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If you're shopping for a light, efficient and reliable family car, Honda can bring 30 years of experience to the table. But for a heavier-duty, off-road-capable SUV, even Honda shops somewhere else. And that's how the Passport came to be.
Passport is engineered and built by truck-specialist Isuzu; it is essentially an Isuzu Rodeo with Honda badges. And that, in no way, is a bad thing. The Rodeo/Passport is a true, versatile, dual-purpose SUV, one that can cruise the highway in comfort and style, while its dependable 4WD system and rigid truck frame let it tackle rough terrain and rural tracks as well as some of those tougher-looking SUVs.
Are you surprised that Honda would go out and find a vehicle that could do all that, and still offer quietly handsome styling and downright luxurious appointments? No? Of course not. You knew Honda would take care of you, one way or another. And owning a Passport means you own a passport to Honda's service facilities.
Our Passport EX-Luxury proved 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 was smooth and sure. Our Passport 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 urban Southern California behind, we headed north to the Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. 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-inch tires and 8.5 inches 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 tires 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 as you might expect. The four-wheel ABS system keeps the vehicle straight and true in emergency stops. In fact, Passport's ABS 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 interior dimensions lacking, the Passport offers an outstanding balance of value and performance.