When we last saw the Honda Passport it was a re-engineered Isuzu being manufactured in a Subaru plant in Indiana. Today, it's an all-Honda effort that shares engine and chassis with its big brother the Honda Pilot. As is was back in 1997, the Passport is a midsize crossover with 4 doors and room for 5 passengers. Unlike the previous generation, the new Passport sports a unit-body chassis with an available all-wheel drive system. (The 1997 Passport sported a body-on-frame chassis with two-speed, four-wheel-drive system.)
Passport rides a 111-inch wheelbase, which is identical to Pilot, however, It's 6.2-inches shorter and slightly taller overall. It also has an additional 0.8-inches of ground clearance. Competitors include the Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Edge, GMC Acadia, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Murano and Subaru Forester.
Four models are offered: Sport, EX-L, Touring and Elite. All come with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The engine mates to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Front- and all-wheel drive versions are offered Sport, EX-L and Touring, while the Elite is only offered with all-wheel drive. Maximum towing capacity is 5000 pounds.
The Sport starts at $31,990 and comes standard with 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, foglights and taillights, dual exhaust, remote engine start, tri-zone auto climate control, 8-way power driver's seat with power lumbar, 6-speaker audio system, multi-angle rearview camera and 2 USB ports. The EX-L lists for $36,410 and adds leather-trimmed seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power sunroof, power tailgate, blind-spot alert, driver's memory seat and mirrors, 4-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, Apple Car Play and Android Auto support, HomeLink, auto-dimming rearview mirror, second-row sunshade and heated mirrors.
Touring lists for $39,280 and adds to the EX-L navigation, hands-free tailgate, front and rear parking sensors, turn signal mirrors, roof rails, 10-speaker premium audio, heated rear seats, power-folding side mirrors and wider wheels and tires. Elite starts at $43,680 and adds to Touring ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, wireless phone charger, rain-sensing wipers and auto-dimming side mirrors.
All models come with Honda Sensing safety features that includes forward-collision warning and braking, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning with road departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control. Like all Honda models, there are no factory-available options. However, Honda does offer an extensive array of dealer-installed options.
Passport's 3.5-liter V6 is one the largest and most-powerful engines in the class. It provides smooth and effortless acceleration -- regardless of passenger or cargo load. Most peg 0 to 60 MPH acceleration in the 7-second range. The smooth revving engine also mates well to the 9-speed automatic. Shifts are precise and mostly unnoticed. Downshifts are prompt. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are available for manual operation of the transmission.
Though Honda claims the Passport is more off-road capable than many of its competitors, the all-wheel-drive system does not have a low-range transfer case and does not offer true locking differentials. That said, Passport does offer 8.1 inches of ground clearance and better approach and departure angles than most competitors. In addition, the all-wheel-drive system does have some torque vectoring and settings for Sand, Snow and Mud.
It should also be noted that Passport has a significant towing capacity of 5000 pounds. That's close to full-size SUV towing ratings. For example, Murano tows a measly 1500 pounds, Edge just 3500 pounds. The new Chevy Blazer has a towing capacity of 4500 pounds. In the class, only the Grand Cherokee, with its 6200-pound rating, exceeds the new Passport.
As you might expect, Passport sports middling EPA ratings. With all-wheel drive, the Passport logs 19 MPG city and 24 MPG highway. That compares to the Edge's rating of 19/26, Blazer's 18/25 and Murano's 20/28. Truth-be-told, in everyday suburban commuting it is easy to match the EPA's 25 MPG rating, provided you aren't a lead foot or don't trundle in stop-and-go rush-hour commuting. As with most vehicles in this glass, regular-grade gasoline is fine.
From behind the wheel, the Passport is one of the easiest midsize crossovers to drive. The suspension is soft enough to provide good road isolation and composed enough to maintain a reasonable amount of body control. That said, there's plenty of lean in quick maneuvers and some brake dive in hard stops.
Dynamically, the Passport isn't as agile as the Ford Edge or Nissan Murano. However, it certainly has enough athleticism to handle routine urban driving. The steering lacks overall feel, but is very precise and quick enough at parking speeds. In addition, Passport tracks very well on the highway. Stopping power is just average and the brake pedal has a somewhat numb and squishy feeling.
For a midsize crossover, Passport is a very quiet. There's barely a hint of engine or wind noise at highway speed and tire noise only becomes a problem on rough or grooved concrete.
Inside, if Passport feels a lot like it's bigger brother, the Pilot, with one less row of seats. Of course, that's because it is essentially the same cabin. Overall, that's a very good thing. Materials are class and price appropriate and the overall design is functional and aesthetically pleasing. The airy and open greenhouse provides a commanding view of the road and a sense of roominess that some competitors lack.
The high-set front seats offer excellent head and leg room. Well-shaped and nicely passed, they also provide good overall comfort. A nice touch are the adjustable inboard arm rests. Second-row seats are quite accommodating as well -- both in terms of room and comfort. They slide fore and aft. Large door openings and a reasonable step in make it easy to get in and out.
Upon first glance, a very traditional dashboard design greets the driver. Dig a bit deeper though and you'll note Honda has given Passport a full dose of the technology that today's owners expect. There's a large and programmable digital information screen between the analog fuel and temperature gauges. At the center, there's a large touch screen display. (Honda has included a volume knob for the radio, but still no dial for the tuner.) Climate controls are simple and straight forward as well. The only anomaly is the strange gear selector. It takes up the same amount of space as a traditional handle, but is an array of buttons that always forces a look away from the road.
From a tech standpoint, Android Auto and Apple Car Play are supported. In addition, there's a tri-zone climate control system and plenty of USB and power ports.
As far as utility goes, Honda made sure to include plenty into Passport's design. As mentioned, the second-row seats not only fold, but slide fore and aft. There's an underfloor cargo bin. There are ample storage compartments throughout and very large door map pockets. In all, Passport offers 78 cubic feet of cargo space, more than every other in the class save the Toyota 4Runner.
Bottom Line -- Hard to fault, the Passport instantly gives Honda a contender in the midsize crossover game. Though the engine is powerful, dynamically, Passport isn't the most exciting vehicle. It is quite accommodating, offers refined road manners and a quiet cabin. Prices might seem steep, but remember, Honda does not offer options, so compare apples to apples when shopping.