2019 Honda Passport Overview

July 31 2019, Vancouver Honda

Delivering above and beyond mid-size five-passenger SUV expectations

Honda no doubt surprised some unsuspecting onlookers when unveiling its new 2019 Passport mid-size SUV this week in Los Angeles, mostly because it's award-winning crossover lineup, which already includes the subcompact HR-V, best-selling compact CR-V, and mid-size three-row Pilot, already covers a lot of ground. Just the same, the second-most popular SUV category consists of mid-size five-passenger models, and the all-new Passport fits squarely into this sought-after market segment.

Set to arrive at Vancouver Honda early next year, the 2019 Passport will target two types of SUV buyers, those who simply want more passenger and cargo space than a CR-V can provide, without the added length of a three-row utility, and more adventurous owners who'd like to take their new SUV off the beaten track.

If you've been watching Honda's automotive news stream lately you've probably seen greater focus than usual put on off-road performance, with last month's Ridgeline-based Rugged Open Air Vehicle Concept now seeming like a precursor to a couple of similarly styled all-terrain vehicles, the Talon 1000X and Talon 1000R (see the new Talon strapped to the back of a trailer in a photo on this page), introduced alongside the new Passport on Tuesday, November 27. Those not familiar with Honda's motorcycle and ATV divisions might find all of the above a surprise, but the idea of Honda going off-road will be nothing new to fans of the brand who were weaned on CRs, XLs and XRs, ATCs, TRXs and Four-Trax's, and most specifically FLs, otherwise known as Honda Odysseys, which were little single-seat four-wheel off-roaders around well before anyone ever heard of a minivan, and are closest in concept to the two new Talon ATVs.

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New Passport is Most Capable Honda SUV Off-Road and Best for Towing Too

Tapping into Honda's off-road heritage makes a great deal of sense for the brand's SUV lineup as well as its sole Ridgeline pickup truck, as the new off-road capable Passport makes a good fit for anything camping related. It'll be ideal for trailering all of the recreation vehicles and handy tools noted above, not to mention boats powered by Honda Marine outboard engines and AquaTrax personal watercraft, thanks to an optional tow package rated at 1,588 kilograms (3,500 lbs) for front-wheel drive models and 2,268 kilos (5,000 lbs) with all-wheel drive. What's more, the "overhead" option found in the new Passport's standard multi-view rearview camera makes connecting hitch and trailer easier than ever before.

Off-road enthusiasts who might have considered a Ridgeline, but never a Pilot or CR-V, will find the new Passport a serious alternative to other medium-duty 4x4 capable SUVs thanks to Honda's upgraded i-VTM4 all-wheel drive system, which uses active torque vectoring to send up to 70 percent of engine torque to the rear axle and 100 percent to either the left or right rear wheels. Honda promises handling excellence no matter the conditions, citing "rain-slicked or snowy roads or sandy trails," whereas on pavement it also responds better by overdriving the outside rear wheels amid turns.

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Sophisticated Electronics Help on the Road and Trail

Honda's Intelligent Traction Management (ITM) adds another element to the Passport's off-road prowess, thanks to four driving modes that work in tandem with the optional i-VTM4 all-wheel drive, including normal, snow, mud and sand selections. ITM is actually standard with both FWD and AWD models, although the drive modes for the former only include normal and snow settings. Also notable, the new Passport adds 13 mm of ground clearance over its Pilot sibling in FWD guise, and 28 mm with AWD, allowing greater ability to overcome obstacles like rocks and roots found on the trail.

So how does the Passport AWD do in off-road conditions? As you can see by the photos provided with its launch material, it certainly looks more capable than any previous Honda SUV, at least anything designed and produced since the original 1993-2002 Passport, which is likely the reason Honda chose to pull his name forward from its past. Back to the here and now, Honda thoroughly tested the new Passport in "the world's harshest environments" like "the sands of Dubai, muddy country roads of Russia, and snowbound trails in Minnesota," and claims that it's "more capable off road than many unibody SUVs." So therefore, when up against a similarly equipped unibody crossover SUV, the Passport's combination of i-VTM4 and ITM allow AWD-equipped models to hold their own.

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Class-Leading Performance Comes Standard

Of course, we all know most Passport owners will spend a great deal more time on pavement than trekking into the wild unknown, and therefore will be more likely to experience slippery road conditions on rain, snow and ice covered roads. As noted earlier Honda has this covered too, while also providing the most powerful base engine in its class. The Passport gets the same well-proven i-VTEC valvetrain-enhanced 3.5-litre V6 found in the larger Pilot and Ridgeline pickup truck, not to mention the Odyssey minivan. In this application it makes an identical 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque for what should be spirited performance.

Of course, Honda makes no official fuel consumption claims yet, but we can assume the new model will do better than the base Pilot's 13.0 L/100km city, 9.3 highway and 11.3 rating due to weighing considerably less and featuring a standard nine-speed automatic transmission with pushbutton gear selection, instead of the more traditional lever operated six-speed unit offered in lower trims of the larger SUV. Higher Pilot trims feature the same nine-speed, and its fuel economy reflects this with a thriftier rating of 12.4 city, 9.3 highway and 11.0 combined, so the new Passport should be able to improve on the latter numbers, while providing smoother and more refined performance than four-cylinder powered competitors.

Fully independent suspension designed to optimize ride and handling
The new Passport rides on the same fully independent chassis as the Pilot, the Honda Global Light Truck platform consisting of a rigid unibody structure with a fully boxed floor held up by a MacPherson strut front and independent multi-link rear suspension setup, and featuring electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering directing standard 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 245/50 all-season tires in base Sport and EX-L trims or 265/45 tires in Touring and Elite trims.

Of note, the new Passport was introduced in U.S. specification due to its Los Angeles launch location, and therefore Canadian-spec trims and features won't likely be identical. The information provided shows the four trims just mentioned, clarifying them as the "well-appointed Sport, upgraded EX-L, high-tech Touring, and the fully equipped Elite," but for comparison purposes our Canadian-spec Pilot isn't offered in Elite trim, but instead includes all of that model's features in the top-line Touring.

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Standard Passport Features to Include Bevy of Advanced Safety Technologies

Along with the 20-inch alloy wheels noted earlier, which is the standard diameter across the entire Passport line, we can safely assume that Canadian-spec models will also get the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistive and safety systems as standard equipment, that includes Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) including Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assistance System (LKAS) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). These advanced electronics are joined by Honda's usual assortment of active and passive safety features and the brand's proprietary Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, resulting in a mid-size SUV designed to exceed current crash test standards.

Additional standard features available south of the 49th that should be included in our Passport include LED headlights, LED DRLs, LED fog lamps, and LED taillights, proximity-sensing keyless Smart Entry and Smart Start, a 7.0-inch digital colour TFT primary instrument cluster, a configurable multi-information display featuring audio, trip and phone info (plus turn-by-turn route guidance on models with navigation), tri-zone automatic climate control, a 5.0-inch infotainment display, the aforementioned Multi-Angle Rearview Camera with dynamic guidelines, six-speaker 215-watt audio with a subwoofer, and much more.

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Full Slate of Options to Help Passport Owners Personalize Their SUVs

In the U.S., Honda includes Blind Spot Information in EX-L, Touring and Elite trims, and adds Rear Cross-Traffic Detection plus front and rear parking sensors to the Touring and Elite, while additional upgrades (depending on trim) include power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, a larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and smartphone/tablet-style tap, swipe and pinch gesture capability, satellite-linked navigation, 4G LTE in-vehicle Wi-Fi that can support up to seven devices, wireless phone charging, 590-watt 10-speaker premium audio, various HondaLink cloud-based services such as remote unlocking, concierge services, and stolen vehicle tracking, a powered moonroof, second-row sunshades, a power tailgate with available hands-free operation, plus more.

Plenty of Honda Genuine Accessories will also be available for the new Passport, many of which were shown off in the photos provided for this overview. Included are various sizes of roof storage boxes, a roof basket, plus roof-mounted bike, kayak and ski/snowboard racks, while Passport owners can also protect the cargo area with hard plastic floor, side, and seatback covers. Additionally, the storage area under the load floor can be sectioned off with individual, removable, washable bins.

Honda will also be offering a number of cosmetic upgrades including a coloured graphics package, undercarriage welcome lights, and illuminated doorsills, while two accessory packages will be available as well, including The Adventure Package that adds fender flares, running boards, a trailer hitch, and more, plus The Urban Package featuring unique 20-inch alloy wheels, front and rear underbody spoilers, roof rails with crossbars, and the just noted cargo storage bins. Again, we'll need to wait until Honda Canada reveals our Canadian-spec Passport before confirming everything on this list, but we can be certain that some, if not all of these items will be available here.

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Passport Provides More Interior Room Than CR-V and all Mid-Size Rivals

As noted earlier, a key reason for stepping up into a mid-size five-occupant SUV over a compact one like the CR-V is increased interior volume, so along with more passenger volume front to back the new Passport provides 368 litres of additional passenger volume over its smaller sibling, its 3,282 litres ahead of the rear seatbacks resulting in segment-leading status, while the Passport's 4,448 litres of overall interior volume is also best-in-class.

The Passport continues to lead the class when it comes to cargo hauling too, with 1,166 litres of luggage space behind the rear seats and 2,206 litres with the rear row lowered, which is also 56 litres more cargo space than the CR-V offers in the very back, and 60 litres more overall. Like with the CR-V, the Passport's 60/40-split rear seatbacks fold automatically via releases in the cargo area, but the larger SUV uses electric buttons instead of levers, while the Passport also provides a reversible cargo floor that swaps out the carpeting for an easily maintained hard plastic surface.

Another segment-leading bonus is underfloor storage, which measures 71 litres on its own and can be accessorized as noted earlier.

Stowage in mind, all Passport trims feature a large centre console bin between front occupants, while its roll top cover doubles as a handy tray when closed. There's more centre console storage ahead of the gear selector, while the door panels provide even more places to put things.

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Passport to Deliver Premium Levels of Quality and a Lot of High-Riding Style

Honda promises "high-quality interior appointments" including "generous use of soft-touch surfaces on the dash and doors," plus "attractive and durable" fabric upholstery in the base Sport model and optional perforated leather with EX-L, Touring and Elite trims.

After all is said and done, no one should discount the role styling plays in automotive decision-making, and fortunately the Passport benefits from the new 2019 Pilot's design influence. The latter is better looking than previous generations and the new Passport is arguably more so, thanks to a taller more 4x4-capable looking stance and sporty matte black used for the grille, headlights, bumpers, and wheels, plus glossy black trim in key areas, sharp looking LED headlight accents, unique floating C-pillars, and sporty chrome dual exhaust outlets. Each trim will get exclusive alloy wheel designs too.

All in all it certainly looks like Honda has a clear winner on its hands, particularly because it targets the more popular five-passenger mid-size SUV market segment with an attractive, roomy, well equipped entry sporting above-average performance and no shortage of high-tech features. Its rugged styling and off-road capability make sure the Passport targets a different kind of customer than the smaller CR-V.

To learn more about the 2019 Passport, contact Vancouver Honda by phone at (855) 971-0607 or drop by our showroom at 850 Southwest Marine Drive, Vancouver. We'd love to tell you all about it.