Our opinions on cars often shift over the course of 40,000 miles. We’ve evaluated long-term vehicles that we loved at the beginning of a test, but after so many miles it turned out to be less than love. We’ve also fallen for cars that we didn’t think too much of at first. But our 2019 Honda Passport drew accolades throughout its term. From beginning to end, the logbook is packed with compliments.
Flawless reliability helps. Over its 14-month stint, there were no unexpected breakdowns, no technology-related hiccups, and only a few minor recalls that were quickly addressed. And we didn’t exactly baby this Honda. Our Passport went off-roading several times, escorted families on road trips, towed trailers, and tackled foul Michigan winter weather.
On the SUV spectrum, the Passport’s strengths are based almost entirely on its utility. While our test truck’s attractive, dark-greenish Black Forest Pearl paint garnered adoring comments, its styling is otherwise quite subdued. Parked next to other two-row mid-size crossovers such as the Chevrolet Blazer and the Toyota Venza, the Passport’s boxy shape lends it a rugged appearance that borders on bland.
The Passport’s interior is similarly basic in its design. However, its front seats proved to be long-haul comfortable with their adjustable armrests, and the generous back seat is supremely accommodating. This Honda’s 41 cubic feet of cargo space was plenty adequate for our needs, and the various storage cubbies and bins garnered praise from our road-tripping staffers. The Passport’s cupholders are large enough to accommodate bulky water bottles, and the large center console easily swallows purses, cameras, and other items that we wanted to keep out of sight when traveling.
The standard 280-hp 3.5-liter V-6 pulls strongly for easy merging and passing on the highway as well as for towing trailers weighing up to the all-wheel-drive Passport’s 5000-pound maximum rating. Straight-line acceleration improved at 40,000 miles versus when it was new, with 60 mph arriving a remarkable 0.4 seconds sooner, in 5.7 seconds. The Passport’s 14.5-second quarter-mile pass also was 0.2 second quicker and 1 mph faster than during its first visit to the test track.
While our long-termer earns a lot of high marks, its report card isn’t free of demerits. The complaints we did have mostly centered around its driver-assistance features. Multiple staffers complained of false alerts from its forward-collision-warning feature, including one instance where the system activated the automated emergency braking despite no immediate threat of a collision. It’s possible to adjust the system’s sensitivity, but even in the least sensitive setting, the false alarms continue. Conversely, its adaptive cruise control often was not responsive enough, both braking late when approaching slow traffic and also displaying a reluctance to accelerate back up to speed.
Some drivers noted tire roar while on the highway, although that gripe seemed to mostly surface when the Yokohama IceGuard G075 winter tires were mounted on the Passport’s 20-inch wheels. Road noise was less of an issue with the standard Continental CrossContact LX Sport all-seasons. The Passport’s logbook comments also called out the nine-speed automatic’s pushbutton shifter arrangement for not being as easy and intuitive to use as we’d like. Staffers installing child seats found the low-mounted rear-tether attachment points hard to get to without a struggle. But we expect that we move child seats in and out of cars more than most owners ever will.
The Passport’s fuel economy over 40,000 miles averaged 21 mpg, which matches the EPA’s combined estimate. Maintenance was straightforward and affordable. We visited the dealership four times and spent a total of $643 on service—oil changes, tire rotations, a differential-fluid change, and various filter replacements. And aside from the $3605 we spent to fix the damage from someone hitting our Honda with their car while it was parked—Michigan is a no-fault state—our only out-of-pocket expense was a $50 charge to fill a chipped windshield. While it wasn’t exactly the sexiest and sought-after SUV in our fleet, the Passport’s fuss-free and inexpensive ownership experience kept it in our hearts.
Months in Fleet: 14 months Current Mileage: 40,022 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 21 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 19.5 gal Observed Fuel Range: 400 miles
Service: $643 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $3655
While our Honda Passport had been quickly racking up road-trip miles prior to our last update in March, quarantine life has since significantly stunted its travel schedule, as it has with pretty much all of our long-term fleet. Fortunately, as our Honda approaches its one-year mark with us, we’ve made up for its downtime with several trips to northern Michigan and a cross-country trip to California and back.
As the miles started to pile up, the Passport’s logbook once again began to fill with praise for its vast cargo space and smart interior layout. “The Passport is a master class in how to package a vehicle,” wrote print director Eric Tingwall. “It feels slightly larger on the inside than it appears from the outside, and there’s a nook, cubby, or bin for every accessory, snack, or device you might want close at hand.” Executive editor Ryan White put the versatility of Honda’s mid-size ute to the test by fitting an impressive number of seemingly random items inside it for a trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Among them, a half-inflated rubber llama, a movie projector and screen, and a banjo.
The Passport’s naturally aspirated V-6 engine, an increasingly rare feature in a segment thick with turbocharged engines, also continues to earn favor for its flexibility and character. Tingwall wrote: “There’s ample torque for around town with a satisfying crescendo up the tach when you floor it.”
You might remember that both of our Passport’s driver-side doors were damaged in March while parked in the driveway of one of our staffers. Although the fix required only cosmetic repairs, the trip to the body shop cost us $3605, and our Honda returned with a foul stench of automotive paint, which required a heavy dousing of Febreze to eliminate from the cabin.
Luckily for contributing editor Jonathon Ramsey, that chemical odor was but a distant memory when he embarked on a 4800-mile trek from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to California and back to retrieve a trailer of his belongings for his new home in Kentucky. His notes in the logbook echo our previous gripes regarding the Passport’s driver-assistance features. Among them were complaints about Honda’s adaptive cruise-control system, which can be both slow to close gaps to cars ahead and lazy to react to slowing vehicles. “In traffic, the adaptive cruise control drives like it just got its learner’s permit and might have already failed its driving test once,” Ramsey wrote. “Instead of just coasting up to its preferred gap, the Passport overshoots the buffer zone, then hits the brake—causing rubber-banding behind—then has to accelerate to catch up.”
All of our recent highway travel has helped to nudge the Passport’s average fuel economy up 1 mpg to 21 mpg. Just as significant, our Honda has continued to be reliable and fairly painless to maintain. Since its last scheduled service at around 20,000 miles, we’ve swapped the Passport back to its standard all-season tires and stopped at a dealership in Ohio at 29,847 miles for its routine A12 service. The visit set us back only $55, but that dealer failed to perform the entire recommended service and instead merely changed the oil. Upon returning to Michigan at 31,445 miles, our local dealer performed the rest of the A12 maintenance, which included a tire rotation, replacing engine and cabin air filters, and a multipoint inspection for an additional $120. Our local dealer also tended to several recalls, including a software update for the gauge cluster’s control module, a revision to the safety section of the digital owner’s manual, and an update for the backup camera.
With the Passport once again stretching its legs on the open road, we expect its remaining 6779 miles to come quickly and without incident, as long as no one else hits it while it’s parked.
Months in Fleet: 11 months Current Mileage: 33,221 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 21 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 19.5 gal Observed Fuel Range: 400 miles
Service: $475 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $3605
In just over a month we’ve added a substantial 5000 miles to the odometer of our long-term Honda Passport, and considering our new socially-distanced life that monthly mileage will probably be a high-water mark for the near future. Most of those miles were accumulated around our home base of Ann Arbor, with one longer jaunt to Pittsburgh on Leap Day.
Our staffers have noted several practical wins for the Passport, including praise for a glovebox that staff editor Connor Hoffman discovered can fit an entire bottle of wine and a center console that is broad enough to serve as the perfect perch for road-test editor Becca Hackett’s purse. The usable spaces and the cubbies all add up to an interior that seems tailored to the details of everyday life. Should your social distancing turn to camping, the Passport will swallow gear, provisions, people, and pets.
Comments continue to pour in about the Passport’s seating position. Even for an SUV, the view forward is panoramic, almost like a bus’s. Deputy editor Tony Quiroga complimented the “expansive view out,” which helps with everything from parallel parking to navigating a tight trail. While some may find that getting into the Passport’s high-set driver’s seat requires a bit of a jump, once in, the position takes advantage of the large windows. Plus, the generous greenhouse lets plenty of light into the cabin, adding to the feeling of spaciousness.
Earlier this winter we swapped the Passport’s original all-season rubber for Yokohama IceGuard G075 winter tires and our initial reaction was that they hum a lot more than the stock tires, which is to be expected. Fortunately, they have proved themselves on more than one occasion. Features editor Austin Irwin vouched for their tenacious grip during a slushy snowfall.
With 19,887 miles on it, we took the Passport to our Honda dealership for its B1 service. A B1 service is basically six quarts of 0W-20 oil, new oil and air filters, a tire rotation, a number of checks, and a cleaning of the battery terminals. The Yokohamas were rotated, the battery was serviced, and the dealer performed a multipoint inspection—all of which set us back $167. While we were waiting, the dealer also added a sticker to the owner’s manual about the inherent handling dangers of driving a tall vehicle like the Passport. Apparently, the mandated information wasn’t originally included in the owner’s manual. Observed fuel economy is holding steady at 20 mpg.
Unfortunately, our trusty Passport was recently damaged in a mishap in one of our staffers’ driveways. Apparently the outward vision in the offender’s car was limited and the driver didn’t see the Passport. The incident left two big red scratches on the driver-side doors. After a couple days of neighborhood investigation, the scofflaw fessed up. We’re yet to take it to a body shop; we’ll have more to report on the estimate and repair in our next update.
The Passport’s driving dynamics, slightly tidier size, and improved infotainment system are winning far more friends than the larger Pilot. And, its size is plenty for solo or small-group camping adventures and for stocking up on essentials at the local Sam’s Club.
Months in Fleet: 6 months Current Mileage: 20,519 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 20 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 19.5 gal Observed Fuel Range: 390 miles
Service: $301 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0
Our long-term Honda Passport is proving to be an accomplished and frequent traveler in the few months that it’s been with us, sailing past the 10,000-mile mark on the back of a number of journeys around North America. More impressively, it has done so while generating only a few nits for us to pick.
Production designer Jeff Xu piloted the Passport on its longest trips. These included separate treks from our Ann Arbor, Michigan, home base to both Denver and New Orleans. After both, Xu praised the Passport’s cargo space, generous interior cubbies, and numerous USB ports for charging multiple devices at once. His chief gripe? “I did discover that all the cupholders were too small to fit larger bottles, like Gatorades or Nalgenes,” he wrote in the Honda’s logbook.
A trip to Toronto generated a more significant complaint regarding the Passport’s lane-departure-warning feature, which flashes an alert in the gauge cluster and jiggles the steering wheel before the SUV’s tire even crosses the center line. While that level of hypersensitivity certainly is the result of Honda’s proactive stance on safety, it quickly gets annoying when cruising the highway through construction zones with narrowed lanes and closely clumped orange barrels.
We’ve logged similar complaints with Honda’s collision-avoidance technology in some of its other models, including our long-term 2018 Honda Accord. But our Passport will also occasionally read the open road as a potential obstacle and activate the vehicle’s automated emergency braking system for no obvious reason—much to its driver’s surprise. And discomfort.
At just over 10,000 miles, the Passport visited the dealer for its first scheduled service, which included an oil change, tire rotation, and the changing of its rear-differential fluid for $134. (The dealer changed the engine oil without replacing the filter, as per Honda’s unusual service recommendations.) Our only other expenditure thus far has been the patching of a rock chip in the windshield ($50). While we’ll likely have to replace the windshield before the Honda’s time with us is up, $50 is far easier to stomach now than the $1000 or so that new glass will cost.
The rest of the comments in the Passport’s logbook mostly have been about the OE-size Yokohama IceGuard G075 winter tires we installed at around 11,000 miles. Several staffers noted that the road noise they generate in the cabin is far greater than what we noticed with the stock Continental CrossContact LX Sport all-seasons. This is often the case with winter tires and it’s generally not a significant issue, but the Yokohamas seem to be particularly loud. “They’re noisy at highway speeds and yet the traction on snow and ice is only so-so,” wrote director of vehicle testing Dave VanderWerp.
Unfortunately, the Passport’s fuel economy has not benefited as much as we’d hoped from all its highway running. Thanks to both the knobby winter tires and plenty of (heavy-footed) commuting between trips, the Passport’s average is down 2 mpg to 20, or 1 mpg less than its EPA combined estimate. However, with 25,000 miles left in its stint, our already well-traveled Honda definitely will hit the open road again.
Months in Fleet: 4 months Current Mileage: 15,306 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 20 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 19.5 gal Observed Fuel Range: 390 miles
Service: $134 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $50
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 though front-wheel drive is now the standard setup; four driven wheels are optional on all trims except the top-spec all-wheel-drive-only Elite and Black Edition. 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.
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.
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.”
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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