Competes with: Nissan Murano, Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe
Looks like: A shorter, slightly tougher Honda Pilot
Drivetrain: 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 with nine-speed automatic transmission, front- or all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Early 2019
The question with the new 2019 Passport SUV is not why Honda did it, but why didn't Honda do it sooner. You can hardly make a business case against any new SUV these days — in particular one that shares a lot of the engineering and design from other existing Honda products. The Passport, debuting at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, revives a retro Honda badge for what's essentially the popular Pilot minus its third row.
Related: More 2018 L.A. Auto Show Coverage
The shorter Passport shares Honda's light truck platform with the Pilot SUV (refreshed for 2019) and Ridgeline pickup truck, and it picks up a lot from both. If you like the Pilot but think it's too big for your needs, but the compact Honda CR-V is not big enough, Honda now has the Passport for you.
The Passport unveiled in L.A. will compete with mid-size, two-row SUV rivals such as the Nissan Murano, Ford Edge and the redone two-row Hyundai Santa Fe. It will hit dealerships in early 2019 in Sport, EX-L, Touring and Elite trim levels, with pricing still to come.
Styling for the Pilot basically emulates the Pilot with a shorter, tidier rear end. The Passport also looks a bit more rugged and less "family" than the Pilot, with design details like more cladding, a black grille and front bumper, and more matte- or gloss-black details on higher trim levels. LED headlights, foglights, taillights and daytime running lights are standard, as are 20-inch alloy wheels.
The Pilot is one of the most spacious mid-size SUV in the first two rows, with a third row that's a bit more cramped than some. The Passport carries the Pilot's interior with the same spacious two rows without that third-row issue because, well, there isn't one. It also matches the Pilot's plentiful interior storage space for gear, including an extra-large center console bin.
Like the Pilot, cargo space also is generous, with 41.2 cubic feet behind the second row and 77.9 with the second row folded — which you can do from the cargo area with release buttons. There also is a handy, backpack-sized 2.5-cubic-foot storage space below the cargo floor, in which Honda offers removable, washable bins. As an added convenience for hauling, the cargo floor is reversible between carpeted and wipeable plastic surfaces.
All trim levels have keyless access and three-zone automatic climate control. From the base Sport to Elite trims, Honda claims the Passport has high-quality interior appointments and generous use of soft-touch surfaces. The upholstery is cloth on Sport and perforated leather on EX-L, Touring and Elite trims. A blackout headliner is another touch to make the Passport seem sportier.
The base Passport Sport gets a 5-inch multimedia system, two USB ports and a media system that does not support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — disappointing for the budget model, where such features might be most appreciated. The EX-L and higher trim levels get Honda's Display Audio system with an 8-inch touchscreen (including a volume knob), a third USB port and both smartphone integrations.
A long list of upgrades piles up as you ascend the trim levels, including a hands-free power tailgate, a moonroof, second-row sunshades, auto-dimming and heated side mirrors, wireless phone charging, an in-car navigation system, premium audio, 4G LTE Wi-Fi and cloud-based remote app services.
Under the Hood
The powertrain, which comes straight from the Pilot, includes a standard 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard on most Passports, with all-wheel drive available; AWD is standard on the top-of-the-line Elite. The torque-vectoring AWD can send 70 percent of power to the rear axle and all of that to one side or the other to aid traction and handling. It also includes selectable snow, sand and mud driving modes. Honda says the Passport is designed to be more capable off-road than the Pilot, thanks to 0.8 inch more ground clearance and a shorter rear overhang.
The Passport can tow 3,500 pounds, upgradeable to 5,000 pounds with AWD and an optional towing package. In keeping with the more rugged persona, Honda will offer a range of "active lifestyle" accessories, including various roof-rack systems.
Safety and Driver Assistance
Standard on all 2019 Passports is the Honda Sensing bundle of safety and driver assistance technologies. That includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, lane-centering steering at higher speeds, lane departure warning and road departure mitigation. Also standard is a multi-angle backup camera with a top-down view to assist trailer hookups.
Other safety technologies on the EX-L trim level and above includes dynamic lines for the backup camera and a blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert. The Touring and Elite models add front and rear parking sensors.
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