Restyled for 2022, the Honda Passport is new from the A-pillar forward. This SUV gains an assertive grille that’s more truck-like than before as well as a pumped-up hood, ’cause you’ve got to have that. The front fenders have been reworked and the rear bumper has been updated to accommodate larger exhaust outlets. Overall, the Passport is a bit like lasagna, it reheats well and seems to get better with age.
The truncated Passport and the three-row Honda Pilot it’s based on have been around for a few years and, unfortunately, the interior shared between these SUVs is starting to look older than Seinfeld reruns. This is a reason why the automaker is revamping nearly its entire SUV lineup this year, introducing new versions of the HR-V, CR-V and Pilot. Aside from the dark trim on the TrailSport’s dashboard and doors, accents embossed with an odd fabric-like weave, and the anachronistic pedal-operated parking brake, there’s nothing cheap about this vehicle’s interior. The switches and controls are solid, everything is assembled with painstaking attention to detail and there’s plenty of nicely grained soft plastic to go around. It’s just a shame, however, that the interior is blacker than a creosote-choked chimney and that this is the only color offered. Embroidered TrailSport logos on the front headrests and matching orange stitching is not enough to brighten things up.
With softly padded front seats and plenty of space in the second row, the Passport’s interior is passenger friendly, though two things detract from the ambiance. The half-digital, half-analog instrument cluster is one of the ugliest ever fitted to a vehicle, and the infotainment system isn’t much prettier, looking about 10 years out of date. At least this multimedia array is responsive and intuitive enough, plus it includes standard embedded navigation in the TrailSport and supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though both smartphone mirroring systems require a cable to connect.
True to form, you get plenty of space in this two-row SUV, plus every trim comes standard with a power tailgate. There’s 41.2 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 77.7 cubes with the backrest stowed. There’s also a generous underfloor cubby near the temporary spare tire. But the packaging wizards at Honda delivered more than just a large cargo hold. This vehicle has a huge center console between the first-row seats, one with a nifty roll-top lid. The front door panels have two tiers of bins and passengers in the second row get a pair of cup holders in each door panel and an additional two in the fold-down center armrest. Handling messes, the TrailSport comes standard with all-season rubber floor mats.
The TrailSport is motivated by a 3.5-liter V6 that’s as familiar as an old friend from college. Smooth, mostly responsive and with an unmistakably snarly rumble when you give it the spurs, this engine cranks out an entirely competitive 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. No, it doesn’t deliver the same low-end kick you get in other SUVs with turbocharged engines, but this one provides plenty of thrust as it revs.
A ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic is the only transmission offered. Used in many vehicles from a range of automakers, this gearbox has an unfortunate reputation for being both a bit clunky and hesitant to downshift. Honda, however, has done an admirable job civilizing this transmission. I’m happy to say, in the Passport, it shifts seamlessly and has no trouble dropping gears when you roll on the accelerator.
The engine’s output gets routed to the pavement through a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system that’s standard equipment in TrailSport and Passport Elite models. On road, this setup works seamlessly, though it can automatically send up to 70% of available driveline torque to the rear axle, shuffling up to 100% of that to either the left or right wheel depending on conditions, something that’s helpful while venturing off the beaten path. As for towing, this Honda tops out at a class-competitive 5,000 pounds, though front-drive versions can only manage 3,500 pounds.
The Passport is pretty efficient for a modern SUV that tips the scales at around 4,300 pounds. This vehicle stickers at 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. Combined, it’s rated at 21, though in mixed testing I’m getting 25 mpg, an undeniably impressive real-world performance.
With a responsive drivetrain, clever all-wheel-drive system, plenty of ground clearance and reasonably knobby 245/60 Firestone Destination tires mounted to TrailSport-exclusive 18-inch alloy wheels, this SUV should be a lot more capable than you might think. Unfortunately, I’ve not had a chance to do any proper off-roading in this SUV (Emme Hall would not approve), but I have driven it extensively on rutted, bombed out dirt roads and the TrailSport laughs off even the nastiest potholes. The suspension absorbs gnarly impacts with near-luxury car finesse, transmitting little harshness to the cabin. Meaty tire sidewalls as well as a super-rigid structure help this vehicle behave well on pavement, too, providing an impressive ride that’s firm and well controlled but never harsh.
The TrailSport’s steering is weighty, but the ratio feels a bit dull. I’d prefer the wheel to be a little more eager, though this setup isn’t bad, plus the rim is wrapped in nice leather and the whole thing feels husky in your hands. Similarly, the Passport’s brakes are easy to modulate and the ventilated 12.6-inch front rotors and 13-inch solid rear discs provide plenty of stopping power.
Like other Hondas, the Passport comes with a whole bunch of driver aids. Among others, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, road-departure prevention and adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping assist are all standard. The automaker’s implementation of those last two features remains among the best in the business. When the cruise control is engaged, this SUV deftly manages its speed and tracks about as straight as a monorail.
The 2022 Honda Passport is offered in three trims: EX-L, TrailSport and Elite. Skip any extras and you can get a front-drive base model for about $39,095 including $1,225 in delivery fees, a totally reasonable price in today’s unstable world. As it sits, the Passport TrailSport you’ve been reading about here checks out for a still affordable $44,090, with lovely non-metallic Sonic Gray paint contributing just $395 to that total.
The Passport ain’t getting any younger, but Honda deserves credit for sprucing it up. Even though some elements could be improved (like that parking brake, seriously) this is still a solid two-row SUV with plenty of interior space, passenger comfort and a lovely drivetrain. If you want to venture off the beaten path — though not too far — the modestly enhanced TrailSport model is a more-than-worthy option.