Honda Passport — Quick and capable

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

If you like the Honda Pilot crossover, but don't have a need for a third-row seat, then Honda has just the vehicle for you. It has brought the Passport name out of mothballs making the new 2019 crossover essentially a smaller Pilot with the same healthy V-6 engine, but sans the seat.

The Passport not only looks good, it drives as well as anything in the segment with 6-second 0-to-60 time thanks to the 3.5-liter V-6 pumping out 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque routed through a 9-speed automatic transmission. The Passport has the Pilot's 111-inch wheelbase, but is 6.2 inches shorter.

The Passport has a more rugged look than the Pilot with 20-inch wheels and more plastic cladding to impart an off-road persona. And it lives up to its looks with 1.6 inches more ground clearance than the Pilot, and shorter front and rear overhangs for better approach and departure angles.

With its 20-inch black wheels, black trim and Black Forest paint the top tier Passport Elite with AWD we were driving looked pretty darn cool. Honda has designed this model with the head of the household in mind who prefers to drive a family contrivance with some style and a modicum of off-road ability. Other trim levels should appeal more to the soccer mom.

There are four trim levels — Sport, EX-L, Touring and Elite — starting at $33,085 including destination charge. Standard across the lineup is the Honda Sensing suite of safety equipment including emergency braking, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and traffic sign recognition. All-wheel drive is a $1,900 option on all trim levels with the exception of Elite where it comes as standard equipment.

Because of the absence of the third-row seat, the Passport has more space in the second row than the Pilot giving passengers decent stretch-out room. The extra space also allows for 41.2 cubic feet of storage space behind the seats and a very useable 77.9 cubic feet with the second-row seatbacks folded. That's more than most of its competitors including the Chevrolet Blazer (64 cubic feet), Ford Edge (73 cubic feet), Hyundai Santa Fe (71 cubic feet) and Nissan Murano (65 cubic feet).

We found that Honda's V-6 with its 280 ponies is well matched to the Passport giving the crossover a very confident feel whether passing slower moving vehicles on a two-lane road or merging with fast-moving traffic. In addition to its impressive performance from a standstill, it's quick in the 50-to-70 passing zone. It's well suited to the 9-speed transmission and it can be paddle-shifted manually.

At the same time, it has decent V-6 gas mileage ratings for the segment EPA-rated at 19 mpg city, 24 highway and 21 combined in AWD and 20/25/22 in front-wheel drive on regular gas. And towing capacity is near the top of the segment rated up to 5,000 pounds.

Not only is the Passport spacious for both passengers and cargo, it has a very pleasant ride quality and a quiet interior with both wind and road noise nicely muted. Front-seat comfort is suitable for long-distance travel — and includes adjustable arm rests, which is a blessing for the driver. The people in back won't find themselves short-changed with comfortable seats that recline and slide a few inches fore and aft.

Honda does a good job creating exceptional storage space in its vehicles, and the Passport is no exception. Large door pockets, a large center console configurable storage bin — not unlike a minivan — is great for items large and small, and small cubbies provide storage for the cellphone and other small items.

Switchgear is easy to operate — and the Passport has an actual volume knob for the audio, which in our test car happened to be the nice-sounding upgraded premium system with 10 speakers. The crossover is packed with modern technology featuring an 8-inch infotainment/navigation screen with high-contrast display. It also offers two USB ports up front as well as a wireless phone charger and two 12-volt power outlets. In-cabin Wi-Fi access is available.

We had an issue with the adaptive cruise control, which a couple of times slowed us down too aggressively when encountering a car going only three or four mph slower, and leaving an abnormal length between cars. Also, the cruise control doesn't work in crawling stop and go traffic because it doesn't operate under 20 mph. That was disappointing.

Our well-equipped — no options necessary and none offered — Elite AWD test car carried a bottom line $44,725 including a destination charge of $1,045.

Base price: 33,085; as driven, $44,725
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 280 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 262 foot-pounds @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 111 inches
Length: 190.5 inches
Curb weight: 4,224 pounds
Turning circle: 39.3 feet
Luggage capacity: 41.2 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 77.9 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
Fuel capacity: 19.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 19 city, 24 highway, 21 combined
Also consider: Chevrolet Blazer, Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Edge

The Good
• Spacious interior
• Solid performance
• Enhanced off-road ability

The Bad
• Annoying push-button shifter

The Ugly
• Adaptive cruise doesn't work below 20 mph