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We Enlist a 2019 Honda Passport into Our Long-Term Fleet

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 10/25/2019 Drew Dorian
a car parked on the side of a road: Already a comparison-test winner, this solid, mid-size, two-row SUV has more than 35,000 miles of adventures ahead of it in our care.© Austin Irwin - Car and Driver Already a comparison-test winner, this solid, mid-size, two-row SUV has more than 35,000 miles of adventures ahead of it in our care.

Introduction

When Honda revived the Passport nameplate for the 2019 model year, our nostalgia for the Isuzu Rodeo–based body-on-frame that enjoyed sales success in the 1990s was palpable. While we were hoping for a Honda-badged competitor to the Toyota 4Runner and Jeep Wrangler, what we instead received is a shortened, two-row version of Honda's larger Pilot three-row crossover. We previously had a 2016 Pilot in our long-term fleet, but we thought it best to sample the smaller, livelier Passport as well, particularly after it won a two-row mid-size SUV comparison test.

The new Passport is probably every bit as capable off-road as the original version, even if all-wheel drive is optional nowadays. The new model's maximum ground clearance of 8.1 inches is only 0.1 inches lower than the 2002 Passport, the final model year of the last generation. While it isn't as boxy in profile as that old-school Honda, it's been styled to look more adventurous than the Pilot, and its short front and rear overhangs give it more clearance for light trail duty.

a car parked on the side of a dirt road: 2019 Honda Passport© Austin Irwin - Car and Driver 2019 Honda Passport

We opted for a mid-range EX-L model with all-wheel drive in Black Forest Pearl—a dark metallic green that looks black except in direct sunlight—with darkened 20-inch aluminum wheels. Although the EX-L model is just one step up from the base Sport trim, it adds leather upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, a sunroof, heated front seats with power adjustments for the driver, a power liftgate, SiriusXM satellite radio, rear-seat sunshades, heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals, keyless entry, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The final tally: $39,355.

The long-term Passport snaps off a decent 6.1-second run to 60 mph and makes it through the quarter-mile traps in 14.7 seconds at 95 mph. We've coaxed slightly quicker times from other Passports, including the one in the comparison test, which hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. Braking from 70 mph required a lengthy 189 feet, and the Passport circled the skidpad at a modest, stability-control-inhibited 0.80 g. Back-road, high-g shenanigans aren't really the Passport's thing.

a car driving on a road: 2019 Honda Passport© Austin Irwin - Car and Driver 2019 Honda Passport

Yet this Honda has earned praise from drivers for its stable and comfortable feeling on the road. "It turns out that a shortened Pilot makes for an excellent two-row, mid-size SUV. Solid dynamics among its peers, good body control, and natural steering heft," director of vehicle testing Dave VanderWerp wrote in the Passport's logbook. "This nine-speed has come a long way since it landed in the current-gen Pilot and is now a competent and mostly invisible automatic."

The Honda also has proved handy as a utilitarian, with ample storage cubbies throughout its cabin and a large enough cargo area to haul photo equipment and camping supplies for staff editor Austin Irwin and his girlfriend to enjoy a long weekend in Michigan's Upper Peninsula with their dog. "The center-console bin is so large, I stowed a coat in there," added VanderWerp. "Also handy is the milk-gallon-shaped bin in the cargo area."

a car parked on the side of the road: 2019 Honda Passport© Austin Irwin - Car and Driver 2019 Honda Passport

So far, gripes are limited to an ongoing frustration with Honda's oversensitive forward-collision alert system that's part of the Passport's standard Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistance features. "The brake warning appeared in the cluster several times while cornering on a few country roads due to oncoming traffic," wrote Irwin. Deputy Buyer's Guide editor Kirk Seaman also reported that the Passport jammed on its brakes when it incorrectly sensed an impending collision on one of Ann Arbor's suburban byways.

Fuel economy has been decent so far, at an average of 22 mpg, or 1 mpg higher than the all-wheel-drive Passport's EPA combined rating. We're interested to see if we can improve that average even further with a few long-haul road trips that are planned with the Honda this fall; an all-wheel-drive Passport Elite previously managed an impressive 27 mpg on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test, besting its EPA highway estimate by 3 mpg. With those road trips scheduled, we'll surely be checking back in on the Passport soon, as the miles quickly rack up.

Months in Fleet: 1 month Current Mileage: 3266 miles

Average Fuel Economy: 22 mpg

Fuel Tank Size: 19.5 gal Observed Fuel Range: 420 miles

Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0

Damage and Destruction: $0

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