In 2019 I took a quick off-road excursion in a slightly modified Honda Passport. That drive proved two things. First, so-called cross-over utility vehicles are better off-road than we think. Second, they’re still not nearly as good as proper body-on-frame utility vehicles purposely designed to be off-road capable. That second part has most to do with wheel/axle articulation, gearing, and ground clearance.
For 2022 Honda introduced a new trim of the Passport, the TrailSport. The focus of this trim is to appeal to the adventurous customers who drive their vehicles off the pavement to participate in outdoor activities. As witnessed at this year’s New York Auto Show, crossovers from other automakers are also jumping on this trend, so let’s see what’s what.
All passports get a mild facelift for the 2022 model year. With the TrailSport, Honda starts off with what they call “aggressive exterior design”. Different front and rear bumper designs give the impression of stronger materials and reduced approach and departure angles. While somewhat busy, the overall appearance is subtly improved over the previous model.
Aside from that and the orange TrailSport trim, there are not many changes here. The LED headlights are excellent, and all doors are big and open wide (it’s shocking how many automakers get this wrong!). The hatch opening is also large, allowing easy loading of bigger objects. In a true Honda way, form follows function.
Honda always does interiors very well and the Passport is no exception. The insides, however, get less of a makeover in the midlife facelift. The TrailSport adds specific fabrics and stitching. The interior is very quiet and in typical modern Honda fashion, very well put together. Few will like the push-button shifter, but all passengers will like their seat space in all directions. The common Honda infotainment features fonts that a somewhat small and softkeys that are sometimes tricky to press. The operating system seems a bit dated but it does its job well.
There are cupholders, cubbies, and a large center storage bin. There is a wireless phone charger and several USB receptacles. On the TrailSport there is even a handy 120vAC receptacle. There are butt warmers in the front seats. In the back there is a large, covered storage bin, and when more space is needed, the rear 60:40 split bench folds almost flat.
Vehicles with off-roading driving intentions should really have some recovery points. While the TrailSport has basic tow hooks, it’s missing a standard tow hitch. Aside from towing a trailer and being used as a recovery point, hitch-mounted bike racks are extremely popular in the outdoorsy crowd that Honda is aiming for here. The good news is that a tow hitch is optional.
A roof rack, or more specifically roof railings are standard. But crossbars, which actually allow the attachment of anything to those railings are optional. A sub-$600 Utility Package combines the crossbars and trailer hitch. Those should really be standard on an adventure destined vehicle in this writer’s opinion.
Another missing thing from the TrailCross is something that could be very handy when actually crossing trails – a full-size spare tire. This is an obvious miss by Honda but I do believe that there simply was not enough space in the spare wheel well for one. The Toyota 4Runner, which Honda used as a benchmark for the TrailCross, and certain models of the Subaru Outback do have full-size matching spare tires. This could be a lifesaver on a long trip.
Wheels and Tires:
Every version of the Passport, and its sibling, the Pilot, has been smooth, quiet, and comfortable. But TrailSport’s smaller diameter wheels, 18-inch versus 20-inch on other versions, make the ride even plusher. I’ve always misunderstood large wheel sizes and thin sidewall tires on utility vehicles, but it seems as though automakers are finally getting over the big wheel trend. In addition to a better ride, the smaller wheels are less likely to sustain damage from bad roads or drivers who lack parallel parking skills.
It should be noted that the 245/60R18 Destination LE 2 look rugged, they are considered highway tires. These all-season tires are intended for light-duty pickups and larger crossover utility vehicles. They look rugged but definitely lack the strength of a tire like the BFGoodrich K02. They’re also not rated for deep snow. That said, I had a different version of these tires of my own Acura MDX and they were really great in terms of winter traction, being quiet, and lasting a long time.
Ride and Drive:
Like its chassis-mates, the Pilot, Odyssey, and Ridgeline, the Passport drives great. The steering is light but direct. Emergency maneuvers are predictable and free of drama. There are no unpredictable chassis behaviors despite the springs and shocks being tuned with comfort in mind. For all these reasons, the Passport TrailCross is an ideal daily driver, even if Honda shows it storming across the great wide open.
Honda’s venerable 3.5-liter V6 with 280-horsepower and 262 lb-ft. of torque is the only choice. It is combined with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Matching the chassis, this engine is smooth and quiet. The transmission is also rather seamless and certainly an improvement over many competitors’ CVTs. AWD models have smart torque-vectoring to gain the most traction, but it is not the same system as the SH-AWD that’s available on Acura models.
Priced at $42,970, the 2022 CrossTrail is placed between the EX-L and the Elite Passport models. The TrailSport seems to be the most desirable model of the three, in my opinion. While it is far from being a basis for a hard-core overland build, it’s perfect for those who explore dirt or snowy roads not too far from civilization, while being comfortable and functional between weekends.
Disclaimer: Honda provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review
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