Passport TrailSport Review: Honda Finally Builds A Dirt-Worthy SUV (Sort Of) — Let Me Explain!

(Image: Honda)

The 2022 Honda Passport TrailSport comes mighty close to other capable off-road crossovers.

We were invited to the off-road debut of the 2022 Honda Passport TrailSport deep in California’s Anza Borrego desert. The purpose of this event was to display the vehicles off-road prowess. Something that was left in the question the last time we analyzed it’s off-road accessories.

Many viewers questioned whether or not these additions would make the vehicle more capable in the dirt. The purpose of the event was to display that, indeed this was a usable off-road-capable machine. 

To that end, Honda was fairly successful in their design. With that being said, there were many pros and cons that had to be addressed.

We tested the 2022 Honda Passport TrailSport in stock trim. The only addition was a marker flag for off-road visibility/safety. (Images: TFLoffroad)

What is the Honda Passport TrailSport?

Based on the successful Honda passport, the trail sport package adds a few features to accentuate its purpose. The passport is based on a shortened, lightened version of the Honda Pilot. It uses the same powertrain, which is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 280 horsepower and 262 lb-feet of torque. Powertrain is fed through a nine-speed automatic transmission, connected to Honda’s i-VTM4 all-wheel drive (AWD) system. 

I like this V6. It is plenty powerful for this (approximately) 4,300-pound crossover. While I’m not a fan of push-button transmissions, the nine-speed worked a treat. In “Sand” mode, it held the gears just about as long as I would have, had I selected them manually. It was very active when the going got rough, and still worked smoothly on pavement.

The AWD system does a brilliant job of feeding power to compensate for slip. Equipped with Firestone Destination LE/2 P245/60R18 tires, it does slip quite a bit in sand. Yes, they are the same tires that come with the Honda Ridgeline HPD. These tires may look aggressive from the outside, but they tried pattern is much happier in less challenging environments. It forces the AWD system to work hard.

The rest of the trail sport set up is primarily trim additions. The nose has been updated, making it look more like a Honda Ridgeline. It also has badging and unique wheels. The interior has been updated as well, giving it a more rugged appearance.

The first half of our day was filled with a lead-follow off-road journey. Later on, we separated from the group and tested it on our own.

Driving in the dirt 

On asphalt, the Honda Passport TrailSport was just as compliant as the non-TrailSport brethren. It was smooth, responsive and comfortable. It handled well too. Equipped with an 8.1-inch ground clearance, and a fairly shallow front overhang, I was concerned about bottom out. It did happen a few times, which scuffed the front end on challenging hills.

Still, the TrailSport dutifully powered over many obstacles. Although it lost traction often, the system managed to figure out the optimum torque split to get me out of trouble. The system is capable of shifting up to 70% of the torque to the rear wheels. You can also use torque-vectoring on the back wheels via a twin-clutch system. This not only works in rough terrain, but it can enhance performance when cornering on asphalt.

It worked well.

Bounding over rough terrain that 90% of consumers would never attempt, the big Honda responded well. Even though it has limited articulation, given it’s four wheel independent suspension set up, it still provides power to the tires with grip.

It lumber is a bit, but no more than many products built by Jeep. I was impressed. 

The bottom line

Prices start at about $43,000 – I feel that consumers will get a lot for their money. It’s a solid all-around crossover that is one set of tires away from being brilliant. Addressing that issue, Honda stated that they will soon have more off-road capable performance components available. These include things like a beefier suspension, and more. On top of that, an HPD version will be offered, with even more accessories.

If the 2022 Honda Passport TrailSport had a little more ground clearance, and proper all-terrain tires, it would be outstanding in the rough – for a crossover. As it is, the vehicle represents a great family hauler with medium off-road capabilities.

Check out the video below:

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.