There seems to be no stopping the wave of crossovers that is crashing over the American car market. The very latest is the all-new 2019 Honda Passport, a sleek five-passenger SUV that made its world debut minutes ago on the eve of the Los Angeles auto show. Set to go on sale early in 2019, the Passport is a rugged-looking vehicle that combines on-road driving refinement with a renewed level of off-road driving capability. Many recent crossover offerings have largely ignored the off-road aspect of the SUV product promise.
Honda execs say the Passport will fit between the compact five-passenger CR-V and the seven-passenger Pilot in Honda’s crossover lineup. There is no mistaking that the Passport is a crossover, but its reinforced unibody frame, direct-injected V-6 engine and fully independent suspension endow it with more off-highway potential than many competitors. Its off-road capability is enhanced by the availability of Honda i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel drive and its four-mode Intelligent Traction Management system.
Honda product planners say you don’t need a separate body-on-frame vehicle to tackle tough terrain, a jab at the truck-based Toyota 4Runner, which is a key Passport competitor.
“The all-new 2019 Honda Passport provides the on-road comfort and nimble handling buyers will appreciate on their daily commute with the robust off-road and all-weather capability that make for a great weekend adventure vehicle,” said Henio Arcangeli, Jr., senior vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. and general manager, Honda Division said in a statement. “We saw an opportunity to deliver something that Honda is uniquely capable of making and the new Passport is in a great position to capture buyers looking for a more personal, powerful and capable Honda SUV.”
The new Honda was designed and developed by the company’s North America R&D teams in Torrance, California, and Raymond, Ohio. Both the v-6 engine and the vehicle it powers will be manufactured at the company’s Lincoln, Alabama plant.
The Passport’s purposeful exterior design is highlighted by standard 20-inch wheels, a matte-black grille, aggressive wheel arches and an off-road friendly ride height. It features the currently popular “floating roof” concept, and it has a tailgate design that emphasizes width. Aided by unibody constriction, the Passport’s interior is roomy and open. It offers 115.9 cubic feet of passenger space, a number Honda says is best in class. Overall interior volume is 157.1 cubic feet, enough for plenty of camping and outdoor gear.
The vehicle will be offered in four trim levels: Sport, EX-L, Touring and the fully equipped Elite. All models except the Elite can be configured with front- or all-wheel drive, while Elite trims come with all-wheel drive as standard. Also standard are the Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety and driver-assistive technology, LED headlights, fog lights, taillights, keyless start/entry and three-zone automatic climate control. EX-L and higher trims feature the Display Audio interface with an eight-inch touchscreen, a physical volume knob (as Honda is quick to point out) and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
The venerable 3.5-liter V-6 goes against the current trend of turbocharged four-cylinder engines. It offers 280-horsepower and is mated to latest-generation nine-speed automatic transmission. The Intelligent Traction Management system with available Snow, Sand and Mud modes helps optimize performance characteristics for varying surface conditions and shows how serious Honda is about making the Passport a true off-road contender.