Not quite the off-road champ it wants to be, this Honda still works.
As if the midsized affordable SUV marketplace isn’t packed enough, Honda thought it would offer another one. With its three-row Pilot selling reasonably well, some drivers didn’t need the extra seats from a good platform. Enter the Honda Passport, which is a slightly smaller version of the midsized SUV that ditches the third row for more storage space. Featuring a near-identical cabin and powertrain to the Pilot, the Honda Passport saves a couple bucks, holds more stuff, and goes on family adventures with a hint of style.
To please the driver that wants a bit more rugged appearance, Honda has introduced the Passport TrailSport trim level that slots into the middle of the Passport offerings, and eliminated the most basic Sport trim level. Looking a bit beefier than the more conventional family hauler spotted at the school pickup line or at soccer practice, does this go anywhere look work for the Honda Passport TrailSport? I gave it a whirl to find out.
The Helpful Specs
Honda stuffs its 3.5-liter V6 under the hood of all Passport models, with 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque on-tap. A 9-speed automatic is the only transmission choice, and two-wheel-drive is the standard driveline on the base model Passport, but this middle trim TrailSport package and the top Elite trim level come standard with Honda’s torque vectoring all-wheel-drive system. Honda’s Intelligent Traction Management system also includes several drive modes for various terrains.
To make the Passport TrailSport look the part of a tougher family SUV, Honda gave it several distinguishing styling touches inside and out. The exterior gets a unique grille treatment, and more aggressive front and rear bumpers are paired with silver-painted skid garnish details. The grille and tailgate get bright orange TrailSport badges. TrailSport-specific machined-finished 18-inch wheels with pewter gray details are shod with beefier 245/60R18 Firestone all-terrain tires to add to the slightly meaner look, compared to other Passport trims which get 20-inch wheels with lower profile tires.
Cabin treatments in the TrailSport include orange stitching on the seats, door panels, and steering wheel, with the front seat headrests receiving embroidered TrailSport logos. The TrailSport trim gets standard all-season rubber floor mats which also get that unique orange logo. The gauge pod in the TrailSport has the updated gray lighting and white needles as the rest of the Passport lineup, but features a black chrome gauge surround that’s only installed in the TrailSport. When cruising around at night, the cabin is lit with TrailSport-exclusive amber ambient lighting.
Pricing for the standard two-wheel-drive Honda Passport begins at $37,870, which increases by $2,100 to add all-wheel-drive. The top Elite trim comes packed with features at $45,430. The middle trim TrailSport has a starting MSRP of $42,470, and with a $395 premium added for Platinum White Pearl paint and a $1,225 destination charge, this Passport TrailSport tester hit a total price of $44,090.
The Competent Family Carrier
It comes as no surprise that the Passport TrailSport is a good midsized SUV, given Honda’s track record for reliability and functionality. The powertrain is proven, albeit a little on the older side, and is potent enough to get this family hauler moving effectively. Not needing to impress with the stat sheet, the Passport’s V6 is smooth and strong where it needs to be, and the 9-speed automatic shifts smoothly to keep it composed in the city. EPA fuel economy estimates are 19 / 24 / 21 (city / highway / combined), paired with a 19.5-gallon tank, allowing longer treks with fewer stops to fill up with regular unleaded.
Ride quality is composed, with a good bit of body roll when you try to carry some speed into a corner, but the Passport’s chassis stays where it needs to. Bigger sidewalls around 18-inch wheels on the TrailSport trim make for greater compliance, making street bumps disappear while minimizing chassis disruption though a suspension that’s still better on pavement than gravel. I also appreciate how light and direct steering inputs are in the Passport TrailSport.
The Passport’s interior is no-fuss quality that’s expected from Honda, with an intuitive cockpit that features a tidy layout. If you’ve been inside a Honda Pilot or Ridgeline lately, you’ll recognize the components and design throughout the Passport. Space inside the Passport is massive, with loads of room to stretch out whether you’re in the front or back seats. Lateral support from the Passport’s seats could be slightly better, but the comfort level is great. Because the Passport has a shorter overall length than the Pilot and ditches the third row seats, cargo volume is downright massive, offering 50 cubic feet of space behind the second row seat and boasting a whopping 100 cubic feet with the second row folded flat. In the cargo area, the Passport also has a concealed storage compartment for stashing away reasonably-sized items.
Carrying the same infotainment software installed in other Honda models, the Passport TrailSport has an 8-inch touchscreen with plenty of customization options and a cool way to enable shortcut buttons on the screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on-board too, although without wireless connectivity options, and there’s a wireless charging pad ahead of the shifter. The standard 215-Watt audio system features 7 speakers and a subwoofer, which isn’t bad, but if you care about premium audio, you’ll want to upgrade to the Passport’s Elite trim level to upgrade to 540 Watts ands 10 speakers.
Appearing More Rugged, But Reasonably Capable
A quick glance at a TrailSport will quickly reveal that it’s the cooler looking Honda Passport. Not just a dressed up version of an already good family hauler, the Trailsport’s front and rear track widths are increased 10 mm to increase stability and provide a wider stance. For those who need to pull their boat, off-road toys, or camper, 2WD Passports can tow up to 3,500 pounds, and AWD models up the towing capacity to 5,000 pounds with Honda’s towing package installed.
Ground clearance is 7.5 inches for a two-wheel-drive Passport, and the all-wheel-drive upgrade increases the figure to 8.1. Approach angle is 21.1°, and the departure angle is 24.3°, which isn’t too hardcore, but isn’t too pedestrian either. Honda equips the Passport with snow, sand, and mud off-road drive modes, which are quickly engaged with a button next to the gear selector. The modes do a good job of dialing in the right amount of grip needed to cope with the trails, but you’re not going into any ridiculous rock crawling events in the Passport TrailSport.
In a muddy and slightly rocky patch at a nearby park, I was more than happy with what the Passport TrailSport offered, knowing it’s not intended to tackle extreme conditions like a Ford Bronco or Land Rover Defender. For the adventurous family that wants to escape the city for a nice state park that has reasonably muddy or mildly rocky trails, this SUV will get you there and back in peace.
The Good Bits
I’ve always felt that the Honda Pilot looked too bloated for a family SUV, and the Passport is a refreshingly smaller package. The proportions are better balanced with this model, and the TrailSport’s bigger sidewall tires complete the look nicely. If someone really needs the third row of seats, the Pilot will be a nice addition to the family’s driveway. The updated fascia, chunkier rear bumper, and bigger exhaust tips are cool too.
Rather than padding the bottom line, Honda includes its Honda Sensing suite of safety features as standard equipment, offering adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, and emergency braking without charging thousands more. Honda also has some proprietary software in its lane keeping system that seems to eliminate the annoying ping pong sensation other systems do between the lane lines.
Intuitive functionality inside the Honda Passport TrailSport is fantastic. Switchgear doesn’t have to be wildly stylish or made with space age materials to work, and Honda did a good job with switches and buttons that are well-placed. The gear selection buttons will take a quick adjustment, but I like how they save space in the center of the cockpit. USB ports and power outlets are simply placed in the Passport’s cabin, giving the kids plenty of options to charge their devices during a road trip. Space is effectively used in the Passport’s interior, with loads of flexible spots to store items of all shapes and sizes.
Less Than Great Things
Understanding that Honda offers a practical SUV for families, and not a real deal tough off-roader, there are stylish details that could have been more functional. In the TrailSport trim, Honda gave this Passport some rugged looking treatments, but metal skid plates and tougher fender trim would have done it some favors. Same goes for the thicker sidewall tires that could be a hint wider to really complete the off-road look. Thankfully Honda indicated that it will offer meatier tires and an off-road tuned suspension in the next couple model years.
While I praised Honda for giving the Passport’s interior plenty of thoughtful design elements, the instrument cluster leaves a bit to be desired. There’s a lot of wasted real estate, and the center screen should be able to provide more usable data on the fly while also offering a higher resolution display. Storing your gear in the back of the Honda Passport TrailSport is easy, thanks to a square-shaped tailgate and storage area, but the power tailgate only gets a hands-free feature on the top Elite trim level. Those who want a more rugged go-anywhere model want easier ways to put their mountain bike in the back after ripping up the trails.
This Practical SUV Gets It Done
Honda did a good job giving the Passport TrailSport more rugged touches within the exterior and the cabin, making it cooler than the typical family SUV. As someone who likes to conquer off-road trails on a somewhat regular basis, I wish Honda would have thrown somewhat tougher kit at its exterior to make it better at taking a beating. For most families, this won’t be an issue.
Deep down, Honda knows its buyers, their demands, and how to move a reliable product. The Passport TrailSport delivers the features and looks that Honda’s core buyers want, and makes its drivers slightly cooler than the usual parent at soccer practice. It’ll also go just enough places off-road during family trips to make the trip memorable. For those reasons, I think Honda did a good job with the Passport TrailSport.