The Pilot’s little brother completes the family.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2019 Honda Passport
Base price (Touring trim): $48,990
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $51,011
The Passport looks good although there’s nothing fresh, or frankly interesting, about the styling. It’s ruggedly handsome in its own way, coming across as a taller and slightly shorter version of the Pilot. It isn’t a head-turner but it will age gracefully I think.
While the Pilot features a blingy exterior with chrome aplenty, the Passport I had blacked out all the exterior trim, including the very-cool grilled and the 20-inch wheels – wearing monstrous 265/45-sized rubber. And I really liked this blacked-out look. It suits the vehicle and its functional mission.
LED lights abounds – head lights, fog lights and tail lights are all LEDs. Speaking to its sportier and outdoorsy nature, the Passport has a very substantial set of adjustable roof bars.
Fit and finish appears to be very good, and the materials themselves are pretty good. There is plenty of soft-touch material, particularly around the dash, but I also found a surprising amount of hard plastics around the console and lower parts of the dash which didn’t feel quite as upscale as my review vehicle’s price would suggest. And it’s all black, all the time, with very few attempts to add lighter touches. It makes for quite a dark, sombre interior.
As I’ve come to expect with Hondas, the steering wheel (which is heated) feels excellent in hand.
Front passengers get very comfortable leather seats, even for lengthy road trips – we drove over 600 highway kilometres in the Passport. The seats are heated and ventilated.
Honda’s latest touchscreen is featured front and centre, and it’s mostly good stuff. The screen is sharp and responsive (although quite susceptible to glare in the Passport), the user interface is good and the sound system is awesome. Although there aren’t any hard buttons to complement the system, Honda does include a volume/power knob and that’s good enough for me.
You get a tri-zone (allowing you to control the rear zone as well) automatic climate control system
There’s a small sunroof overhead – I would have loved to see a big panoramic sunroof in a vehicle like this. In terms of driver assistance, I can’t think of anything that was missing here. This trim included adaptive cruise, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, collision mitigation, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and road departure mitigation.
Rear passengers get a ton of head and leg room, and people significantly taller than me at 5’10” should have no trouble. There’s a separate climate control panel, adjustable air vents and two USB plugs for the folks back there and the outboard seats are heated. Two sets of child seat anchors make this a family friendly SUV.
There’s a slot-like space in the centre stack, and then a large rubberized wireless charging mat below it, at the front of the centre console. You’ll also find USB and 12V power ports there. A huge bin resides in the back of the centre console – it’s open, has USB and 12V plugs as well and instead of an armrest lid, each front seat has its own armrest that you can adjust or simply swing up and out of the way. We had these on our Odyssey and love them.
The huge 1430L trunk is accessed via power liftgate. That’s a lot of space, but if you need more, you can fold the second row down and you’re granted 2852L of cargo space. We loved the amount of underfloor storage and the fact that those storage bins can easily be removed and washed out, etc. That’s great stuff for families that use their SUVs for camping and other sporty activities.
Under the Hood
Honda’s outstanding 3.5L V6 goes to work here, putting out 280 HP and 262 lb.ft of torque. It channels its power through a 9-speed automatic transmission to an all-wheel drive system.
Honda rates the Passport at 12.5/9.8 L/100 km (city/highway) – we didn’t achieve either of those levels, although I was generally pleased with the overall fuel economy we saw.
I’m not a huge fan of the push-button gear selector, but you get used to it. It includes a button for Sport mode, and terrain-related drive modes allowing you to choose between Normal, Snow, Mud or Sand. And if you want to take things down a notch in the name of saving a few drops of fuel, there’s Honda’s ECON button too. No thanks.
There is absolutely no lack of power here. Considering this powertrain motivates the bigger Pilot as well, it does an excellent job of moving things along in a hurry if you ask it to. Also, when you step on it, it doesn’t just haul – it sounds fantastic! It’s not just powerful off the line, it will also comfortably let you pass at highway speeds. The combination of the engine and the transmission is incredibly smooth too. The shifts are barely noticeable and I found it to be in the right gear nearly all the time.
The ride is outstanding, soaking up the biggest hits on the road and doing a fine job of soft-roading too. We took it off the beaten path a bit and it was very comfortable traversing rutted cottage trails and muddy bogs. But the bigger surprise was the handling. Considering the size of this vehicle, and how much ground clearance it has, I was shocked at how well it handled corners. Turn-in is quite sharp for an SUV and I actually had fun driving it.
Something we appreciated right away was the nice tall driving position which afforded us excellent visibility of the road ahead. Visibility out of the rest of the vehicle is also great. Noise insulation is very well done – other than the aforementioned lovely engine sounds under throttle, the Passport is very quiet, even at highway speeds.
The Passport comes ready to tow up to 3500 pounds, but you can also equip it to two up to 5000 pounds.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was quite high. I think she was surprised at how much she liked driving it although she thought it looks a bit boring. She also thought it would be a good fit for our family as it fits all of us nicely and doesn’t waste space on a useless third row.
I feel the same way. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the Passport and found myself thinking this would be a viable option for our family. I did get a bit stuck at the pricing though. I felt it was slightly too expensive, because the temptation at this Touring trim’s price level would be to walk across the dealership and get the “higher-end” Pilot. But that wouldn’t change the fact that the Passport would likely be a better fit for us. We would prefer the slightly smaller vehicle with a big back seat and a big trunk, and ample power under the hood.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Honda Canada.
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