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Here's your Passport to the other side of the looking glass, where a Honda isn't a Honda--and where a tough, truck-based SUV can offer handsome styling and downright luxurious appointments. As the foster child of Honda's lineup, the Passport is engineered and built by Isuzu; and if you think it resembles an Isuzu Rodeo with Honda badges, then award yourself a gold star for accurate observation.
That said, we don't mean to demean the Passport in any way. A true, versatile, dual-purpose SUV, it can cruise the highway in comfort and style--while its dependable 4WD system and rigid frame let it tackle very rough terrain with out batting a headlight. In fact, the handy and handsome Passport handles rough tracks as well as some tougher-looking big-tire trucks.
Our Passport EX-Luxury was nimble and responsive as we traveled around Los Angeles. It had enough power to move in and out of traffic with ease. On the freeway the ride is smooth and sure. It handled the open road well, too. The 3.2-liter V6 is a little hummer, and it will tackle most highway grades without faltering. Regardless of the conditions, the steering was precise.
Leaving the wilderness of urban Southern California, we headed north to the Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The new seats were comfortable. We spent the week with our Passport exploring the Owens River and poking around the foothills at the base of the Coyote Mountains. It rained much of the week we spent there, and the Passport handled muddy dirt roads as effortlessly as it handled the mean streets of Los Angeles.
The Passport did well on the dirt tracks at the base of the Coyotes, too. Shifting into 4WD High is effortless when the going gets rough. And the 16" tires and 8.5" of ground clearance gave us ample undercarriage room to explore some fairly rocky roads.
We also had a chance to try out the transmission's Winter mode on a side trip to the nearby Mammoth Mountain ski resort. The 16" wheels couldn't get a bite on the icy surface until we engaged the Winter mode. Then the Passport literally walked out of its parking space.
Back on paved (and ice-free) mountain roads the Passport was agile and sure. In radical transient maneuvers the rear-end loses traction before the front-end-just the way it should. The 4-wheel ABS system works as expected and keeps the vehicle straight and true in emergency stops. In fact, the ABS system even works well on rough dirt roads where other systems are lacking.
The Honda Passport is a stable, solidly built, and versatile SUV that can hold its own against some other more expensive Utes. While some plus-sized passengers (or drivers) might find some of the interior spaces lacking, the Passport offers an outstanding balance between value and performance.