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ROAD TEST: 2019 Honda Passport Touring an SUV for an active lifestyle


The 2019 Honda Passport Touring is powered by a 280-horsepower (262 lb.-ft. of torque) 3.5-litre, V6 engine. - Wes Allison/ www.jaysiemens.com
The 2019 Honda Passport Touring is powered by a 280-horsepower (262 lb.-ft. of torque) 3.5-litre, V6 engine. - Wes Allison/ www.jaysiemens.com - Contributed

We don’t often see the words Honda and truck in the same sentence. Most consumers think of trucks as pickups. Regulatory authorities have a different view.

Standards for crashworthiness, fuel efficiency, emission standards and others all consider minivans, SUVs and crossovers to be light trucks.

Yes, that minivan in your driveway is a truck in the eyes of the standard setters. Examples: Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.

There is a grey area, in my mind, between what is an SUV and what is a crossover. I try to separate the two. If it is based on a pickup or rear-drive, body-on-frame platform, it is an SUV. Examples: Chevy Suburban, Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia.

With a few really minor exceptions, all others are crossovers. They share front-drive underpinnings with other passenger vehicles. Although rare here, many of them are available in front-drive-only configuration.

Most are also available with all-wheel drive. Some power can be diverted to the rear wheels under certain conditions.

The Canadian climate and consumers demand these all-season abilities. Examples: Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4.

Honda, thus, has a number of vehicles that fall into the light-truck category. That list includes the HR-V, CR-V, Pilot, Odyssey and Ridgeline. For the 2019 model year it has resurrected a name and added a sixth light truck — the 2019 Passport.

Size-wise, the Passport falls between the CR-V and Pilot. The Passport shares Honda’s mid-size light truck platform with the Pilot and Ridgeline. This platform can be lengthened or shortened as desired.

Fifteen centimetres has been cut from the length, aft of the rear wheels. The wheelbase stays the same as the Pilot, but eliminates the space for a third row of seats. The result is a more compact vehicle with a more aggressive look.

The Passport is being pitched as an active-lifestyle vehicle with off-road chops and on-road comfort. A raised ride height and bigger tires contribute to the rugged profile.

You realize the added height when you first climb aboard. The tester had slick, diecast running boards that made this task easier.

The driver faces an oblong, configurable instrument display. A full-colour screen for infotainment functions tops the centre stack, complete with an actual rotary volume knob.

The conventional shifter is replaced by a combination of buttons you push or pull to engage a gear or park.

Unlike the compact rotary knobs offered in some vehicles, this one, borrowed from Acura, does not save space but seems to have been done just to be different.

Kudos to the interior design team. They realize people actually need a place to put thing they use in everyday driving from pens, coins and cell phones to small packages etc.

 Inside the Honda Passport, the driver faces an oblong, configurable instrument display. A full-colour screen for infotainment functions tops the centre stack, complete with an actual rotary volume knob. - Wes Allison/ www.jaysiemens.com
Inside the Honda Passport, the driver faces an oblong, configurable instrument display. A full-colour screen for infotainment functions tops the centre stack, complete with an actual rotary volume knob. - Wes Allison/ www.jaysiemens.com

The Passport has more than a dozen such cubbyholes, trays, slots etc. in the front row alone! There is room beneath the roll-top on the centre consoler for a decent size tablet.

The same team did a great job of maximizing space for people. The tall and wide roof results in a light and airy feel, and good visibility. But it also ensures great headroom in both front and rear seats.

Thin pillars, near vertical glass also contribute to the excellent visibility. A standard multi-view rear view camera allows you to see even closer to the vehicle.

Chopping that 15 cm from the rear of the Pilot didn’t mean the Passport had to suffer from a lack of cargo space. Quite the contrary, that chop might have removed space for a third row of seats, but it left a whopping cargo area.

There is 1,430 litres of space with the rear seats in place and a cavernous 2,854 litres with them folded down.

No four-cylinder engine here. The Passport has the company’s 3.5-litre V6, producing 280-horsepower, and 262 lb.-ft. of torque in this application. That is enough to allow owners to tow up to 5,000 in toys.

The Passport utilizes the company’s sophisticated i-VTM4TM torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system. It has been reprogrammed. Instead of sending power to the front wheels only, until slippage is detected, at least five per cent goes to the rear at all times in the Passport.

There is a choice of four drive modes: Normal, Mud, Sand, and Snow. Sensors control power delivery not only between front and rear wheels but also from side to side.

The engine is a jewel, smooth silent and strong with more than enough suds to make passing a breeze, even on long uphill slopes. I averaged 11.2 litres/100 km on the highway in cold winter conditions

It is relatively nimble in the turns and very comfortable on the open road.

The Alabama-built Passport was designed and developed at Honda facilities in Los Angeles and Ohio. It is available in three trim levels: Sport, $41,990; EXL, $45,590 EXL, and Touring at $48,990 Touring test car.

The crossover field is getting so crowded it is difficult to find an empty slot. Honda might have just discovered one.

 The Passport is being pitched as an active-lifestyle vehicle with off-road chops and on-road comfort. - Wes Allison/ www.jaysiemens.com
The Passport is being pitched as an active-lifestyle vehicle with off-road chops and on-road comfort. - Wes Allison/ www.jaysiemens.com

The specs

  • Model: 2019 Honda Passport Touring
  • Engine: 3.5-litre, V6, 280 horsepower, 262 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
  • Transmission: nine-speed automatic
  • NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 12.5 / 9.8
  • Length: 4,839 mm
  • Width: 2,116 mm
  • Wheelbase: 2817 mm
  • Weight: 1,914 kg
  • Price: $48,990 base (Touring), $51,705 as tested, plus freight
  • Competition: Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Murano
  • Options on test vehicle: all-season floor mats, $284; folding cargo tray, $158; Cargo cover, $358; rear bumper appliqué, $98; door sill protection film, $165; crossbars, $329; three-piece cargo bin, $158; die-cast running board, $1,165

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