Is the 2024 Honda Passport’s Off-Road Branding Just for Show?
Honda makes reliable vehicles for everyday drivers. From the economical Civic sedan to the versatile CR-V SUV, the company’s designs provide solid performance at a fair price. But until recently, the automaker hadn’t done much off-roading.
Enter the Honda Passport. Reintroduced for the 2019 model year, the SUV brings off-road looks and attributes, adding a touch of rugged performance to Honda’s lineup.
The old Honda Passport
In the early 1990s, the SUV market took off. However, with sport utility vehicles flying off the lots, Honda didn’t have anything to offer. So, it partnered with Isuzu and rebadged the company’s Rodeo as the Passport. That lasted a while before Honda introduced its own design.
Autotrader provides a detailed history of the original Passport. With the Chevy Blazer, Jeep Cherokee, and Ford Explorer proving popular picks, Honda needed a quick answer. So, instead of a prolonged development process, the company turned to Isuzu.
At the time, the Isuzu Rodeo was a hot-selling SUV. With body-on-frame construction, solid off-road chops, and an available V6, the Japanese sport utility vehicle was a complete package. So in the fall of 1993, Honda rebadged the Rodeo as the 1994 Passport. Except for Honda badges and different wheels, it was nearly identical to its counterpart.
That continued through the 90s, with a second generation appearing in 1998. Production ended in 2002. For many years, the nameplate disappeared.
However, for the 2019 model year, Honda unveiled an all-new Passport, designed and engineered in-house. Positioned as a more sporty, off-road-worthy option compared to the Pilot and CR-V, the new SUV brought an adventurous attitude.
For 2022, Honda updated the Passport with aggressive styling and even more off-road personality. A truck-like mesh grille and boxy sheet metal highlighted the changes. Also included was a new, off-road-focused trim, the TrailSport.
Is the new Honda Passport truly an off-road vehicle?
The new Honda Passport may look the part. Still, is it really an off-road vehicle? Yes and no. Sure, it can handle some rough stuff. However, it lags behind body-on-frame SUVs.
There’s a lot to like about the Passport. It has abundant cargo space for storing gear. With 8.1 inches of ground clearance, it can handle rocky roads and snowy mornings. Additionally, Honda’s venerable 3.5-liter V6 provides a robust 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque.
Standard iVTM-4 AWD provides tenacious traction in challenging conditions. And Intelligent Traction Management has modes for Mud, Snow, and Sand. Edmunds has the rest of the specs.
On the other hand, the Passport isn’t perfect. With a starting price of $43,275, the Honda isn’t cheap. There’s also no option for third-row seating — an essential feature for some SUV buyers. The transmission can feel sluggish around town as well. And with abundant wind noise, the cabin isn’t ideal on highway trips.
Additionally, although the Honda is a strong ride, it doesn’t have the brawn of other off-road SUVs. Unibody construction and independent suspension give the Passport pleasant handling and smooth performance. However, that isn’t the same as a body-on-frame design with live-axle suspension, like the Jeep Wrangler.
If you want to go off-road in the Passport, choose the TrailSport trim
For those who want maximum capability, the Honda Passport TrailSport ($45,875) is the way to go. With an array of upgrades inside and out, the off-road-focused model is ready for adventure.
Outside, the TrailSport features unique badges, revised bumpers, and a special grille. That creates a strong yet modern look.
However, the revised suspension and off-road tires highlight the package. Car and Driver has the details, with Honda revising the spring rates and dampers and tuning the anti-roll bars for improved articulation and ride quality. Beefy General Grabber ATX tires fill out the wheel wells, and a 0.04-inch wider track and new 18-inch wheels round out the package.
For the ultimate in looks and capability, Honda Performance Development (HPD) offers a range of packages and accessories. In particular, the HPD+ package adds black fender flares and a unique grille. Lastly, for the ultimate curb appeal, Trailsport buyers can opt for Diffused Sky Blue paint.
The Honda Passport offers a balance of comfort and capability. With unibody construction and independent suspension, it has superb on-road dynamics. A potent V6 and i-VTM4 AWD provide strong acceleration and tenacious traction. For adventurous drivers, the TrailSport trim brings useful add-ons all around. However, while the Passport is plenty rugged, we wouldn’t take it on the Rubicon trail.