2022 Honda Passport TrailSport Review: Rugged but Also Aged

Honda's freshest take on its two-row Passport SUV combines family-friendly features with off-roading equipment. It's a combination many automakers are testing with U.S. buyers as going off the pavement continues to gain popularity.

Honda introduced the Passport in 1993 as its first entry into the then-young American SUV market. A second generation lasted from 1997 to 2002, but then the midsizer disappeared from our roads until 2019, returning as the company's most off-road friendly SUV.

The refreshed 2022 Honda Passport was revealed in December with a new TrailSport grade, taking the model's ruggedness to another level. The Passport has four trims levels with Trailsport slotting in the middle with a $43,695 price tag.

In addition to the 2022 Passport's standard one-touch moonroof, leather seats, power tailgate, and keyless entry, the model gets a 10-mm increase in track width to improve stability, 18-inch wheels with off-road tires, a special grille treatment, more aggressive front and rear bumpers and skid plates to protect the underside during trail adventures.

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The new TrailSport logo is inspired by nature and features orange badges on the grille and tailgate. The Passport and AWD badges are painted gloss black as opposed to chrome.

In the cabin, the 2022 Honda Passport TrailSport gets orange contrast stitching on the steering wheel, door panels and seats, amber interior lighting, and embroidered logos. The TrailSport also features power folding mirrors for narrow trails.

The 2022 Passport comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It has wireless charging too, though not wireless smartphone integration, and a volume dial attached to the screen for easy adjustment while driving.

Dual-zone temperature is controlled through toggle switches while the nine-speed automatic transmission is operated via buttons. It's not very intuitive with the reverse slider being pulled back to select the gear. Historically, pulling back (at least from neutral) puts the car into drive and moving forward puts the car in reverse.

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There's only a little bit of storage space in the central dash area, but it does have a big center console that also acts as a horizontal surface to set down phones, keys, etc., and big door pockets for drinks and other small cargo. The low center console and small individual armrests make the cabin feel spacious and airy.

Those orange stitched seats look cool, but they could use more under-knee support and more bolstering to keep the driver in place. However, they are soft over long distances.

The problem with driving those long distances is the powertrain. The 3.5-liter V6 makes 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. That's plenty for normal driving on- and off-road, but it and the automatic transmission don't make a great combination.

Sometimes the Passport hunted for gears when trying to overtake, and in Sport mode it surges scarily on downshifts. Buyers shouldn't expect race car-like shifting or sportiness, but the TrailSport didn't prove the refinement Honda is known for. The engine seems like it's working hard, and makes a good bit of noise doing it.

2022 Honda Passport Trailsport
The 2022 Honda Passport Trailsport gets gloss black trim as opposed to chrome.

Even with the strangeness, Sport mode seemed to be the way to go with a little more throttle sensitivity than Normal. The four-wheel drive system has its own modes for Mud, Sand and Snow and with 8.1-inch of ground clearance the TrailSport never got hung up on light mid-Michigan trails. It can tow 5,000 pounds.

The ride is comfortable on pavement and on dirt with a soft suspension that soaks up almost everything modern roads have to offer. The steering is on the easy side and very little of the road imperfections make it to the cabin either in noise or movement. The brakes didn't feel as smooth or progressive as some of its competition, offering a few inches of movement before any real bite.

The Honda Sensing suite of driver assist and safety technology is standard and includes forward collision warning and braking, lane keeping, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. For 2022 all Passports also get a rear seat reminder.

Honda calls out the Jeep Grand Cherokee ($38,325), Ford Edge ($37,145) and Toyota 4Runner ($38,105) as competitors to the Passport. The Ford is the only one that comes with a four-cylinder engine but the Honda offers the most interior space. Both the 4Runner and Grand Cherokee are more proven off-road, while the Ford is one of the best on-road, where it averages 29 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway.

The Passport is rated at just 24 mpg on the highway, and in practice it returned closer to 22 mpg. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is rated at 25 mpg on the highway and the iconic 4Runner only gets 19.

The Jeep is hard to pass up in this instance, especially if off-road jaunts are a common menu item. The Toyota 4Runner is also legendary in its toughness. However, the Passport will most appeal to Honda fans that like to adventure, while spending plenty of time in a convenient and comfortable cabin.