Pros-All new. Racy look. Roomy. Fast. Smooth ride. Safety features. All-wheel drive.
Cons-High step up. Tricky push-button gear selector. So-so fuel economy.
Bottom Line-Among the best mid-sized SUVs.
The all-new 2019 Honda Passport has nothing in common with the old lackluster Honda Passport of the 1990s, which was just a rebadged Isuzu.
The new Passport is among the best mid-size SUVs. It's offered in various trim levels with front- or all-wheel drive and costs from $31,990 for the best Sport model to $43,680 for the top-line Elite 4WD model, which I tested.
My test Elite was a tough-looking customer. It had a black grille, bumper and wheels and a gloss black exterior trim and a gloss black tailgate spoiler. Wheels were 20-inch alloys that carried low-profile 45-series tires that gave the Elite a wider stance. At the rear were twin chromed exhaust outlets about the size of classic film star Audrey Hepburn's throat. All very impressive, I must say.
Entering the Passport Elite calls for a rather high step up, but occupants are rewarded with a high driving experience. There's plenty of room for four adults, but the center of the rear seat is too stiff to allow comfortable seating for five. The front power heated and ventilated front seats are supportive but the heated rear ones could use more thigh support. Also, rear door openings are rather narrow.
The quiet, leather-trimmed interior has upscale materials and plenty of storage areas, a start/stop button, deep console bin with a rolling cover that can be used as a tray when closed and lots of storage pockets. There also are easily read backlit gauges and features such as a pushbutton start, tilt/telescopic wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, premium audio system with 10 speakers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, wireless phone charger, multi-view rear camera and conveniently placed front cupholders. Even each rear door has dual cupholders, and there's a latch system for child seats.
However, the console-mounted push-button gear selector was tricky to use if I was in a hurry, and I wasn't crazy about using the infotainment system.
Exterior features include a power moonroof with a tilt feature and cover and heated power-folding door mirrors with turn indicators,
The hands-free access power tailgate has a wide but rather high opening. It opens automatically to show a large, fully carpeted cargo area, which can be greatly increased by flipping the split 60/40 rear setbacks forward.
The Passport is fast (0-60 in 5.6 seconds) with its smooth 3.5-liter V-6, which Honda has tuned for more responsiveness. It delivers 280 horsepower and has a variable cylinder management feature that lets it run on just three cylinders when the vehicle is loafing. You'll probably never know it, though. Towing capacity is 5,000 pounds.
However, since it weighs more than 4,000 pounds with its sophisticated torque vectoring AWD system, the Passport Elite's estimated fuel economy is just so-so: an estimated 19 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on highways. However, the engine also has a fuel-saving "idle stop" feature that shuts it off if you're just, say, sitting in traffic for awhile. It's a quick-acting feature that's not annoying.
The engine works with a 9-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly in regular Drive mode and has a quick-acting manual feature via steering wheel paddle shifters. Putting the transmission in Sport mode causes aggressive shift mapping that results in higher engine rpm for greater acceleration and responsiveness.
My test Passport rode with impressive smoothness and braked with authority during normal stops. It handled nicely, with quick, but rather light, power steering, although it had a little too much body sway when taking winding on-off freeway curves-despite vehicle stability assist, "intelligent" traction management and the big wheels and tires. It's also no off-road champ.
Impressive safety features include adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot information system with cross-traffic monitor, a collision mitigation braking system, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist system and road departure mitigation. There also are plenty of air bags, including side curtain ones.
Despite lots of competition in a growing market segment, the new Honda Passport should be able to more than hold its own.