The 2021 Honda Passport Feels Weirdly Like a Vintage Car in 1 Way

Modern cars are defined by a handful of innovations that came with time and a better understanding of how best to build vehicles. Back in the ‘50s and well into the ‘60s, things like power brakes, power windows, and power steering were not common in cars and trucks. It’s not until the late ‘70s that power steering goes from more than just an available option to common and even standard. This is why you still find massive steering wheels on many cars throughout this period. Although now power steering is beyond the standard, in the case of the 2021 Honda Passport, the steering is so light that it strangely reminded me of my 1958 Ford Fairlane

The Honda Passport has finger-light steering that feels quite old

The 2021 Honda Passport is loaded with sensors and tech from the rooter to the tooter. During the week I spent testing the Passport (mine was the AWD Elite), I played with more bells and whistles than I could count. This is a modern car that, very much, felt modern – well, mostly. 

Follow me here. If you’ve ever driven an old manual steering sled from the late ‘50s or ‘60s, then you know about a steering wheel having “play.” If you are at low speeds or standing still, these cars can be quite tough to maneuver, but the steering is easy and surprisingly light at higher speeds. Typically, with that lightness comes a sort of dead zone where you can move the wheel back and forth without the car changing directions whatsoever. This dead zone is called “play.” 

Driving the Honda Passport around the canyons and cliffs of LA

LA is truly a great place to test cars. I doubt anyone needed that affirmation of the uber-famous car city, but it’s true. You get to spend plenty of time in the car without driving it (traffic), and once you get outside of town, you get the chassis and handling gauntlet of the mountains and valleys. After my 10 millionth hand-over-hand corner up Mullholland drive, I noticed that the steering wheel required a bit of wrasslin’ before the Passport would accept my suggestions to take a corner. 

2021 Honda Passport Elite AWD | Peter Corn
2021 Honda Passport Elite AWD | Peter Corn

Why Isn’t the 2021 Honda Passport Making any Major Changes?

I’m not a mechanic. I’m not the guy who can explain in great technical detail as to why the steering would be light and a little vague on the 2021 Honda Passport, but I can tell you it’s happening. Like my old Fairlane, there was a certain degree to which I had to load the steering wheel before it would do what I asked. After a few days, I got used to it and could throw the Passport around a corner with ease and decent efficiency. 

With all due respect (and I truly mean that), Car and Driver says that they found the steering “pleasingly direct, making the Passport feel nimble.” I usually tend to agree with C&D’s assessment, but in this case, I don’t know what they drove, but it wasn’t the Passport I had. It could be an increased sensitivity for the nostalgic feel of that style of steering, but either way, the otherwise modern and cushy 2021 Honda Passport felt less than tight and crisp. 

The Passport is still a keeper

All that to be said, the overall comfort and day-to-day practicality of the Passport is undeniable. This SUV knows exactly what it is, and that is refreshing. It’s not trying to win the hot-shot Camero driver or someone self-conscious about buying a kid-friendly soccer-coach ride. Nope. The Honda Passport says proudly, “I know what I am, and I’m proud. You won’t be going fast or impressing the neighbors with me, but you will be comfortable, and I’ll take good care of you and the fam.” (Everyone knows Honda Passports are mad casual in the way they speak)