Chicago Auto Show Blog

The Return of the Passport

Posted by: Jim OBrill

Originally introduced in 1993 as Honda’s first entry into the emerging SUV world, the Passport began as a RWD SUV that was available in three trims and even included a manual transmission. The look of the original Passport was rugged and reminded me of competing models such as the Nissan Pathfinder and the Toyota 4Runner. After a second generation that ran from 1998-2002, the Passport drifted away as the Pilot took center stage. After a 17 year absence, the Honda Passport is back and better than ever. As the Pilot has grown, Honda has had a hole in its SUV line-up which the Passport fits nicely.  Bigger than the CRV, but smaller than the three row Pilot, the new Passport is a great option for someone looking for a five passenger SUV. All versions of the Passport come with advanced safety features including forward collision warning, lane keep assist, lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking warning. With more technology, safety and style, the Passport is bound to make its mark once again.


Unlike previous generations of the Passport, the new model is designed and manufactured by Honda. Previous generations shared a platform with Isuzu along with various parts from General Motors. Personally, I like that the new Passport is designed for the adventure seeker complete with more off-roading capabilities. With an inch more ground clearance than the Pilot and a shorter rear-end, this version is better suited for some trails and outdoor adventures. This is a new direction for a brand like Honda that is coming at just the right time. The Passport also comes with an available torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system which further justifies its relevance off of the city streets. With the ability to deliver 70 percent of its torque to the rear axle, its then capable of distributing 100 percent of the available power to the wheel with the most traction. The Passport is ready for just about anything when you add in the four mode Intelligent Traction Management system with modes such as Snow, Mud, Sand and Normal. While you may not go extreme off-roading in the Passport like you might in a Toyota 4Runner or Jeep Wrangler, it’s a more affordable and smaller option for hitting some light trails and local adventures.


The Passport stands apart from the sea of crossovers and SUVs with it’s simple, yet rugged looks. The Passport won’t offend anyone with over the top edgy styling, but it has done enough to stand out from its competitors. The Passport is sure to stand out in the Target parking lot with its matte black body cladding, standard 20” wheels (available in black) and large fender arches. The higher ground clearance and shorter overhangs give the Passport a prominent stance and profile. One thing that is noticeably missing from previous generations of the Passport is the rear mounted tire on the back tailgate. While I was always a fan of that look, I realize it’s not one that exists outside of Jeep’s camp anymore. The Passport does still come with a spare tire which is mounted inside the back of the SUV rather than underneath. Add in distinctive Honda headlight designs and the Passport gets an A for styling from me.


Inside the Passport is very similar to its big sibling, the Pilot. Overall fit and finish is class appropriate and in line with every other Honda on the market. EX-L trims and above get an 8-inch touch screen available with a standard navigation system, Android Auto and Apple Car Play capabilities. Also like the Pilot, the Passport is filled with various storage compartments for small items. A nice touch in the back of the Passport is the reversible cargo floor that is carpeted on one side and plastic on the other. Additional under the floor storage bins are removable for easy cleaning.


As the mid-size SUV segment continues to grow, the Passport is one to add to your consideration list. It may be a new contender for 2019, but it’s one with a history from a company that is known for its reliability. I like that the new Passport throws back to its roots as a more rugged looking SUV, which is sure to bring in some new buyers. With so many of the long-standing nameplates like the Pathfinder, 4Runner and Explorer growing in size since the Passport was last around…. the new version now competes with an entire new set of classmates. Look for the all-new Passport to be in dealerships very soon!

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