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Honda’s Passport Trailsport Is The Goldilocks Off-Roader You Should Really Know About

The Takeaway: Honda’s Trailsport package aims to create a more rugged aesthetic to match the Passport’s off-road capabilities. It being an all-wheel-drive crossover, Honda’s target was to create a vehicle that you can use to drop the kids off at school during the week and take them on an all-terrain adventure during the weekend—all without breaking a sweat. After putting the vehicle through its paces on myriad roads and trails for over three days at this year’s Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, Arizona, I can confidently say that Honda has met its target.

  • With 280 horsepower, it’s the most powerful vehicle in its class (10 more hp than a Toyota 4Runner SR5).
  • Honda’s iVTM4 all-wheel-drive system is surprisingly capable in light/medium off-road scenarios.
  • Transmission temperatures remained in control, even while tackling trails in the Arizona desert heat.

    Specs:

    • Base Price: $42,970 ($51,364 as tested)
    • Engine: Turbocharged 3.5-liter V6
    • Horsepower: 280
    • Torque: 262 lb-ft
    • Transmission: 9-speed automatic
    • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
    • Fuel economy: 21 mpg (combined)

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      What’s In a Name

      Matt Crisara

      Honda’s Ridgeline was the brand’s first foray into building a pickup truck that was equally capable on and off-road. However, other all-wheel-drive vehicles in its lineup—like the Passport—had since been flying under the radar, with buyers rarely taking them off-road. While the Trailsport package is more of an exercise in design than engineering, the goal remains to highlight the vehicle’s off-road acumen.

      In evaluating how well the Passport could boogie off-road, we had the chance to tackle “End of The World Trail” in Flagstaff, Arizona. Those in the know will be aware that it’s no Rubicon trail, but it also wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. Below we’ve compiled a list of the three key areas that separate the Trailsport from the other EX-L and Elite trims.

      Wheel and Tire Package

      2022 honda passport in use offroad

      Matt Crisara

      2022 honda passport in use offroad

      Matt Crisara

      Honda’s Passport Trailsport rolls out of the factory with 18-inch wheels; EX-L and Elite trims of the Honda Passport roll out of the factory on 20-inch wheels. While this probably sounds largely insignificant, the smaller wheels allow extra room within the wheel arch for a bigger and beefier set of all-terrain tires. Unsurprisingly, the most obvious advantage is the added air volume, which improves comfort on the trail and gives extra headroom for airing down should you need to. However, the biggest benefit is that the Firestone Destination A/T2 tires have much better puncture protection compared to the standard all-season tires the Passport comes with.

      While the drive route through End of the World trail didn’t really push the Passport to its limits—most of it was on hard-packed double track—it showcased the do-it-all nature of an all-wheel-drive vehicle. Thanks to the coil-sprung independent suspension at both ends, the ride was super comfortable even without airing down the tires. Sure, there were a couple of washboard sections that shook me around a little bit, but there’s not a lot you can really do in those scenarios.

      Advanced All-Wheel Drive

      While it’s not unique to the Trailsport trim level, Honda’s iVTM4 all-wheel-drive system is one of the three pillars that make it great. Unlike most AWD systems, which aren’t very complex, iVTM4 is torque vectoring, meaning it can split up to 70 percent of the engine’s torque between the rear wheels, 100 percent of which can be sent to one wheel at the rear axle in extreme scenarios.

      Torque vectoring is great, but iVTM4’s crawl ratio is what really surprised me. After champing at the bit to tackle some more demanding trail, I found out that the Trailsport is actually super capable at crawling up technical terrain. Sure, it will never be as nimble as a proper four-wheel-drive vehicle, but it’s clear that Honda’s clever iVTM4 system is bridging the gap in performance. To offer some perspective, the Passport Trailsport has a crawl ratio of 20:1, while a comparable Tacoma 4×4 can manage a 44:1 (with the manual gearbox)—higher crawl ratios lead to better control over obstacles.

      Aesthetic Modifications

      2022 honda passport in use offroad

      Matt Crisara

      Outside of the burlier wheel and tire package, the remaining modifications to the Trailsport are mostly aesthetic. However, when it comes to overlanding, looking cool on the trail is just as important as looking where you’re going.

      Up front, the latest Passport gains largely the same front fascia that’s on the Ridgeline. The biggest differences in the new rugged variant involve a unique grille treatment (with black plastic) and a stark orange Trailsport badge. Honda also contoured the front bumper to look more aggro, and it now features a silver-painted brush guard. One of Honda’s product experts says this vehicle is just a stepping stone, with more aggressive off-road modifications on the way for future Trailsport models. The end goal is to produce a vehicle like the Passport Rugged Roads concept that we saw at Overland Expo last year.

      The Verdict

      2022 honda passport in use offroad

      Matt Crisara

      After driving the Passport Trailsport on and off-road for nearly four days in Flagstaff, Arizona, I’ve come to realize that enjoying it is a matter of perspective. A 4×4 will always be more capable on trail. However, Honda’s ruggedized Passport is in a different ballpark when it comes to comfort, handling dynamics, and fuel efficiency—all while being not too shabby when the pavement runs out.

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