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Honda’s 2024 Passport TrailSport – HIT THE TRAIL, SPORT

Car Reviews

Honda’s 2024 Passport TrailSport – HIT THE TRAIL, SPORT

Honda’s 2024 Passport TrailSport


In what has become a bit of a scrum to give some off-roading cred to any number of what we typically call soft-roaders, seemingly every OEM has gotten into the act. Jeep, of course, perhaps does it best – if only because they’ve been doing it longer. The Koreans and Japanese, however, are coming on strong in this offroad-ish category; but again, having done it before should count for something. And before adding ‘TrailSport’ to its midsized Passport crossover, Honda had both its two-wheeled Trail 110 and Civic Shuttle (with RealTime 4WD!) on its résumé. If wanting to go where few have gone before, consider the new Passport, if only because Honda has gone there before. 

In any of its trim levels, Honda’s Passport serves as the ‘tweener in Honda’s crossover lineup. Built atop the same platform underpinning Honda’s 3-row Pilot (as well as the Odyssey minivan and unibody Ridgeline pickup), the Passport delivers a slightly tidier footprint – when compared to those three – in combination with seating for five. And while its proportions are ‘tidier’, you really can’t call the Passport small. Its overall length is within four inches of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, while it sits one inch wider and over one inch taller than that midsize counterpart. 

In the driveway or on the byway, the Passport’s TrailSport variant makes its off-road chops obvious with a more planted proportion, courtesy of 245/60R18 dual-purpose Generals; these, to my eyes, do a far better job visually than the 20-inchers fitted to the other trims. This rubber is almost gnarly, but still goes down paved roads smoothly and with no perceptible noise. (If shopping for replacement rubber for our ’06 Grand Cherokee, this tire would be worth considering.) 

The balance of the Passport ‘look’ remains clean and without affectation. The proportions are upright, and seem somewhat abbreviated. That abbreviation, however, will work better offroad with approach and departure angles; less overhang means there’s less opportunity to scrape. There are the seemingly mandatory identifiers to remind you what you’re driving – the TrailSport! – but it’s not overdone. 

Inside you have a sense of the Passport’s width with the elbow test – I was unable to grasp the steering wheel with both hands (which has a relatively thin rim, perfect for…uh, small hands) and rest my left elbow on the window sill. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a wide platform, and absolutely perfect when trying to socially isolate with a partner and your three pre-teen kids.

Behind that wheel you’ll find an analog look given to fuel and temp gauges, in combination with a digital speedo and essentially invisible tachometer. The infotainment screen’s size doesn’t overpower the dash, and for a/c, heat and audio you have separate controls for quick, one-stop adjustments. 

Seating is spacious and supportive in front, while the rear bench offers generous room for three, reclining seat backs and almost 115 cubic feet of passenger volume. And for traveling families, there’s 40 cubic feet of stowage behind the second row, and some 78 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. 

Under the Passport’s hood is 280 horsepower of normally aspirated Honda V6, displacing 3.5 liters while delivering 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. These aren’t overwhelming numbers, but there’s a lot you can say for the simplicity (and perceived longevity) of no turbocharging or supercharging, as well as the smoothness of the Honda’s power delivery. 

That power is delivered to the ground via a 9-speed automatic while providing an EPA-estimated 19 City/24 Highway/21 Combined. Driving around town we averaged that 19 City figure, while an extended highway drive (a 470-mile roundtrip) netted 24 while cruising at 75. The ride at that speed is relaxed and – depending on your XM/Sirius station – almost serene. 

As Honda suggests, the TrailSport, with an off-road tuned suspension and the aforementioned all-terrain rubber, is the most rugged, off-road capable Passport ever. And while we didn’t have a chance to tackle Moab (and probably wouldn’t), the TrailSport looks capable of tackling whatever winter might throw. With that 40 cubic feet behind the second row, the Passport will take your snowboards in winter and the Yeti coolers in summer. And there’s nothing better than cold beers to bolster your activity orientation – once, of course, you’re parked.

At a suggested retail of $45K, you’d be hard-pressed to match the Passport’s quality and composure for any similar investment. Kia’s Telluride may impress as more lithe and athletic (and comes with a much longer warranty), but Honda quality, while sometimes difficult to quantify, is almost generational in its appeal. Families buy Hondas for themselves, and pass them on to children or grandchildren; owning a Passport, in any guise, would be no different.

I’m all about the mods made to create the TrailSport, but would probably prefer the idea of negotiating a logging trail or fire road while behind the wheel of Honda’s CR-V with these same offroad mods – ‘cause trails, as you’d guess, typically aren’t this wide!

Honda’s Passport is assembled at Honda’s auto plant in Lincoln, Alabama. Roll Tide!


Kevin Joostema, Managing Partner, Car-ED

Creating new products and concepts has got to be one of the most exciting jobs in the automotive sector. I’ve been lucky to be able to work in this field. 

Back in 2015 my team at Honda R&D Americas had the opportunity to help the (past) President when he asked, “how can we use our successful 3-row Pilot and all the factory capabilities we have in Alabama to make new products?” One of the most efficient ways to leverage a successful product is to make derivatives of the product – and by efficiency it is meant “low investment requirements”.  

At this time a good chunk of the midsize SUV market was made up of both 3-row (7-8 passenger) SUVs, as well as traditional 2-row (5 passenger) SUVs.  So the answer was easy – would consumers find a midsize SUV with 2-rows based off the Pilot appealing?  Would they buy such a product from Honda? Could it be made different enough from the Pilot and CR-V?  Many successful models already existed in the marketplace, with approximately 40% of sales at the time among 2-row midsize SUVs. Models already in the marketplace included the Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Nissan Murano, just to name a successful few.  

The efficiency was quite easy to see with the Pilot – just one cut and some shortening of the rear yielded a large, wide, competitive concept from the engineers with segment-leading rear cargo space. New vehicle programs from scratch can cost several hundreds of millions of dollars – or more. However, these types of derivatives can be planned and engineered for only tens of millions. Key to its success would be exterior designs for the front and rears that were differentiated enough from the Pilot that a new model and name could stand on its own and be desired by 2-row midsize SUV shoppers. The use of the historical Passport name (from the 1990s original) was just icing on the cake for the American Honda management. Within a year the project was a go; it was launched in late 2018/early 2019.

The TrailSport trim was introduced for the 2022 model year on the Passport as a way to further develop off-road “cred” (credentials), and was the first TrailSport model in the Honda lineup.  The product successfully continues to sell today, slotted nicely between the volume-leading CR-V and the larger, now all-new Pilot. 

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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