The all-new 2019 Honda Passport is an impressive midsize crossover SUV — and perhaps the best example today of how much such vehicles have changed over the past two decades.
If the Passport name sounds familiar, you're right. Honda first sold a rebadged version of the Isuzu Rodeo in the 1990s. Back then, both were relatively small truck-based SUVs, with the Rodeo noted for offering a two-door convertible version.
Fast forward to 2019 and the reborn Passport is a completely modern crossover based on the larger Pilot but with a higher ride height, making it better suited for light off-road driving when equipped with Honda's optional all-wheel-drive system, dubbed i-VTM4 (Intelligent Variable Torque Management).
Unlike the three-row Pilot, the Passport only offers two rows of seats. Although the Passport is about five inches shorter than the Pilot, that still leaves a lot of cargo space behind the second row of seats. The proportions make it look beefier than the Pilot, too.
Like the Pilot, the Passport is powered by Honda's workhorse 3.5-liter V6, with this version pumping out a healthy 280 horsepower through a nine-speed automatic transmission that results in impressive acceleration, both off the line and when merging with freeway traffic. The steering is light, making it feel almost nimble in around-town driving.
The 2019 Passport is being promoted as Honda's most off-road capable SUV since, well, since the last Passport. The AWD version has a respectable 8 inches of ground clearance and four drive modes that adjust such things as whell spin for different conditions — Normal, Sand, Snow, and Mud. It also has the firmest suspension of any current Honda, and some might find it a little unsettling on poorly maintained streets.
The new Passport is one of a number of affordable but upscale midsize crossovers to hit the market in recent years, including the redesigned Nissan Murano and the all-new Chevy Blazer. Designed to carry small families in comfort, the Passport can be outfitted to luxury standards.
Like all Hondas, the Passport comes in multiple trim levels, each with more standard equipment and a higher price. The base FWD Sport version starts at $31,999 (about $500 more than a base Pilot). Our top-of-the-line AWD Elite version had every conceivable infotainment, luxury and safety feature we could possibly want. It also came with shiny black 20-inch alloy wheels that helped give it a serious look.
With a total vehicle price of just $44,725, that is a bargain these days, considering everything it came with.
Although not consider a "real" Honda, the previous Passport filled a valuable niche for the company by providing its most off-road capable SUV at the time. The 2019 Passport fills that niche again, and improves on it in every respect.
2019 Honda Passport Elite
Base price: $31,990
Price as tested: $$44,725
Style: Midsize crossover SUV
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (280 hp, 147 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Drive settings: Normal, Sand, Snow, and Mud
EPA fuel economy: 20/25
Length: 191 inches
Weight: 3,959 to 4,237 pounds
Final assembly point: Lincoln, Alabama