#SoMasc: 2022 HONDA PASSPORT TRAILSPORT
Lately, it would seem like a good chunk of the automative manufacturers have discovered a new niche that they perhaps felt were not targeting enough publicity. When it came to the adventurous, off-road crowd that likes to get dirt on their hands and mud on their boots, there was, really, just two choices, Subaru or Jeep. A few years ago, however, Toyota released an off-road concept with their RAV4, calling it the TRD Off-Road, and that seemed to have sparked a fire amongst the automotive industry as almost every single crossover has some sort of off-road special edition behind it. Honda is now jumping in on this bandwagon with their updated Passport and has introduced new TrailSport trim option.
With 2023 peaking around the corner, the dawn of a new Honda Passport is sure to soon light up car websites and YouTube videos across the land as quick as the all-new Pilot did when it was recently revealed for 2023. Before that happens however, I am taking a look at the current generation before its not to long for this world and a new era is among us. For 2022 the Passport received a slight overhaul of refreshments to its styling giving it a more masculine appeal. The headlights and grille have been restructured for a rough n’ tough, lumberjack look; like a hipster growing out their beard and throwing on a plaid shirt. #LetsGetSoTotesMasc
In terms of off-road readiness, Honda is taking a different approach to the Passport TrailSport than, say Subaru with their Wilderness package or Jeep and their Trailhawk edition. The TrailSport does not add a raised suspension system or a locking differential, instead the exterior chrome trim has been swapped out for a gloss black finish, faux painted front and rear skid garnish to give the appearance of a skid plate, and the interior gets some orange stitching around the seats with orange embossed “TrailSport” into the headrest. However, the only real off-road feature added are the beefier all-season tires with off-road sidewall tread for better grip and smaller, 18-inch wheels that have been downsized from the standard 20-inch rims. Afterall, you cannot really go off-roading on 20-inch rims.
Now I don’t know how good the competition, like the Hyundai Santa Fe XRT or Kia Sorento X-Line compares, but what I can tell you is that the Passport is fairly decent off-road, even in its glamourized Elite trim. Despite that the TrailSport is more appearance than functional; the chunkier tires do add some better quality to the Passports overall abilities. With the rims being smaller and the addition of more rubber, the ride quality is far more improved. And if our previous experience with the Passports infamous torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system is at all telling, these upgraded tires are sure to give it a little more umph when the trail gets dicey. The Passport also uses a terrain management system that can allow the driver to select the type of terrain from Mud, Sand, Normal and Snow. Unfortunately, the TrailSport does not change the 8.1-inches of ground clearance or the 21.1-degree approach and 24.3-degree departure angle.
On the road, the Passport comes standard with its 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V-6 engine producing a solid chunk of 280-horsepower and 262-lbs-ft of torque. In a world surrounded by turbocharged engines, this old-school performance starts to show its age when paired with its 9-speed automatic transmission. Given its performance figures, the Passport feels heavy and drives slower than it should be. The transmission is sluggish to respond like it is trying to figure out which gear is best for the situation. At least with this V-6, it does show somewhat better fuel efficiency than the rated EPA; I managed 26.2-mpg’s during my 200-mile highway run with a combined average of 22.4-mpg’s.
Off the beaten path however, the Passport is somehow different. Selecting one of the terrains like Mud and Sand, the transmission is more responsive. It manages to hold its gear at higher RPMs with responsive acceleration. The ride quality is surprisingly well-balanced, and the steering feels more lively, perhaps that’s more so to do with traction control.
Inside, not much has changed since the Passport debuted in 2019. While the design is simple and carried over from the three-row Pilot it is starting to feel its age with things like the smaller-sized 8-inch screen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Navigation system is very cartoonish, and the backup camera is grainy. And even with a digital display cluster, it is not customizable or very graphic. Aside, it remains to be a very comfortable, airy cabin with captain style front seats, dual-zone climate control system, and power adjustable front seats with the one of the largest cargo capacities in its class.
Considering Honda’s off-road heritage runs deeper on two wheels more than four, the Passport TrailSport is not really paying heritage to Honda’s competitive side and with today’s advance technology, it does not seem quite up to par to today’s standards given it cost over $44,000. That However, for those looking to take their crossovers further beyond the beaten path, the TrailSport is a more suitable companion with its advanced torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system and now chunkier off-road tires.