By: Candy Chung
The Honda Passport is a brand new model offered by Honda. It is a large SUV built on the Pilot platform that has more off-road capabilities. It slots between the CR-V and Pilot in the Honda SUV line up. Unlike the Pilot, it has no third row seat. I had the opportunity to spend a week with this all-new SUV and here’s what I think of it.
The Passport doesn’t look like any other SUVs in the Honda line up. It has a more rugged look and the black grille in the front is standard across all trim levels. Also standard are the 20” wheels and LED headlights. Black wheels are standard for the base Sport and top of the line Touring models. The EX-L model gets silver wheels instead. My tester is a Touring so it has the black wheels, and I have to say they look really good on the Passport. It is 6” shorter than the Pilot so it doesn’t look as long and large as the Pilot. It is, however, much bigger and taller than the CR-V. I think the Passport goes for the rugged yet simple design language so there are not a whole lot of body lines or unnecessary sculpting. It also has large windows which not only help with visibility but also add to that off-road worthy appearance.
There is enough room to carry 5 adults in this SUV, very comfortably. There was one occasion where I had to drive 3 passengers plus a car seat already installed in the back, and no one complained about space. That’s a big deal if you need to carry passengers and actually don’t need the third row; the Passport is the perfect fit for you. The CR-V has a lot of legroom too but it can’t compare to the shoulder room of the Passport, just because the Passport is a wider vehicle. Like I said, if you don’t need that third row, then you should go for the Passport and not the Pilot.
The simplistic design language is carried into the cabin. There are no gimmicky or flashy designs with the exception of the gear shifter. There is no shifter; you get a set of buttons instead, which can be found in other Honda vehicles such as the Clarity, Accord Hybrid and the Insight. The CR-V, on the other hand, is still using a traditional gear shifter and honestly that looks outdated, so it’s nice to see Passport getting the buttons. Cabin quality is generally good and in-line with other Honda vehicles. There is no luxury feeling in the cabin and it’s not trying to be. The only small complaint I have is the amount of gloss black surface used in the Passport. Gloss black looks good when you either constantly wipe the surface or don’t touch anywhere. Worth mentioning is the three-zone climate control that comes standard across all trim levels.
The Passport has one engine offering which is the 3.5L V6 engine with 280hp and 262lb-ft of torque, mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission and Honda’s Intelligent Variable Torque Management AWD system. This combination works for me. Off the line it’s not quick but I like the linear V6 power delivery. There is no weird thing happening in the transmission that I sometimes get from a CVT transmission. This 9-speed traditional automatic works just fine. In terms of off-road capability, the closest thing I did was driving on an unpaved gravel road that has hills and sharp turns. It’s the same road that I test all other SUVs that have some sort of off-road capability. The Passport performed well without issues but it’s also not a whole lot different or better than the other SUVs I tested, such as the Nissan Rogue. Clearance height is one inch higher than the Pilot and has approach angle of 21.4 degrees and departure angle of 27.6 degrees. These numbers indicate the Passport is capable of more intense off-roading. For normal city driving, the Passport feels fairly planted and there is not much body roll over corners. I appreciate the big windows for the excellent visibility which helps with navigating the vehicle.
Modern cars are packed with a ton of tech and the Passport is no exception. Standard tech equipment includes 8” touchscreen, heated front seats, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, rearview camera, proximity keyless car entry, remote engine starter and the whole suite of Honda Sensing safety features such as Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist and Collision Mitigation Braking System. Step up to the EX-L, you get leather seats and power tailgate, parking sensors, driver’s seat position memory as well as heated seats in the back. The Touring trim gets you an upgraded audio system, ventilated front seats, Honda Navigation, wireless charging, hands-free access power tailgate and blind spot and rear cross traffic monitoring.
With a starting price of $41,990, it has the highest price tag in the Honda line up. It is indeed $700 more than the starting price of the Pilot and a lot more than CR-V. The Touring trim level starts from $48,990. It is not cheap but you have to look at the standard equipment and see whether it makes sense for you. From a product design perspective, I think Honda did a superb job with the Passport. The closest competitor would be the Nissan Murano which has a lower price tag but I’m not sure if Murano has the same level of off-road capability as the Passport. The luxury offerings from Land Rover would cost a lot more than the Passport. While Subaru offers many great vehicles for the adventure type, Subaru actually doesn’t have a directly competing product. Outback is not as spacious as the Passport and Subaru’s newest Ascent competes with Pilot instead. I think, for now, the Passport has a pretty unique place in the market.