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Auto Review: 2019 Honda Passport SUV Brings
The Steak, Not Much Sizzle
By Mark Phelan
Detroit Free Pres

“You can complain about vanilla styling, but vanilla is
the best-selling flavor of ice cream,” an exasperated
auto executive once snapped at the 10th question
about his midsize sedan’s unexciting appearance.
He was right, but I’ll take chocolate any day. With
dark chocolate chunks, if you’re bringing my dessert.
Occasionally a little jalapeno, just to see if I’m paying
attention.
The 2019 Honda Passport SUV is an overflowing
scoop of the finest vanilla automaking, topped with
sprinkles of driver assistance features, interior space
and price competitors will struggle to match.
Honda will sell every one of them that its plant in
Lincoln, Ala., can turn out.
The Passport is the latest in a growing class
of vehicles aimed at drivers who like the height,
convenience and trendiness of an SUV, but can do
without the parental connotations of three-row family
haulers like Honda’s own Pilot, which not coincidentally
rolls off the same assembly line as the Passport.
Five-passenger midsize SUVs like the Passport _
bigger than a five-seat Honda CR-V, not as big as
the seven-seat Pilot _ are the flavor of the month.
Automakers expect to charge as much for them as for
bigger three-row models, netting a handsome return on
the relatively small investment of a model that shares
many parts with its bigger sibling.
Behind the Wheel
2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite
All-wheel-drive, five-passenger midsize SUV
Price as tested: $43,680 (excluding destination
charge)
Rating: Three out of four stars
Reasons to buy: Passenger and luggage space;
features; price
Shortcomings: Fuel economy; power; audio controls
How much?
Passport prices start at $31,990 for a front-wheel
drive model. All-wheel drive raises the tab $1,900 to
$33,890. All Passports come with a 280-hp 3.5-liter V6
and nine-speed automatic transmission.
The Passport’s main competitors are the Chevrolet
Blazer _ also new for 2019 _ the Ford Edge and Nissan
Murano.
Passport prices are competitive with those SUVs, but

the top Elite model has more standard equipment than
the comparable Blazer, Edge and Murano, giving it an
effective price advantage.
The Subaru Outback is new for 2020. I haven’t tested
one yet. Prices, specifications and fuel economy are not
available for comparison.
I tested a loaded AWD Passport Elite. Features
included adaptive cruise control; lane-keeping assist;
blind-spot alert; front collision alert and automatic
braking; Apple Car Play; Android Auto; navigation;
Bluetooth; navigation; touch screen; leather interior
trim; heated and ventilated front seats; heated rear
seats; and 20-inch alloy wheels.
It stickered at $43,680. All prices exclude destination
charges.
Competitive base prices
(Excluding destination charges)
(Automatic transmission, all-wheel drive models.)
Honda Passport AWD Elite: $43,680
Chevrolet Blazer RS AWD: $43,500
Ford Edge Titanium AWD 2.0T: $40,755
Nissan Murano AWD SL: $40,930
Source: Autotrader
Living with a Passport
The Passport has the biggest passenger compartment
and most luggage space in the group. Day to day, that
means lots of head, shoulder and legroom in both
rows of seats. There’s plenty of storage space in the
front seat, particularly from a wide and deep bin in the
center console.
The front bucket seats have flimsy fold-down
armrests that I had to readjust every time I buckled
my seat belt. Most SUVs use a taller bin in the center
console with a padded lid for a center armrest, but
Honda says its buyers like the flip-down armrests,
which its CR-V compact SUV also has.
The dashboard, armrests and door tops are covered in
soft materials that look and feel good.
There’s a big, easy-to-use touchscreen with
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility for
smartphones. Voice recognition is good.
Unfortunately, Honda omitted a tuning dial from the
controls in the center stack. Using buttons or “seek/
scan” is a pain in the neck compared to turning a dial
when you want to sift through a bunch of stations or
tracks on your music device.
The Passport will carry four or five adults to dinner

comfortably,
fulfilling what
automakers
believe is Job 1
for midsize SUVs
with two rows of
seats.
Specifications
as tested
Engine: 3.5L V-6
Power: 280
horsepower @
6,000 rpm; 262
pound-feet of
torque @ 4,700
rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 111.0 inches
Length: 190.5 inches
Width: 78.6 inches
Height: 72.2 inches
Curb Weight: 4,237 lbs.
Assembled in Lincoln, Ala.
Fuel efficiency is sooo 2009
Oddly for a new Honda, the Passport Elite’s fuel
efficiency is nowhere near the leaders in its class. The
EPA rates the AWD model I tested at 19 mpg in the city,
24 on the highway and 21 combined.
That’s not atrocious, but it is lowest among the SUVs
we’re talking about.
Fuel prices have been low for a few years. They
may not be top of mind for consumers, but it’s still
reasonable to expect an all-new vehicle to be at
least as good as an older competitor, unless it has
significantly better power and performance. The
combined figure is 23 mpg for the Nissan Murano and
Ford Edge, both of which have been on the market for
years.
At current prices, that’s just $150 a year more to fuel
the Passport, per the Environmental Protection Agency.
The new Chevy Blazer also rated 21 mpg with AWD.
Not make-or-break money for anybody shopping
$40K+ SUVs, but what’s the world coming to when a
new Honda is a backward step in fuel efficiency?
EPA fuel economy ratings
(Automatic transmission, all-wheel drive models.)

All vehicles tested with regular gasoline
Honda Passport AWD Elite: 19 mpg city/24
highway/21 combined
Chevrolet Blazer RS AWD: 18/25/21
Ford Edge Titanium AWD 2.0T: 2{8/23
Nissan Murano AWD SL: 20/28/23
Source: www.fueleconomy.gov
Choose your battles
I discussed the Blazer’s failure to challenge the
leaders’ efficiency with Chevrolet engineers when I
tested it earlier this year. They said styling and features
trump fuel economy for likely buyers of five-seat
midsize SUVs. Accordingly, they prioritized looks,
performance and handling. The Blazer has the most
power in the group, and movie star looks.
The Passport is attractive, but a wallflower compared
to the Blazer, Edge and Murano _ a trio of vehicles as
gorgeous as any slice of the car market. The jury’s out
on the Outback until I walk up to one from every angle
for a few days. Subaru’s not exactly famous for styling
flair, but the Outback has established a handsome and
consistent look after 25 years on the market.
Honda prioritized room, safety equipment and price.
That could be enough to keep vanilla’s winning streak
intact.
And who knows? The Passport may look daring when
the almost inevitable, and inevitably conservative
looking, Toyota five-seat midsize SUV hits the market.

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