Honda has been selling rugged, off-road vehicles for decades and its Passport is one of the most popular Honda vehicles with a young, male demographic. It’s clear that the vehicle is intended to take on the Toyota 4Runner head-to-head and much of the Honda marketing material focuses on the differences between these two vehicles. With Toyota falling behind in its interior redesign efforts over the last few years, Honda’s well poised to redirect lots of 4Runner fans into the Honda brand too. Honda offered me a chance to spend a week trying out the 2022 Honda Passport Trailsport AWD and I quickly assented; I’ve been curious about the larger Honda SUV for a while.
What I find most interesting about the 4Runner – and the Passport – is that they have more of their heritage as a small pickup truck SUV crossover. Indeed, the first generations of these vehicles feel a bit like a pickup with a topper and someone who’s chopped the interior. The benefit is that it’s bigger inside and wider too, offering more passenger and cargo room than similar vehicles designed from the ground up as an SUV. Of course, by 2022 these have been completely redesigned from the frame up, but I still say if you look at the exterior of the Passport Trailsport, there’s still a ghost of a pickup showing through its bones:
The Trailsport edition gives it rugged 18″ wheels, a more aggressive front skidplate design and, when we get to it, a more attractive rear profile too. Notice also the orange “Trailsport” medallion on the front grill. This trim model includes slightly wider front and rear wheels to increase stability too, and it does hug the road nicely when on rougher surfaces.
Truth be told, though, we’re told not to do any crazy hot-dogging or go off-road with these vehicles, so I wasn’t able to test it out in Moab or a local slot canyon with cascading gravel waterfalls and deep mud pits. Still, the photo above shows that even on a muddy road, the vehicle design avoids those annoying splatters that make a white off-road vehicle often a poor choice; it’s still pristine even though the custom Firestone tires are covered in dirt. Nice bit of aerodynamic engineering, Honda.
The vehicle is powered by a 280hp 3.5L V6 engine with 9-speed automatic transmission and it is a snappy performer on the road, offering pickup when needed, confidence-inducing traction, and a nimble drive experience in the mountains. With full-time all-wheel drive, it also handled well in inclement weather (though we didn’t have much apocalyptic weather to test its limits, for which I am thankful).
The steering wheel has an interestingly unbalanced button layout, but a big, solid cross-bar, which I prefer in heavy-duty vehicles:
To some extent, however, the controls seem to be rather randomly positioned on the dash, making it important that new drivers spend some time orienting themselves and learning the “Honda logic” of placement to ensure that they can get the best out of the vehicle. The best example of what I mean is that the ECON mode button isn’t associated with the shift button assembly in the center console but is hidden behind the left side of the steering wheel, though it does have a nice, bright green button:
Why that isn’t more centrally located is a bit baffling, particularly since the center console could have an additional button included without much of any redesign required:
Notice the weird button layout for the different modes here too, a typically Honda decision that might result in fewer moving parts than a traditional gearshift but also means that switching into reverse becomes an unintuitive button push instead of a gear location shift. Above it is a simple but useful charging area with a Qi wireless charging pad, along with a 12V “cigarette” lighter plug and both USB-C and USB-A charging ports.
The main infotainment system area is entirely functional, if nothing startling:
The built-in navigational system is powered by Garmin and the maps are fairly ugly, to be candid. You can easily switch to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and use maps from Google or another company, but why license an inferior solution for the built-in navigational system? Having said that, the built-in altimeter showing elevation was a nice touch that fits the Trailsport trim kit theme.
Oh, and the “RR Settings”? That’s for the rear climate system. I never did figure out the acronym and was a bit disappointed to realize it had nothing to do with railroad crossings or nearby trains.
Overall, the interior design was entirely functional and felt reasonably up-to-date (certainly when compared to some of the recent Toyota vehicles I’ve driven where the dash design feels at least a decade old). The Passport also has the full contingent of modern safety features, including adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking system, lake keeping assist, road departure mitigation, and more. A little voice in my head says that these are necessary because we’re becoming increasingly distracted drivers, but whatever the reason, smarter cars should definitely lead to fewer accidents, and I’m 100% okay with that.
Where Honda shows some design verve is with the main gauge display, which is wonderfully streamlined:
The green light along the top affirms that I’m achieving “ECO” driving and while there’s a tachometer, it’s very subtle and clearly not something the design team expects modern drivers pay attention to nowadays. The “ACC” and “LKAS” are Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist System, if you’re curious, and the blue bar along the bottom shows instantaneous fuel efficiency.
This brings me to one of my complaints: 25.1 is decent fuel efficiency for this class of vehicle (and better than the equivalent Toyota 4Runner) but another 5-10mpg would be even better, and if Honda could offer the same drive performance at 30mpg, that’d be a great boost for drivers who seek a tough, rugged SUV where they can safely focus on the road ahead, not fueling stops or driving conditions. Interestingly, the EPA ratings for the vehicle are 19/24 for an estimated average of 21mpg. Apparently, I was driving in an exceptionally fuel-efficient manner!
The vehicle is roomy and there’s decent legroom for rear passengers, something I don’t always see on the less-than-enormous SUVs I review:
This is with the driver’s seat just about as far back as possible, so with a bit of kindness in the seat adjustment, there could be quite an adult-friendly rear leg space in the Passport. Notice that the rear seat adjustments are basic and that the rear storage pocket is a design that hasn’t changed since, what, 1961? Maybe next year. Or the following one.
I found a lot to like in the 2022 Honda Passport Trailsport AWD, from its drive performance to its comfort and quiet interior cabin. The modifications for both safety and rough driving make it a great option for people who live in more rugged terrain or just head to the mountains or way off-road as part of their driving adventures, and the roomy interior offers lots of cargo space and passenger space. Definitely one to check out if you’re in the market for an SUV that’s bigger than a shoebox (too many compact SUVs seem to be great for two adults and two little ones, but start to feel pretty cramped as the fam grows or complex sports are added to the mix).
2022 Honda Passport Trailsport AWD in Platinum White with Black interior, featuring 18″ Trailsport wheels. No add-ons or options were included; everything is as specified in the Trailsport trim set. AS DRIVEN: $44,660.00.
Disclosure: Honda loaned me the Trailsport for a week in return for this candid write-up. Thanks Honda!