The takeaway: Honda’s Trailsport package aims to create a more rugged aesthetic to match the Passport’s off-road capabilities. Being a four-wheel drive crossover, Honda’s goal was to create a vehicle that could take the kids to school during the week and take them on an all-terrain adventure at the weekend—all without you. to work up a sweat. After testing the vehicle on countless roads and trails for over three days at the Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, Arizona, I can confidently say that Honda has achieved its goal.
- With 280 hp, it is the most powerful vehicle in its class (10 hp more than a Toyota 4Runner SR5).
- Honda’s iVTM4 all-wheel drive is surprisingly capable in light/medium off-road scenarios.
- Transmission temperatures stayed in check even while tackling trails in the desert heat of Arizona.
- Base price: $42,970 ($51,364 as tested)
- Engine: 3.5-litre V6 with turbocharger
- Horsepower: 280
- Torque: 262 lb-ft
- Transmission: 9-speed automatic
- Drive: four-wheel drive
- Fuel economy: 21 mpg (combined)
What’s in a name
Honda’s Ridgeline was the brand’s first attempt at building a pickup truck that was suitable for both on-road and off-road. However, other four-wheel drive vehicles in its range, such as the Passport, have since flown 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 emphasize the vehicle’s off-road sense.
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 know it’s not a Rubicon trail, but it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park either. Below we’ve compiled a list of the three main areas that separate the Trailsport from the other EX-L and Elite trims.
Wheel and Tire Package
Honda’s Passport Trailsport rolls out the factory with 18-inch wheels; EX-L and Elite versions of the Honda Passport roll out of the factory on 20-inch wheels. While this probably sounds largely insignificant, the smaller wheels provide extra space in the wheel arch for a larger and sturdier set of all-terrain tires. Unsurprisingly, the most obvious benefit is the added air volume, which improves comfort on the trail and gives extra headroom to air out when needed. The biggest advantage, however, is that the Firestone Destination A/T2 tires have much better puncture protection compared to the standard all-season tires that the Passport comes with.
While the driving route through the End of the World trail didn’t really push the Passport to its limits – most of it was on heavily packed double track – it showed the do-it-all nature of a four-wheel drive vehicle. Thanks to the coil-spring independent suspension at both ends, the ride was super comfortable, even without airing the tires. Sure, there were a few washboard sections that shocked me a bit, but there’s not much you can really do in those scenarios.
Advanced four-wheel drive
While 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 are not very complex, iVTM4 is torque vectoring, meaning it can distribute up to 70 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels, 100 percent of which can be sent to one wheel on the rear axle in extreme cases. . scenarios.
Torque vectoring is great, but iVTM4’s crawl rate is what really surprised me. After putting some effort into tackling a somewhat more demanding trail, I found that the Trailsport is actually super capable of crawling up technical terrain. Of course it will never be as agile as a real four-wheel drive vehicle, but it is clear that Honda’s clever iVTM4 system bridges the performance gap. To provide some perspective, the Passport Trailsport has a 20:1 creep ratio, while a comparable Tacoma 4×4 can handle a 44:1 (with the manual transmission) – higher creep ratios mean better control over obstacles.
Outside of the heavier wheel and tire package, the remaining adjustments to the Trailsport are mostly aesthetic. However, when it comes to overlanding, looking cool on the trail is just as important as watching where you’re going.
Up front, the latest passport will largely have the same front as on the Ridgeline. The biggest differences in the new rugged variant are a unique grille treatment (with black plastic) and a stark orange Trailsport decal. Honda has also contoured the front bumper to look more aggro, and it now has 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 coming for future Trailsport models. The ultimate goal is to produce a vehicle like the Passport Rugged Roads concept we saw at Overland Expo last year.
After nearly four days of riding the Passport Trailsport on and off the road 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 the trail. However, Honda’s robust passport is in a different ballpark when it comes to comfort, driving dynamics and fuel efficiency – all while not being too shabby when the road surface runs out.
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