2019 Honda Passport Review - Go (Almost) Anywhere

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite

3.5-liter V6, SOHC (280 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm)
Nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
19 city / 24 highway / 21 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
12.5 city / 9.8 highway / 11.3 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
23.2 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $44,725 US / $50,916 CAD
As Tested: $44,725 US/ $50,916 CAD
Prices include $1,045 destination charge in the United States and $1,926 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2019 honda passport review go almost anywhere

For those who don’t know, my day job isn’t in the automotive industry. Rather, I’m in sales – I represent various product lines in an industrial setting, and I talk to countless small business owners and technicians who look to me to help get their job done.

I’d like to think that the better part of two decades in sales has inoculated me to obvious marketingspeak – I can see through the jargon and bullshit most of the time, as I’m usually the one distilling the bullshit for my clients. It carries over outside the office, of course, so I was skeptical when presented with Honda’s tagline for this two-row crossover: “Passport To Adventure.” Surely the 2019 Honda Passport isn’t an overlanding rig meant to tackle the worst terrain the world can offer. That said, some of Ohio’s roads must be some of the worst terrain to be called “paved” in the western world.

Every commute is an adventure.

The farthest off the tarmac I was able to take the Passport was a rough trail through some southern Ohio woods to drop the kid at summer camp. Not a lot of public lands in this area where I can try and get myself good and stuck, I’m afraid. Really, however, I’d imagine that my jaunt up the hill was more representative of most driving this big crossover will see, and it handled it well. The cavernous cargo hold easily swallowed all of the gear my always-overpacking kiddo decided to take for a week in a yurt.

The drive to and from camp was pleasant, as one would expect from a long-wheelbase crossover from Honda. I was a bit surprised to see that the Passport has an identical 111-inch wheelbase to the larger Pilot – the length difference (6.2 inches) comes from the overhangs, especially in the rear. This, and a slightly taller ride height, combine to give better approach and departure angles, making the two-row Passport a bit more capable off-road.

The rolling stock is decidedly road-focused, with 245/50-20 Continental CrossContact tires fitted to 20-inch alloys. I’d have preferred a taller sidewall both off-road (a bit of wheel protection from rocks) and on-road (ditto, just substitute potholes).

On the tarmac, however, the Passport shines much like the big sibling Pilot. Other than maybe the faintest wind noise over the A-pillar, the ride is quiet and calm. A bit of harshness comes from those shallow sidewalls over expansion joints, but it’s not unpleasant. Steering is typical Honda – light and direct, with just enough feedback to remind what the wheels are up to.

The 280 hp V6 is plenty for most driving situations – off-road, I could imagine a bit more low-end torque as one might find from a turbo four would be welcome, but in the situations the Passport will typically endure, the more relaxed V6 is perfection. I’d love to see Honda’s brilliant 10-speed automatic trickle down from the Odyssey to the Passport – the nine-speed fitted here is good enough, but the shifts can be sluggish on occasion.

The interior is exactly what one would expect from Honda – plain, but well thought out. I still don’t love the pushbutton transmission selector that would be more at home in an early Sixties Mopar – it’s not intuitive to shift from reverse to drive, so I have to look down and think about the transmission every time I back out of the driveway. Plus, it doesn’t save any horizontal space on the center console over a traditional selector lever. Imagine the cupholder proliferation should that big button panel migrate somewhere else!

But, seriously – it works fine, and I’m sure that with time it will become second nature to an owner. The deep covered cubby between the seats is a nice touch, holding my wife’s purse or my camera away from prying eyes. And those seats are quite comfortable for a long day back and forth to the campsite. Even the second-row bench was roomy enough for two tall kids and an adult to sit three abreast without complaint.

Were I looking at Honda for a bigger crossover, I’d weigh my options closely. The third row in the Pilot is a nice thing to have for those times when called upon to haul an extra kid or two home from the ball field. Conversely, it’s nice to have the opportunity to nope out of hauling someone else’s brat of a child by reminding them that you don’t have a third row in your Passport. For me, the nominal off-road upgrades to the Passport aren’t enough to sway me – but an easy out of an awkward conversation with an awful parent is always a win.

Really, if you’re buying a Honda for hardcore off-road purposes, you need to be down the street at the powersports store looking at a side-by-side ATV. But for the occasional journey to a campground deep in the woods, or to that secret fishing hole, the Passport will acquit itself nicely in the rough.

And for the 358 other days a year where the worst terrain you’ll see is near shopping carts, this midsized Honda will get you there in comfort. Passport to adventure? The adventure that is your life, perhaps. Make your life an adventure, and the Passport can take you there.

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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4 of 43 comments
  • Baggins Baggins on Sep 08, 2019

    This isnt really much of a review, probably could be written in an hour or two. This site is less interesting every day.

    • Slavuta Slavuta on Sep 08, 2019

      The comments were always the go-to section here. Great commenters such as myself always keep it interesting. But your comments seem going into deterioration path where you think the site itself is going

  • Legacygt Legacygt on Sep 09, 2019

    What is it about this size vehicle that Automakers feel it needs to stand out from the rest of the lineup? Why is it that Passport buyers want a softroader with big wheels that looks like it's more capable than a CR-V or Pilot. Why is it that Murano buyers want a high style vehicle while Pathfinder and Rogue buyers are happy with a more boring look? Why is it that Edge buyers want a car that shares little in design or philosophy with an Explorer or Escape? Not to judge the viability of any of these cars. Why is it that the Blazer looks like a sports car rather than a Equinox or Traverse? It's just strange that mid-sized, 2 row, crossover seems to need to stand out from the pack for every manufacturer and not in the same way. For Honda it's the must "rugged" crossover in the lineup. For Nissan it's the most style oriented. For Chevy it's the sportiest. These are all different approaches so the beneficiary is the consumer who gets real variety in this segment. It's just surprising that the larger and smaller offerings are so uniform.

    • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Sep 09, 2019

      Because the 2 row full size crossover is the current full size family sedan for more mature ladies. Full Stop. (Their husbands are all driving crew cab pickups BTW.)

  • Zipper69 At the heart of GM’s resistance to improving the safety of its fuel systems was a cost benefit analysis done by Edward Ivey which concluded that it was not cost effective for GM to spend more than $2.20 per vehicle to prevent a fire death. When deposed about his cost benefit analysis, Mr. Ivey was asked whether he could identify a more hazardous location for the fuel tank on a GM pickup than outside the frame. Mr. Ivey responded, “Well yes…You could put in on the front bumper.”
  • 28-Cars-Later I'll offer this, offer a registration for limited use and exempt it from all inspection. The Commonwealth of GFY for the most part is Dante's Inferno for the auto enthusiast however they oddly will allow an antique registration with limited use and complete exemption from their administrative stupidity but it must be 25 years old (which ironically are the cars which probably should be inspected). Given the dystopia being built around us, it should be fairly simply to set a mileage limitation and enforce a mileage check then bin the rest of it if one agrees to the terms of the registration. For the most part odometer data started being stored in the ECU after OBDII, so it should be plug and play to do such a thing - this is literally what they are doing now for their emissions chicanery.
  • Probert For around $15 you can have a professional check important safety areas - seems like a bargain. It pointed to a rear brake problem on my motorcycle. It has probably saved a lot of lives. But, like going to a dentist, no-one could say it is something they look forward to. (Well maybe a few - it takes all kinds...)
  • VoGhost ICE is so dangerous.
  • Akear Back as early as 2014 Ford was building some pretty decent vehicles. The Ford Fusion was getting good reviews and selling around 300,000 annually. The Mark MKZ was also the top selling US luxury car at the time. My Ford Fusion is approaching the 200,000 mile mark, while current Fords blow gaskets at 40,000 miles.