Some trendy and catchy styling tweaks define this spiced up SUV
What is it?
Take Honda's Passport SUV and spruce up the looks to make a mundane machine somewhat, er, less mundane. With TrailSport specific bumpers, a black grille, lots of badges, some orange interior accents, and that's mostly it, this everyday Honda carries a dosage of testosterone. Don't think for one moment, however, that this Honda is suddenly a Jeep Wrangler, but this is easily the most attractive Passport Honda has built yet. With no suspension changes and modest tires, this won't set the trails ablaze in fury, but will at least look better doing it.
Despite not having a third-row of seats like the Honda Pilot, this is a big car. Space is cavernous inside in the first and second rows and the cargo area can swallow a month's supply of Costco bulk. With a length of 189 inches, it feels and looks larger than it actually is, taking complete advantage of cabin volume. The interior isn't special per se, and does little to persuade you of any luxury, but it is well made and screwed together as is typical of Honda build quality. The looks are certainly improved, being less anonymous, and I'm a big fan of this particular shade of gray.
Like most other Hondas, the Passport is great to drive, with weighted steering coupled to a responsive chassis underneath. I appreciate the slower steering rack as it makes for finer adjustments through the wheel and avoids being pointlessly darty and nervous on the freeway. When you do add some input and turn the wheel harder, the weight builds up naturally and there's even some feedback at hand. On an overnight trip to Monterey and back (about 400 miles total), the Passport was easy to control on the open road and exhibited a nice and comfortable yet controlled ride quality. It's quiet, too, and with good seats; I love Honda's built-in folding arm rests for the driver which makes journeys like these that much more comfortable being able to rest your arm.
The V6 engine, the familiar 3.5L unit, is as smooth as always and has a great response to throttle inputs that smaller turbocharged engines can't match. The nine-speed automatic isn't as good as their new 10-speed unit in other cars, but it does its part well enough. You do have to be aggressive with your right foot to get the most out of it and wind up the engine, but when you do, 0-60 MPH can happen in a brisk 6 seconds flat courtesy of its 280 horsepower. This Passport can tow a fairly substantial 5,000 pounds, too.
So, the Honda looks good, it's well made, has a smooth and powerful engine, and has great space inside.
What doesn't it do?
As fuel prices soared these past few months, it's difficult to look past the abysmal fuel mileage of the Passport TrailSport. I barely averaged 19 MPG overall and I only saw 24 MPG after a couple hundred miles of highway cruising (never exceeding 75 even), which is even less than I got in a Honda Pilot a couple years ago. Toyota's Highlander can do 28-30 on the highway in my experience with their own V6 engine, so it's disappointing Honda is behind on that front. However, a 4Runner gets even worse if you're cross-shopping that.
Even though the name TrailSport might inspire confidence, this is not a hardcore off-road model. Even the Firestone tires are more all-season than all-terrain, though the added sidewall tread is a nice addition. However, they're no replacement for proper all-terrain Falken Wildpeaks or something similar. The all-wheel drive system is paired to some clever terrain-selector controls for sand, snow, and mud, but in reality there's nothing this can do that a normal AWD Passport likely couldn't. If this model had more aggressive tires and a suspension lift with real functional skid plates, then we'd be talking. Until then, the TrailSport is mostly just cosmetic with a cool name, but it's also for that reason alone why I think it's the pick of the range still - just because it does look cooler. Want a recommendation? Since the economy is already poor, add some real off-road tires yourself and that, when combined with the terrain controls, will make for a surprisingly capable machine.
At an as-tested price of $45,090, the Passport TrailSport is anything but cheap, and is priced very similarly to the three-row Pilot. Passports in general represent significant steps up in price over the one-size-smaller CR-V crossover, so you do have to decide if you want a larger vehicle without additional seats. At the price point, it's tricky to not recommend a Pilot instead just to have the third-row seats for those rare emergencies you might want them - And you can also get a TrailSport Pilot!
Stamp that Passport?
I thoroughly enjoyed the Passport as a means of well-thought transportation that has the space for anyone's everyday life tasks. The TrailSport trim itself updates the body to look sharper among contemporaries, but I do wish it carried more legit off-road cred. It's plenty capable for the casual owner and the car's target, but it won't replace a bona fide Wrangler. Shoot, in practice though, there's likely next to nothing that a street-oriented 4Runner TRD Sport can do that this can't, but I'd like to see more, or at least have some options to make this an under-the-radar TrailChamp via a lift and knobby 33" tires from the factory. The biggest knock to me, in the age of $5/gallon gas here in California, is the lacking fuel mileage. That alone might be the biggest turn off for potential buyers verse a more conventional offering from others.
2022 Honda Passport TrailSport
As-tested price: $44,090
Pros: Improved looks, huge interior
Cons: TrailSport is mostly cosmetic, weak gas mileage
Verdict: A better Honda Passport, but I dare them to go further