And one thing we want Honda to improve.
We were a bit surprised when rumors emerged that the Honda Passport was going to make a comeback. The last Passport was nothing more than a rebadged Isuzu Rodeo but this new model helps fill the gap between the compact Honda CR-V and the mid-size, three-row Honda Pilot. The Passport enters the 2020 model year with no major changes, but we still think it's one of the best vehicles in the mid-size two-row SUV segment.
We recently had a chance to review a 2020 Honda Passport in the full-loaded Elite trim. Here are four reasons why we love it and one change that we'd like to see Honda make for the 2021 model.
Basing the Passport on a shortened version of the Pilot's platform was a stroke of genius from Honda. By using the larger Pilot as a base, Honda ensured that the Passport was one of the biggest and most practical vehicles in its class. The rear cargo area houses a whopping 41.2 cubic feet of space behind the second row, which opens (at the press of a button) to a class-leading 77.9 cubic feet of space. If that's not enough, there's even more additional storage under the floor. While the Ford Edge barely bests the Passport in rear legroom, it still offers a spacious 39.6 inches for back seat occupants.
One side effect of the Passport's heft is that it drives like a big SUV. If you prefer a more car-like driving experience, the Passport might feel cumbersome. But those who enjoy the feeling of having a ton of metal surrounding them will likely enjoy the Passport's truck-like driving experience.
We don't know how much longer Honda will continue to build its wonderful V6 engine, given how much pressure automakers are under to improve fuel economy and emissions. The Passport's 3.5-liter VTEC V6, codenamed the J35Y6, delivers 280 horsepower good for a 0-60 mph sprint in around six seconds or less. There are more powerful V6 engines on the market, but the Honda J Series produces one of the best engine notes and delivers power smoothly and reliably.
We haven't been enamored with the ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic Honda has been using for the past several years, but it seems like most of the issues with it have been smoothed out. It no longer hunts for gears and seems more eager to kick down a few cogs when the throttle is mashed.
Honda markets the Passport as an adventure vehicle with more off-road capability than the more family-oriented Pilot. While the Passport won't be able to challenge a Jeep Wrangler or Toyota 4Runner on an expert-level off-road trail, it will conquer anything that the average owner will attempt. Honda's Intelligent Traction Management system offers snow, mud, and sand modes, and the generous 8.1 inches of ground clearance yields usable approach and departure angles.
The Honda Pilot is not an unattractive vehicle but it is clearly designed to appeal to a family who wants to be low-key. Honda went a bit more aggressive with the Passport's design, adding a generous helping of black body cladding, black exterior accents, and black 20-inch wheels on the Elite trim. These changes add up to create an attractive SUV that stands out over its larger Pilot sibling.
We didn't love the Passport's safety technology. Honda Sensing is standard on all Passport trims and includes collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, lane-keep assist, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.
However, some of these systems could be executed better. The adaptive cruise control, for example, can not bring the Passport to a full stop as it does in other Honda models. Other Honda models we've tested have also had a more accurate lane-keep assist that can keep the car centered in the lane with more active steering correction. We know Honda can do better on the safety front and we'd like the Passport to get the best of what the company has to offer.