OCOTILLO WELLS, Calif. — On the night time earlier than our convoy of 2022 Honda Passport Trailsports set out for a day of rock-strewn canyon trails, the dinner dialog turned, because it usually does in business gatherings as of late, to the way forward for the auto. Particularly, when automobiles are constructed on almost similar skateboard architectures and the whole lot has a 0-60 time of three seconds, what’s going to distinguish one marque from one other?
We don’t want to attend for the electrical future, although. Vehicles are already converging right into a form of imprecise two-box form with non-obligatory AWD. You possibly can have any engine you need, so long as it’s a small-displacement turbo 4 or V6. Colours? White or grey solely, please.
The Passport is a end result (sufferer?) of this convergence. In such a panorama it will get more and more troublesome for a model like Honda to face out. It hopes, although, that clients will see the Passport because the thrilling choice, the selection for outdoorsy households. And sure, I’m as sick of listening to about “journey life-style” homeowners as you could be, however market analysis does point out extra persons are doing outdoorsy issues as of late, and even when most patrons are simply dreaming of doing so, automotive firms are going to maintain catering to that life-style, actual or not.
You possibly can inform by the modifications made to the 2022 Passport how Honda intends to place it. A extra upright and squared grille headlines new sheetmetal from the A-pillars ahead. Just like the facelifted Ridgeline, it declares a more durable visage as a result of patrons at the moment need to know they’re pointing a fortress wall in no matter course their screen-addled meandering takes them. Screw friendliness!
Honda’s additionally dropped the entry-level Sport trim, successfully making the two-row Passport’s beginning value of $39,095 (together with $1,225 vacation spot), on the EX-L trim degree, $1,040 dearer than the three-row Pilot’s.
As an alternative, Honda added a brand new Trailsport trim, beginning at $43,695 together with vacation spot and provided solely in AWD. The looks bundle includes a chunkier grille, silver decrease fascias that evoke skid plates, some darkish chrome trim and amber lighting inside, and orange mountain vary logos scattered all through. In contrast to the Subaru Outback Wilderness, it doesn’t have any actual suspension upgrades, simply unique 18-inch wheels which are extra suited to unpaved roads than the usual dubs.
The Trailsport’s 8.1-inch journey peak and method and departure angles all stay the identical as different trims (21.1 levels method, 24.3 departure). It appears a bit contrived, however because it seems, the Passport is in truth way more succesful off-pavement than we suspected (or most homeowners will ever expertise).
We drove it right into a distant off-road path in Ocotillo Wells referred to as Tectonic Gorge. The winding passage snakes by way of slender canyons scattered with boulders, the product of geologic exercise and its location on the sting of a continental plate. A few of the rock partitions have been so slender the mirrors nearly scraped — good factor the Trailsport comes with power-folding ones commonplace. We have been fortunate to have spotters guiding us by way of a few of the tougher sections.
Surprisingly, the Passport didn’t tear itself aside. It crested sandy ascents with ease even because it tripoded on three-wheels. The Trailsport straddled stones the dimensions of watermelons so long as you stored them down the centerline of the car, the purpose with the best floor clearance.
But Honda’s i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system, which may apportion 70% of the 262 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels and 100% of that to both facet, stayed in Regular mode more often than not. In Sand mode, the place extra torque and extra slippage is allowed on the again, the system paddled the rear wheels to actually generate some momentum, side-stepping the rear out because it grabbed traction. Clearly within the Anza-Borrego Desert there was no want for Snow or Mud modes however they’re there for those who want ‘em.
In the identical value vary, the equally priced 2022 Toyota 4Runner would clearly be extra ideally suited to the job, as its true body-on-frame structure would stand up to much more abuse. However, with that you simply’re sacrificing some freeway consolation and a substantial 4 mpg mixed (the Passport returns 19 metropolis, 24 freeway and 21 mixed mpg).
It is superior to Toyota’s truck-based midsizer with regards to on-road driving dynamics as effectively, however that is a low bar. A Honda’s needs to be a lot increased than that, and it is one the Passport fails to clear. It might have been designed in America for People, however so was the Accord, and that does not bob alongside like a barge because the Passport does. At the very least the acceleration stays spectacular, with a carryover 280-horsepower V6 aided by a succesful nine-speed computerized.
The styling is equally uninspired, even with its toughened exterior. Take away the H badges and it might be something, whereas trim particulars just like the headlight-bisecting grille body are simply pointless. Hondas as soon as epitomized minimalist design and the brand new Civic reveals its inching again in that course. Sadly, this Passport refresh doesn’t, nor does it sufficiently handle the grievance that Honda’s two-row midsizer seems to be far an excessive amount of just like the three-row Pilot upon which it is so clearly primarily based.
The identical may be stated concerning the inside, which stays indistinguishable from the Pilot’s from the second row ahead. The excellent news is meaning it is extremely spacious and large enough to retailer extra gear than different two-row midsizers. Prompt-fold rear seats are an all the time appreciated function and there’s no scarcity of storage areas, making it nice for organizing the belongings of a clan on the go. The unhealthy information is that it nonetheless has Honda’s rightly maligned previous-generation touchscreen infotainment system that gives a perpetually irritating and glitch-filled consumer expertise. Once more, we already know Honda is able to higher within the Accord and different fashions, but this refresh doesn’t catch the Passport as much as them.
If we take Toyota and the brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee out of competition, the Passport looks like essentially the most rugged midsize, family-friendly SUV. We wouldn’t strive half the issues we did in a Chevy Blazer, Ford Edge or Nissan Murano. Its 5,000-pound towing capability can also be spectacular for a unibody, and you’ll undoubtedly stuff extra outside journey life-style gear within the Passport than any of these different crossovers.
Nonetheless, this midcycle refresh and new Trailsport aren’t sufficient to alter the unique opinion that Honda ought to have completed extra with the Passport from the get-go – and must do rather more with it if and when a brand new era arrives. Additional differentiating it from the Pilot would assist, so too would addressing the on-road dealing with and expertise. In the end, although, the subsequent Passport must embrace its Honda-ness in a means this one doesn’t.