2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite essentials: The best tall Honda

What is it: The Honda Passport is back for 2019 after a 13-year absence. It slots in below the Pilot and above the CR-V in space — but in capability, it probably trumps them all. It comes standard with 20-inch wheels, a black grille and a ride height of 7.2 inches in RWD models. AWD Passports get almost another inch, sitting at 8.1 inches. It also has impressive approach and departure angles of 21.4 degrees and 27.7 degrees, respectively.

Key Competitors: Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento

Base Price: $44,725 As-Tested Price: $44,725

Full review: 2019 Honda Passport first drive

Highlights: All Passports get the Honda Sensing suite of safety features standard, including emergency braking, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and traffic sign recognition. There are four Passport trims: Sport starts at about $32K, EX-L is about $37K, Touring is $40K and this Elite starts at $44K.

Our Opinion: The Passport is the only Honda SUV/crossover I would buy with my own money. I think it’s the only one with any soul, though that only extends to the looks, not to the powertrain. But with black wheels and black trim, our Passport Elite looked pretty cool. My father-in-law didn’t like the black plastic grille, and, to be fair, it does look a little cheap. But overall I think the vehicle looks fairly rugged, and the ground clearance belies its ability to take on semi-difficult trails. It won’t go full Jeep, but it’ll get you past the trailhead. 

The Passport’s only powertrain is a 3.5-liter V6; it’s just enough for this 4,200-pounder, delivering 280 hp, but it does so noisily. There’s not a lot of wind or road noise either so the engine note is very pronounced, for a modern vehicle. There’s a big central touchscreen, and since this is one of the newest Hondas, we’re back to a proper knob for volume, as opposed to the hard button slider the company tried to use. The heating controls are below the screen with a separate setting for the rear passengers, including an on/off switch on our Passport Elite. When it’s 90-plus-degrees, it’s nice to have 100 percent of the air blowing in front.

I like the adjustable armrests, especially for your right arm, which is rare. I forget how comfortable they are. It’s like a minivan in there. The Passport’s center console is huge, and I used it a ton over the long weekend for kid stuff like toys, snacks and cups. I did leave it a little dirty — sorry, Honda.

Since I was toting the kids to Fourth of July festivities, I packed them in the child seats in the Passport’s second row, which slides fore and aft, and stuffed the huge cargo area with strollers, clothes, bathing suits, life jackets and a couple hundred other items, all of which fit without falling out as soon as I opened the hatch.

The powertrain is the least soulful thing about this Honda. It’s not very fast, and as I mentioned it’s loud and the shifts, especially going down, are weird. In S mode especially, but also in D sometimes, when slowing to a stop there’s that normal engine braking feeling that you get. The nose dives a little, you can hear the engine change as it swaps cogs. But in the Passport there’s a more-than-average bit of engine braking, then as it swaps to a lower gear, it frees up and almost feels like it goes faster for a second, before grabbing the lower gear. It doesn’t actually go faster, but that feeling of seeing the car in front of you approach more quickly as you’re hovering on the brakes is a weird one. Otherwise the brake feel is fine, and in D mode I felt it less wonky. And normal shifts on the gas at speed are fine.

The Passport has a lot of competition including the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Subaru Outback and its ravenous fans, the three-row Honda Pilot, the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Ford Edge. If you need a third row, obviously the Passport is out, but if you don’t it’s a strong contender for most style in the competitive set. It’s a couple grand more expensive than the Outback, which is the segment leader for a reason, and that’s probably the one I would buy. But, gun to my head, “buy a tall Honda,” this is it.

–Jake Lingeman, road test editor

Base Price: $44,725

As-Tested Price: $44,725

Drivetrain: 3.5-liter V6, nine-speed automatic, AWD

Output: 280 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm

Curb Weight: 4,237 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 19/24/21 mpg

Pros: Good looks, tons of cargo space, decent off-road ability

Cons: Some cheap plasticky bits inside and out, strange braking feel

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