A loaded-down road trip to Minnesota was the perfect test for Honda’s latest crossover/SUV, the midsize Passport.
You may recall Passport as a midsize SUV offered earlier by Honda until 2002. It was a revamped version of Isuzu’s Rodeo (Remember Isuzu?). This is a whole new beast and a dandy one at that.
I drove a black forest pearl Passport Elite, a pre-production model that most maker would be proud to claim as a full-on productions model. The paint job was spectacular, appearing dark metallic green in sunlight and black just as soon as there were clouds overhead.
Passport is powerful too with a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque, but it’s smooth, refined feel helps set it apart from many utes. The Elite, even more so as it’s the top-level model of four trims.
A base Sport with 2-wheel-drive goes for $33,085 including delivery while the AWD model lists at $34,985. Next up is the EX-L, then Touring and finally Elite at $44,775. All are available with AWD, but it’s standard on the Elite.
Juicing it up to highway speeds, even when fully loaded with guys and gear was smooth and easy. Its 9-speed automatic gearbox put the power to the pavement easily, while doing so in a silky manner that creates a luxury feel.
But you could go off-road with Passport, if you want. There are snow, mud and sand settings that are controlled by an Intelligent Traction Management system, so easy to dial them in. The ute also features 8.1 inches of ground clearance to help you manage if the muck gets somewhat deep. With that clearance you won’t ride up on the slop and lose traction.
Yet most of your driving will likely be on highways and city streets and the Passport is well composed on those with a pleasant ride even when things turn bumpy. No harsh suspension banging here and no unwanted jolts to passengers inside either.
Handling is fairly quick for a crossover/ute with good road feedback and a moderate weight to the steering.
Inside, the test ute featured a black dash and gray perforated leather seats along with gloss black trim on the dash, front portion of the console, steering wheel hub and door inserts. I liked the flat black roll-back storage box cover on much of the console, and the Passport’s front seats were captain’s chairs with armrests.
The interior not only looks sharp, it’s quiet with little road noise and no wind noise, unless you open the small sunroof above the front seats. I was a little surprised at how small that sunroof was as most vehicles have either panoramic sunroofs these days, or ones that are deeper than Passport’s.
The Elite features a large 8-inch infotainment screen, up from a 5-incher in lower trim lines. It was easy to use and see while driving and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto hookups, which we took full advantage of on our drive.
Seats were well contoured and powered, so finding a good driving position was easy. The driver’s seat also included a power lumbar support and both front seats were heated and cooled, while in back the seats were heated. Elite also adds a heated steering wheel, a major benefit for Wisconsin drivers.
Passport easily seats five adults with ample head and legroom front and rear, and if you need to flip the rear seat down, as we did, for cargo storage, it splits 60/40 with releases just inside the power rear hatch so you don’t have to run around to the side doors just to drop a seatback.
Rear seat passengers also can adjust their own climate controls and there are manual sunshades on the side windows.
Other pluses include a wireless phone charger under the center stack, plus inside hatch and fuel releases. Side mirrors also fold flat, which can be an advantage in tight parking spots or garages.
Overhead is an SOS safety system and HomeLink buttons and below the rear cargo floor are hidden plastic storage bins that neatly tuck in around the spare tire, so you could hide valuables on a road trip, if needed.
All Passport models also include Honda Sensing, a safety system that includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, along with road departure warning. A rearview camera, blind-spot warning system and rear and front parking sensors also are standard.
One note on the forward collision warning and braking though. The test vehicle’s system seemed overly sensitive, going off three times as I was driving a rural two-lane road. Each time it flashed “brake” and once it also applied the brakes as large trucks were going by in the opposite direction. It didn’t go off every time a semi-truck passed, but appeared to function somewhat randomly.
Note too that you could pull a trailer loaded with a small boat or snowmobile with this new Passport as it has a 5,000-lb. tow rating.
Gas mileage was reasonable too, considering our test ute was loaded down bigtime with gear and three passengers. I managed 20.7 miles per gallon in about a 50/50 mix of city and highway driving and then 23 mpg in a mostly highway jaunt. The EPA predicts your Passport will notch 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.
This being the upscale Elite model it did not add further options, so stayed at the $44,775 list price. Obviously there’s a lot of wiggle room between the Sport and Elite to outfit a Passport as you’d need it, and at a price that should meet your budget.
Passport is a new worthy competitor in the midsize ute and crossover market. Compare with the likes of Ford’s Edge, and Hyundai’s Santa Fe and note that it’s six inches shorter than its big brother, the Honda Pilot.
FAST STATS: 2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite
Hits: Power, smooth refined feel, good ride and handling, AWD and quiet interior. Power hatch, heat/cool front seats, heated wheel, heated rear seats, wireless charger, roomy interior, sunroof, and large easy-to-use infotainment screen.
Misses: Over-sensitive forward collision alert and braking, small sunroof.
Made in: Lincoln, Ala.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 280 horsepower
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Weight: 4,237 lbs.
Length: 190.5 in.
Wheelbase: 111.0 in.
Tow: 5,000 lbs.
Cargo: 77.7 cu.ft.
MPG: 20.7-23.0 (tested)
Base Price: $44,775 (includes delivery)
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $44,775
Sources: Honda, kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage