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2019 Honda Passport Elite AWD

Bigger than a CR-V and just slightly smaller than the Pilot, Honda adds another SUV to the lineup
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Honda Passport

(All images: Honda)

If you, like me, have heard that the Honda Passport SUV is a somewhat diminutive version of the three-row Honda Pilot because the Passport has just two rows, you, like me, might be surprised that this vehicle is not small. In fact, with the exception of the overall length, it is pretty much head-to-head with the Pilot. That is, the Passport has a wheelbase of 110.9 inches, a length of 190.5 inches, a width of 78.6 inches, and a height of 72.2 inches, while the numbers for the Pilot are 111 inches wheelbase, 196.5 inches length, 78.6 inches width, and 70.6 inches height. Yes, these are vehicles that are the proverbially “separated at birth.” But they are not exactly twins.

Of course, there is then the issue on the inside, and again, the Passport is not pint-sized there, either. Looked at on an Elite-trim-to-Elite-trim basis (as the Elite trim is what is being driven for this), the front headroom for both vehicles is 39.5 inches, and the Passport gives up some in the second row, as it is 40 inches for the Passport and 40.9 inches for the Pilot. Yet while the front legroom for both vehicles is the same, 40.9 inches, the Passport bests the Pilot for those who were to stretch out in the second row: 39.6 inches versus 38.4 inches. Of course, there’s that third row set of passengers that the Pilot has to contend with, as well.

Honda Passport


But the Passport is designed for those who will have a maximum of five people on board and so there is a considerable amount of space for the cargo behind that second row, a maximum 50.5 cubic feet. While the Pilot bests that with 55 cubic feet, let’s face it: the third row has to be folded out of the way and the Passport is ready to go.

Honda Passport


Speaking of going, the Passport (Elite and all other trims) is powered by a 280-hp, 3.5-liter V6 that is mated to a nine-speed automatic with push-button gear selection (this is a shift-by-wire transmission). What strikes me is somewhat unusual is that there is paddle shifting capability, as though taking the kids to soccer is going to be something of a race to the premier parking spot. (It weighs 4,237 pounds, so we’re not talking something that you’re going to be taking to a gymkhana.)

Honda Passport body-in-white


Credit has to be given to Honda for equipping the Passport—across the lineup—with a significant amount of active safety technology. (The passive part takes the form of things like the ACE body structure (suffice it to say that the structure is designed such that the energy encountered in a crash is appropriately distributed to minimize the effects on the people inside the vehicle).)  That is, there are functions including collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning (you’ll see a “BRAKE!” message in the gauge cluster), lane departure warning, etc. And all but the Sport model have a blind spot information system with cross traffic monitor, which Honda categorizes as “Driver-Assistive Technology, but which I think is one of the best technologies going for keeping one from merging into an occupied space.

One characteristic of the Passport really surprises me.  Although Honda has been producing the Ridgeline pickup vehicle since 2005, that vehicle has the ride and handling of an Accord, which is meant to be a complement because not only does it have a 64-inch long box with a maximum payload capacity of 1,584 pounds, but it has the maneuverability of one of the all-time best sedans. But many pickup buyers don’t consider it a “real” truck (although those who are critical are typically also those who, if Ford fans, don’t consider the Silverado to be one, or vice versa, and let’s not forget Ram 1500 fans).

The thing that I find surprising about the Passport is how substantial it “feels.” Solid like the proverbial rock. It is, dare I say, almost “trucky.” Again, not a criticism. That feeling of substantiveness may be considered a feature. (The Elite tows 5,000 pounds, incidentally.)

But there is a second surprise, too.  For many years, one of the excellent characteristics of Hondas was that the driver could readily discern where the front of the vehicle is. Honda designers and engineers worked very hard at making sure that there was excellent visibility. They were paying attention to things like the thickness of the A-pillar long before others even recognized that as being important.

Honda Passport


One of the things that I find that I don’t like about the Passport is that even with the seat elevated (powered in the Elite trim, by the way) I have a hard time knowing precisely where the front end ends. As this is a sizeable vehicle, that would be a good thing to know.

Still, it is a package executed with the thoughtfulness that Honda has long been known for, and that more than makes up for why quibble with the sightlines.