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2019 Honda Passport: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Russ Heaps February 2019

If all that's holding you back from buying a Honda Pilot is its size, the 2019 Honda Passport is for you. In addressing that issue, Honda, for all intents and purposes, engineered a somewhat shorter Pilot. An all-new crossover, the Passport targets consumers who don't need nor want a third-row seat. In eliminating the third row, Honda also shaved 6.2 inches of length from behind the Pilot's C-pillar, making the Passport somewhat more maneuverable than the slightly longer Pilot. That's it. That's pretty much the story. Just kidding, there's a bit more to tell. However, the Passport and the Pilot are much more alike than they are different. Way more, actually.

Honda would like us to think of the Pilot as targeting families with the Passport appealing to adventurers.

The Passport name may sound a bit familiar. If so, it's because this is the second time Honda has trotted out a crossover with that nameplate. The first was a thinly disguised Isuzu Rodeo Honda marketed as the Passport for the model years stretching from 1994 to 2002. In fact, it was Honda's first SUV. Designed in California, engineered in Ohio and built in Alabama, the 2019, however, is all Honda! It should be in Honda showrooms by the time you read this.

Pedigree

Honda needed something to fill the void between the CR-V and the Pilot. A clean-sheet-of-paper approach would have realized a more unique result, but rarely does a carmaker take that path anymore. In conceptualizing the Passport, planners didn't need to look farther than the Global Light Truck Platform already shared by the Ridgeline and the Pilot. In fact, most of Passport's underpinnings come directly from the Pilot. Platform: same. Wheelbase: same. Basic suspension: same. Engine: same. Transmission: same. All-wheel drive: same.

Likewise, the wrappers are quite similar. Doors, the hood and front fenders appear to be the same, as do the LED headlights and taillights. Inside the similarities continue. Nearly an exact copy of the Pilot's, the instrument panel, center stack and center console are indistinguishable from the larger CUV's.

With so much being the same, small wonder that Passport weighs in at only 100 pounds or so less than the Pilot. Mileage numbers are about the same, as well.

It should come as no shock, with all the similarities, that the Passport is assembled on the same line as the Pilot and the Ridgeline in Lincoln, Alabama.

What's the Diff?

There are a few differences beyond the overall length. Arguably the rears offer the most notable distinction. The liftgates and lower fascias (Passport sports twin round exhaust ports) are unique to each crossover. The rear glass is different. Where the back-up lights on the Pilot are located on the liftgate, they are in the lower fascia on the Passport. Black wheels, a matte-black grille and a chip-resistant chin and black bumper give the Passport a sportier, more capable look. To further reinforce the idea of the Passport as a sportier adventure crossover, 20-in wheels come standard on all grades.

The Passport provides an inch more ride height, and AWD versions offer nearly an extra inch (total 8.1 in) of ground clearance over the Pilot. Its roof rails are raised a little, as well, to allow straps or rope to slip underneath. Although the Passport's wheelbase of 111 in equals that of the Pilot's, its track is 0.5 in wider.

Tried and True

Providing the oomph is Honda's pervasive 3.5-liter V6, generating 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of peak torque. Funneling engine production to either the front or all the wheels is a 9-speed automatic transmission. For more than just foul weather, Passport's AWD is the same i-VTM4 (Variable Torque Management) torque-vectoring system found in the Pilot and the Ridgeline. A 4-mode traction-management system allows drivers to pick different AWD settings: sand, snow, mud and normal. AWD Passports with the optional towing package can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Fuel economy doesn't dazzle. FWD versions get a government-estimated 20 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in combined driving. Opting for AWD shaves 1 mpg across the board.

Inside

From the driver's perch, everything looks about the same as in the Pilot. As already mentioned, Honda lifted most of the components directly from the Pilot. Comfy seating up front is complemented by rear seats that slide forward and back, as well as recline. There is plenty of room for passengers and cargo. Before folding the rear seats down, Passport provides 41 cu ft. of stowing capacity, which swells to 78 cu ft. with the second-row seats dropped.

Abundant and creative storage was a key goal of Passport planners. There are plenty of cup holders (11) and cubbies spread around the cabin. Some creative thought about storage even went into the cargo area. Lifting up the floor covering the spare tire reveals what Honda calls the basement. It's 2.5 cu ft. of hidden storage with easily removable, washable bins neatly fitted around the spare.

The Roster

Ranging in price (including factory destination fee) from $33,035 to $44,725, Sport, EX-L, Touring and Elite are the Passport's four grades. Adhering to the Honda playbook of trim levels and standard content, the Passport offers no factory options on any of its four grades, save AWD on the three lower trims. It is standard on the Elite trim and a $1,900 add-on for the lesser grades.

Every Passport provides Honda Sensing. This is a suite of safety/driver-assist features like forward-collision warning, automatic forward emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, road departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control. All but the base Sport also come standard with blind spot alert with rear cross-traffic alert.

Honda predicts the $37,455 EX-L will be the best selling of the grades, but even the entry-level Sport comes with most of the expected creature comforts. Included are LED headlights and taillights, LED fog lights, a capless fuel filler, full-power accessories, keyless entry, push-button start, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, a 5-in LCD screen and a 7-speaker audio system with a USB port.

Upper grades provide an 8-in touchscreen and other infotainment goodies like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and satellite radio capability.

On the Move

Honda presented the 2019 Honda Passport to the media near Moab, Utah. Much of our time behind the wheel was off-road, but there was also a fair amount of highway driving in the mix. On pavement, the Passport has plenty of get-up-and-go. Steering is responsive and the ride smooth -- for the most part. The large tires increase the effects of uneven asphalt and little bumps like railroad tracks. The cabin is pretty quiet, as well.

The Passport is no rock crawler. There are no skid plates protecting the undercarriage. There is no 4-Lo gearing. A properly equipped Jeep Cherokee or Toyota 4Runner can go places the Passport only dreams of. But, having said that, we were impressed with the Passport's off-road chops. We were on trails near Moab, for crying out loud. No, they weren't the toughest trails the area offers, but they were satisfyingly gnarly in places. It was an interesting combination of mud, sand and rock. The Passport took it all in stride.

Wrapping It Up

Honda could have easily called the Passport, the Pilot Sport, the Pilot Adventurer or the Pilot Mini-Me, for that matter. The two crossovers are that similar. However, by whatever name it's called, the Passport nicely fills the space between the CR-V and the Pilot. And, after all, isn't that what it's all about?

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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New 2019 Honda Passport AWD EX-L
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New 2019 Honda Passport
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New 2019 Honda Passport
New 2019 Honda Passport
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New 2019 Honda Passport
New 2019 Honda Passport
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2019 Honda Passport: First Drive Review - Autotrader