The car market these days is trending toward excess. It feels as though every single vehicle has to have everything and be able to do anything. I, for one, Do not believe this is necessary. In fact, I believe that this hurts the car market in many ways. For one, It makes otherwise affordable cars and trucks much more expensive. For two, this trend has turned otherwise plain and simple sportscars fancier and less driver-focused. I’m pleased to say Honda did not do that with the 2021 Honda Passport.
I just spent a week driving the 2021 Honda Passport AWD Elite all around LA. I threw it around the gawk-worthy corners of Mulholland Drive, slowly rolled down the beach roads of Venice, cruised the Pacific Coast Highway heading North the hills of Malibu, and even sat in some traffic. Never once was I blown away, amazed, excited, or energized by the driving experience of the Honda Passport. However, that isn’t to say that I didn’t like it.
The 2021 Honda Passport is just an SUV
Again, this is not a dig. Honda showed great restraint with the 2021 Passport. While so many companies are trying to push cars and trucks that are unnecessarily loaded with features, too much horsepower, and all-around, over-the-top designs that promise way too much. Not every SUV needs to be an off-road monster. Not every car needs a zillion hp. The 2021 Honda Passport keeps it real by giving the assumed Passport Driver what they need, not unnecessary theoretical wants.
The Passport’s power and transmission
MotorTrend reports that the AWD Elite and every 2021 Honda Passport leaves the factory with a 3.5-liter V6 making 280 hp. Along with the V6, every 2021 Passport has a nine-speed automatic transmission. The shifts are quick, smooth, and accurate. Throughout the hills and valleys of LA, the transmission makes decisive and crisp gear changes.
The V6 has a touch of pull in the low gears but is in no way a powerful vehicle. Although the 2021 Passport has 280 hp, it also has a bit of junk in the trunk. The fully-loaded AWD tester weighs in at 4237 lbs. The base-model two-wheel-drive version clocks in at a slightly leaner 3955 lbs. This weight makes for a bit of a sluggier SUV than the numbers might make it seem.
In ECON mode, the mid-range power is cut, making any around-town driving pokey and cumbersome. The ECON button is really only meant for cruise-control highway driving to save a little on fuel costs.
The 2021 Honda Passport Interior
The interior is where the Passport really shined for me. Each seat is roomy, comfortable, and supportive. The temperature in LA in the late fall will go from 55 degrees to 75 degrees back to 55 in a day. I made regular use of both the heated and cooled seats everyday.
Due to the COVID times, we spent our time in LA, just driving around the city. My wife and I covered about 300 miles in a week. I am 6’5 and don’t fit well in many “roomy” vehicles, but after spending many hours every day in the Passport, I never once felt cramped or uncomfortable. As I said previously, the Passport isn’t an exciting SUV. It is the opposite of that; it is a practical function over form SUV for someone who wants a comfortable and reliable vehicle to fit people and things in. The interior makes that point known in spades.
The driving experience of the 2021 Honda Passport
I’ll continue to make the point that mechanically the Honda Passport isn’t anything that will ake you up in the morning. That is not what it’s for. The Passport is a kid carrying luggage hauler that has never even heard of an apex. Again, that’s ok. Why would anyone need to roast all four tires on the way to a kid’s baseball game? That being said, the driving experience is, what I believe, fine for the model, although not great for anyone who loves driving.
LA is surrounded by sharp mountain corners and long, fast coastal roads. Driving these stretches of tarmac will quickly expose any weakness in chassis, steering, and braking. Again, I don’t believe the Passport needs to be a stiff-suspension corner hawk, but the steering is pretty vague. Whether sharp or otherwise, any corner requires the driver to work the steering wheel far more than you might think necessary. The electronic power steering so light that the play in the wheel is almost like that of classic non-power steering vehicles at speed.
There are some surprising driving modes
The 2021 Honda Passport isn’t an off-roader. This part goes against what I like about the Passport. It has driving modes for snow, mud, and sand. This is cool an all, but this feels like a feature that most Passport drivers will never even think to use. I did run the Passport through a little bit of sand in this mode and it worked fine. I just don’t think this is a necessity for this SUV.
The brakes felt fine most of the time, but coming down stepper hills and more aggressive braking felt a little – mushy. To be clear, I didn’t feel unsafe or anything like that, but the immediacy you might expect from new brakes wasn’t quite there.
The Honda Passport is exactly what it should be
In a field of overpowered, increasingly luxurious vehicles, the Honda Passport feels like a breath of fresh air. Yes, the fully-loaded Elite has piles of features and sensors and costs a hefty $45,000; the model is not over the top. The 2021 Honda Passport is a nice SUV that prioritizes comfort and practicality over performance.