Honda Passport TrailSport is comfortable, efficient
By Jim Bray
Looking for a mid-sized SUV/Crossover thingy that boasts Honda quality and reliability, yet can still take you off the road if you want?
Perhaps you should check out the 2023 Passport, which Honda slots between the three row Pilot (a supposedly all-new version of which is coming as well) and the "compact SUV" CR-V. There's also the even smaller HR-V, for those who something even more diminutive, and I reviewed it recently here, liking it quite a bit despite its continuously variable transmission.
Here with the Passport, however, we get a more traditional vehicle – a V6-powered model that uses an honest to goodness automatic transmission, in this case a nine-speed one.
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That's enough goodness to start with: the 3.5 litre Direct Injection, i-VTEC V6 puts out 280 horses and 262 lb.-ft of torque going to the road via 20-inch wheels (on the Touring trim level; others get 18 inches) guided by Honda's "Intelligent Variable Torque Management AWD system". That's enough for such a mainstream vehicle and the Passport uses it well.
The all-wheel drive is cool to watch in action, which you can do via the instrument panel display. It shows clearly that this front-wheel-biased vehicle does, indeed, send the torque to the rear wheels – either individually or in tandem, thanks to the torque vectoring – and you can feel it work as well. I drove the Passport when the roads were quite snowy and the system worked beautifully.
I also found Honda's Intelligent Traction Management System worked quite well. This is operated via a switch on the centre console and offers normal, snow, mud and sand settings. Snow, which I used quite a bit during my week with the Passport, basically is like throwing out an anchor behind the vehicle as its performance is scaled back to reflect better the slippery conditions of winter driving.
Despite this, you can still fool it into having a bit of fun sliding if you so desire.
The V6 features cylinder deactivation, so depending upon your right foot's needs, it'll operate as a V6 or shut down three of the cylinders to help you save Parent Earth as you cruise along. I assume the switchover is seamless because I never noticed it. On the other hand, my lead foot may have just had the thing staying with all six cylinders all the time…
This year, Honda has introduced a TrailSport trim level, which the company says makes the vehicle even more off-road capable. Honda says it was created for "active buyers who thrive on adventure" and points out that it combines Passport's already good features, such as "strong unibody construction, independent front and rear suspension, and class-leading torque-vectoring AWD system" with new, TrailSport exclusive, exterior and interior tweaks. One such appearance tweak is the honeycomb grille and, of course, there's TrailSport badging as well.
Passport seats five comfortably (this is not a three row SUV) boasts 1430 litres of cargo space in total. You can also add another 71 litres by exploiting the under-floor storage compartments in the rear.
While the Touring model gets 20-inch wheels, the TrailSport gets new, machined 18-inch wheels with pewter painted highlights. Not only that, but its front and rear tracks are 10 mm wider, to help keep it stable in the boonies.
Inside, the TrailSport model comes with orange contrast stitching on the steering wheel, door panels and seats, and there's a TrailSport logo embroidered on each front seat head rest, as well as ones moulded onto the optional all-season rubber floor mats. The gauge cluster differs from the other trim levels thanks to a black chrome gauge surround and, at night, the interior features exclusive amber ambient lighting in the footwells, overhead console, door handle pocket, door tray and cupholders. Yeah, that latter stuff is really important!
Honda says that, if all this off-road goodness isn't good enough for you (who wouldn't want to have amber ambient lighting when you're in the boonies?), they'll be upping the off-road ante with further upgrades down the road, including "more aggressive tires and off-road tuned suspension."
The seats are comfortable and everything other than a tuning knob is at hand. The remote start feature worked well and would fire up the seat heaters automatically when I fired it up. It didn't activate the steering wheel heater, alas, but the wheel heats up very quickly anyway and so it wasn't a big deal.
The Passport is a fine vehicle to drive. I loved its power and torque, even though the road conditions didn't really let me exploit them enough, and I only had to yell at the vehicle once, as it flashed BRAKE!!! in a yellow box when the thing's robot brain decided I was about to rear end someone (I wasn't).
So, either Honda is finally getting a firm handle on its ultra-annoying nannies or I didn't drive it in a manner that pissed it off much. I can't see that latter scenario happening, though…
I remember a time when you couldn't shut off some of the nannies completely, in Hondas and others, but it's easy in the Passport to deactivate such things and, joy of joys, they stay off – so you don't have to do this every time you get in. Thank you, Honda!
Put a tuning knob back on the centre stack and I'll forgive you for all the recent years when Hondas annoyed me so much that I wouldn't recommend them to friends. That was always a "more in sadness than in anger" approach because I generally love Hondas and the way they drive. I've even owned one.
Well, there is a rear seat reminder that comes up when you shut off the vehicle, nagging at you to ensure the ankle biters and/or pets aren't left back there. It isn't particularly obtrusive, but I still don't appreciate an inanimate object treating me like I'm an idiot who's incapable of conscious thought.
I have a wife and family for that!
All Passports come standard with the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assistive technologies that help even the stupidest driver stay safe. The system includes stuff like a "Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).
As I said, though, it seems that they no longer beat you over the head with them, which is a fine thing indeed.
Passports, according to Honda Canada's website, start at $47,090 for the Sport trim level, which is the bottom of the line. From there, you can opt for the TrailSport ($51,090 starting price) and the Touring ($53,790).
I'm not sure why the Passport exists when there's a Pilot available that isn't too much bigger and which offers a third row of seats, especially since you can get some Pilots for less money. On the other hand, I guess it fills a niche for people who want to haul family and stuff and can't cram it all into a CR-V and don't want to take that next step up in size. Fair enough.
For them, the Honda Passport should be a fine vehicle that will give them a lot of utility for a lot of years. And that's hard to fault.
Copyright 2022 Jim Bray