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Auto review: 2019 Honda Passport aims for a bit of ruggedness

The 2019 Honda Passport looks like its big

The 2019 Honda Passport looks like its big brother, the three-row Honda Pilot, but with a taller stance and bulkier tires. Credit: TNS/Honda

Honda has pitched its 2019 Passport as a more rugged five-seater SUV than its other offerings.
But, all-wheel drive. I mean, that's fine for me — whose idea of camping involves hotels without room service — but you tough people want four-wheel drive, thick tractor tires and winches. This ain't that — no two-speed transfer case here — although it does offer different modes for mud, snow, and more.
In any case, it's far better than the Isuzu version of the Passport that Honda sold in the 1990s.
The Passport offers a ticket to plenty of room for big people. It's pretty much a shrunken Pilot, so without the third row, legs enjoy an impressive amount of room. Sturgis Kid 4.0 happily rode to the Outer Banks with us for a bit of summer fun. A middle child would not mind the center seat, where the hump is flatter than the Kitty Hawk dunes.
But with a need to offer "ruggedness," even in faux form, the Passport requires a long climb to the passenger area (the downside of the 8.1 inches of ground clearance). And that flat hump means the passenger compartment is shorter than many. Headroom is fine, but the cargo space height is quite short. There's just 77.7 cubic feet of space with the seat folded down, and we had a heck of a time fitting in one bicycle and a little bit of luggage while still leaving one-third of the rear seat upright.
Space behind the second row is a comparatively huge 41.2 cubic feet.
The 3.5-liter V-6 creates an impressive 280 horsepower, so the Passport is no slouch on the road. It gets to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, according to Car and Driver. Just ask the nice police officer I met in Eastville, Virginia.
The Passport uses a nine-speed automatic transmission to transfer the power to the road.
Press the D/S button for Sport mode and feel the Passport really kick it. Unfortunately, it holds lower gears far too long, so it also kicks back hard on the downhills, an uncomfortable feeling. Just shift the gears yourself through the paddles to avoid this nauseating sensation.

The Passport tester featured all the latest Honda Sensing safety stuff, adaptive cruise, collision braking, lane keeping, lane departure, and road departure mitigation.
The forward collision warning might be reclassified as Honda Supersensing, or Honda Hyperactivity, as that bright orange "BRAKE!" cried wolf more times than I could count in a week — for trees near country roads, parked cars, bridge abutments, oncoming cars, you name it.
I enjoy cruise control, especially the adaptive kind. But the Passport falls short on a couple of counts. First, its set distance seems a little random. In a competitive driving environment, like the Long Island Expressway, it's important to be able to close the gap with the car behind you, and I could never count on the Passport to keep up.
Second, after slowing down for another car, the Passport takes half of forever to return to the designated speed.
All that said, though, note that the driver's seat is exceedingly comfortable, especially for long trips. Even when you're parked roadside and the lights are flashing red and blue behind you.
The view from the cockpit is impressive by today's standards as well. The windows are tall, so passing is easy. Maybe a little too easy. But at least you can clearly see the nice police officer walking back to the Passport with the clipboard.

2019 Honda Passport AWD

Base price: $41,180

Price as tested: Price: $44,775

EPA fuel mileage estimates: 19 mpg city, 24 highway

Acceleration: 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds

Bottom line: Not bad, but not as rugged as advertised.

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