off-road, I could imagine a bit more low-end torque as one might find from a turbo four would be welcome, but in the situations the Passport will typically endure, the more relaxed V6 is perfection. I’d love to see Honda’s brilliant 10-speed automatic trickle down from the Odyssey to the Passport – the nine-speed fitted here is good enough, but the shifts can be sluggish on occasion.
The interior is exactly what one would expect from Honda – plain, but well thought out. I still don’t love the pushbutton transmission selector that would be more at home in an early Sixties Mopar – it’s not intuitive to shift from reverse to drive, so I have to look down and think about the transmission every time I back out of the driveway. Plus, it doesn’t save any horizontal space on the center console over a traditional selector lever. Imagine the cupholder proliferation should that big button panel migrate somewhere else!
But, seriously – it works fine, and I’m sure that with time it will become second nature to an owner. The deep covered cubby between the seats is a nice touch, holding my wife’s purse or my camera away from prying eyes. And those seats are quite comfortable for a long day back and forth to the campsite. Even the second-row bench was roomy enough for two tall kids and an adult to sit three abreast without complaint.
Were I looking at Honda for a bigger crossover, I’d weigh my options closely. The third row in the Pilot is a nice thing to have for those times when called upon to haul an extra kid or two home from the ball field. Conversely, it’s nice to have the opportunity to nope out of hauling someone else’s brat of a child by reminding them that you don’t have a third row in your Passport. For me, the nominal off-road upgrades to the Passport aren’t enough to sway me – but an easy out of an awkward conversation with an awful parent is always a win.
Really, if you’re buying a Honda for hardcore off-road purposes, you need to be down the street at the powersports store looking at a side-by-side ATV. But for the occasional journey to a campground deep in the woods, or to that secret fishing hole, the Passport will acquit itself nicely in the rough.
And for the 358 other days a year where the worst terrain you’ll see is near shopping carts, this midsized Honda will get you there in comfort. Passport to adventure? The adventure that is your life, perhaps. Make your life an adventure, and the Passport can take you there.[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]