A body-on-frame truck? Too much. A plump crossover? Too little. What you want is something in between. Something that’s got a unibody, front- (or available all-wheel) drive, and independent suspension, but also short overhangs and some good off-road modes for the muddy bits. Enter the 2019 Honda Passport.
Yes, the true Honda heads among us may rep the original Honda Passport, which was a Honda-fied version of the Isuzu Rodeo. But that was more than 20 years ago, and you are old now. This is the new Passport. Say it with me:
And while it’s on the same platform as both the Honda Pilot crossover and the Honda Ridgeline pickup, you can probably think of the new Passport as closer to the Ridgeline side of things. Honda claims that its “i-VTM4" all-wheel-drive system enables “robust off-road capability,” which we’ll see about, and it offers snow, sand, and even mud modes to help you get going in the boggy bits.
Honda claims that the trick all-wheel-drive system will “tackle the kind of tough terrain normally reserved for less refined body-on-frame or off-road focused SUVs.” Those short overhangs should help on approach and departure angles, too:
At the heart of the robust all-weather and off-road driving capabilities is Honda’s available i-VTM4™ all-wheel drive system. Unlike most competing systems, i-VTM4™ uses active torque vectoring to send up to 70 percent of engine torque to the rear axle and 100 percent of that torque to either the left or right rear wheels. This capability gives Passport excellent handling in all conditions, such as rain-slicked or snowy roads or sandy trails, while also contributing to more responsive performance by overdriving the outside rear wheel in turns. In addition, the Intelligent Traction Management (ITM) is standard on both the front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive Passport. In all-wheel drive applications, the four-mode ITM systems works in conjunction with i-VTM4™, allowing drivers to customize powertrain performance for different weather and terrain, including sand, snow and mud. In front-wheel drive models, the system has two modes for normal and snow conditions.
Though, on the other hand, it also says in the press release that the new Honda Passport comes standard with 20-inch wheels, which would seem counter to efforts at off-roading and also pot holes.
All of that traction management and wheels and suspension are used to put 280 horsepower from a 3.5-liter V6 to the ground, and the wheels are joined to the engine by a nine-speed transmission.
Every Honda Passport will also come standard with the “Honda Sensing” system, which includes stuff like automatic emergency braking, rear-cross-traffic alerts, lane keeping, and adaptive cruise control. It can tow, too, with 3,500 pounds being towed by the front-wheel-drive version, or 5,000 pounds by the all-wheel-drive version.
Also, it’s got a “segmented underfloor cargo compartment,” which Honda says is good for “carrying dirty gear” or “keeping valuables out of sight. I’m going to choose to believe those are both euphemisms for smuggling contraband past cops. Good on you, Honda.
Though possibly the funniest thing for me, on a personal level, is that Honda says the tailgate design “emphasizes width.” Some might say that my own tailgate design emphasizes width. I’m getting old, too.
But this new Honda Passport feels like it comes right from today.
Correction: This post originally referred to it as the 2020 Honda Passport. It is officially the 2019 Honda Passport, and has been updated to reflect the model year change.