Honda recently pulled the covers off its new Passport, a name it hasn't used since 2002 for its mildly rugged and handsome SUV. The new one comes at just the right time with the onslaught and popularity of crossovers, and this time it no longer shares a platform with an Isuzu (that brand is long gone). Remember the original Honda Passport/Isuzu Rodeo? Just look at the photo below for a blast from the automotive past.

1998 honda passport silver
We loved the original Honda Passport. This 1998 model would still look great today.

Honda's strategy in bringing the new two-row SUV into its lineup seems pretty smart. Though the CR-V is plenty big inside, and the Pilot happens to be one of the most cavernous 3-row crossovers around, they really do lack something more rugged (aside from the Ridgeline pickup). Though the Passport is unibody (rather than body-on-frame, like the Toyota 4Runner), it does have some off-road characteristics not found on its brothers. 

2019 honda passport rocks
The new Passport slots in nicely between the CR-V and the Pilot, and it's more rugged than both.

Take one look at the Passport, and you might see more than just a little family resemblance. Rather than go back to the drawing board, Honda took it's larger Pilot and essentially shrunk it for the Passport with a bit more ruggedness to its aesthetic. The front end is essentially the same, but it gets blacked out in the grille, body effects, and some trim bits--and that's across all trim levels, not something we've seen before and certainly attractive. The look is clearly more rugged and masculine. With the more compact dimensions than the Pilot, it's not as minivan-like, thank goodness. 

2019 honda passport road

The Passport has a higher ride height than the larger pilot, by a full inch. The fact that Honda intentionally gave it more ground clearance means they intended it to be used in more "outdoorsy" applications than the Pilot. It will also have more-than-respectable tow ratings to the tune of 5,000 pounds with the all-wheel drive configuration. That's as much as the Toyota 4Runner.

2019 honda passport fron 34

The Passport will be powered by Honda's 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Only one transmission will be available, a nine-speed automatic that's found in the Pilot. Honda's all-wheel drive i-VTM4 torque vectoring is an option on all trim levels, but front-wheel drive is standard. We'd spend more and get the AWD system. It makes more sense on a vehicle like this and keep resale value high. No one's really looking for a FWD crossover, at least not one like the Passport.

2019 honda passport rear 34

The real question is how much will the Passport be used off-road? Probably not much, since the vast majority of SUV owners (even ones who drive vehicles like the seriously off-road capable Range Rover) don't even go off pavement, unless its by accident. But the fact that Honda is catering to those who want more from their SUV/Crossover means they want to spice up their lineup. 

honda passport mud
We would never try this in a CR-V, but the Passport should be able to manage mud.

As far as the interior is concerned, there's quite a bit of space and utility there. Honda says the passport has more passenger space than any other vehicle in its class, and if it's modeled after the Pilot that's likely true. There are no specs on the cargo room or rear passenger space, but take a look at the cargo area photos, and it looks pretty big. 

2019 honda passport cabin

The cabin gets an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on EX-L trim and above. Touring and Elite trims add a premium 590-watt 10-speaker audio system. Safety is robust since the Passport gets the full suite of Honda Sensing driver assistance systems as standard equipment. There's also a handy top-view camera for trailering, so bring the fishing boat along.

2019 honda passport infotainment
The Passport's best feature? A real audio knob. Thanks, Honda. Finally. 

Like most Hondas the Passport will sell in four different trim levels. The Touring and Elite trims will be the top tier versions, and there should be plenty of higher end features found in luxury cars such as a Qi wireless charging dock, ventilated seats, and optional trim bits to dress up or ruggedize the Passport's look. We mostly care about the fact that there's a real volume knob on the audio system rather than that awful slider thingy Honda though was cool (but everyone hated).  

2019 honda passport cargo

No pricing has been released yet, but it makes sense that it would be priced higher than the CR-V and lower than the Pilot. Of course, that price will go north when you outfit the Passport with Honda accessories like roof boxes, roof racks, a colored graphics package, and flashy welcome lights. There will also be an Adventure package with running boards and a trailer hitch. There will also be an Urban Package with front and rear underbody spoilers, different 20-inch wheels, and fancier roof rails. The Passport should be in dealerships early next year.