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2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite: Automobile All-Stars Contender

A solid and endearing workhorse takes aim at the big dogs.

Rory JurneckaWriterWilliam WalkerPhotographer

After a decade-plus hiatus, Honda has brought back its Passport moniker for this new two-row SUV that you can essentially think of as a junior Honda Pilot. With two rows instead of three but the same wheelbase and 280-hp 3.5-liter V-6 engine as its larger sibling, the Passport is, dare we say it, a "sportier" vehicle than the Pilot, while still offering plenty of day-to-day utility.

With a starting price of just over $33,000, lesser-optioned, front-wheel-drive variants of the Passport can be had relatively affordably. Our Passport, however, was the top-trim AWD Elite variant, with a sticker price of $44,775. For that premium, it came lavishly equipped with navigation, heated seats all around, a host of safety tech, and plenty of other bells and whistles. Our Passport also featured Honda's i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system, which can distribute up to 70 percent of the Passport's 262 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels when the need arises. A variable drive mode controller toggles through four settings which give more capability in limited-traction conditions, such as snow-covered streets or sandy, rock-strewn trails. Like the Subaru Outback, the Passport finds itself between a rock and a soft place, in that middle ground between true off-roader and pretender.

As it was, our resident race car driver, Andy Pilgrim, found plenty to like about the Passport, even though it's about as far from a race car as can be. "Lots of room, solid V-6 power, quite impressive," Pilgrim beamed. "I found it handled reasonably, with a connected Honda steering feel; happily, not floaty. I even like the look of it, especially with the black trim and wheels, which gives a sporty, more aggressive impression."

Still, some editors thought the two-row Passport wasn't strong enough when it came to interior amenities. Social media editor Billy Rehbock griped, "I've spent considerable time with the Passport, but it just doesn't have the interior it needs when the Telluride is out there. Honda's infotainment is a bit lackluster as well, even in the most recent update."

It's true that the Passport can seem a tough proposition in a field of All-Stars contenders that includes Ferraris, Lamborghinis and a mid-engine Corvette. Detroit editor, Todd Lassa found the Passport a "poster child for the sort of boring SUV that defines and delineates what we consider No Boring Cars. Perfectly fine in carrying out its duties, with the smoothness, solid feel and likely quality and reliability I'd expect of any Honda, but with nothing terribly memorable about it until the point I might use one to haul stuff."

Which is pretty much how most of our staff felt about the Passport. Surely, anyone who puts one in their driveway will find it to be a solid and endearing workhorse for the daily commute and weekend road trips, but it didn't have that X-factor that really made us pine for more time behind the wheel.

"As much as the Passport disappears in this field of All-Stars candidates, it also seems instantly endearing, like a well-worn pair of jeans or a weathered pair of gardening gloves," contributor Basem Wasef offered. "Unfortunately for its sake, the Honda didn't have the panache to earn ultimate All-Stars status."

2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite Specifications
PRICE $44,775 (base) (as tested)
ENGINE 3.5L DOHC 24-valve V-6/280 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 19/24 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 190.5 x 78.6 x 72.2 in
WHEELBASE 110.9 in
WEIGHT 4,237 lb
0-60 MPH 7.0 sec (est)
TOP SPEED N/A

 

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