One of the things that I love about cars is their ability to start conversations. Driving one or more shiny new cars every week for 22 years is not a job for introverts. Fortunately, I'm not one. The interesting thing is that you can never quite tell which car will cause total strangers to walk up to you and start asking questions, offering opinions and the like.
I would not have guessed the 2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite would be one of those cars, but it is.
Is it the color, Obsidian Blue Pearl? Maybe. The tight proportions, with not too much and not too little overhang ahead of the front wheels and behind the rears? Maybe. The bulldog-like stance? Maybe.
Thing is, nobody could tell me what specifically they liked about it---just that they did. And that could very well be enough. If I were the Jeep Cherokee, I'd be a little apprehensive right about now ("Why does the audio system keep playing "New Kid In Town" by the Eagles?").
The Passport is the middle child that bears very little resemblance to its big brother, the Honda Pilot and its baby brother, the Honda CR-V. Both those SUVs, fine machines and class leaders in our book, have curves---the Passport has chunk, heft---it looks like it's hitting the gym on the regular.
While two-wheel drive Passports in base form can be had for as little as $31,990, our tester was the AWD Elite. So, top of the line. $43,680 is the price of admission and you get a lot for that money.
Under the hood is the same 3.5-liter, 280-horsepower V6 that all Passports come with, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel economy estimate is 19 city/24 highway, which is about right for the segment and squares with what we saw in a week of city street and urban freeway driving. 280 horsepower is a nice chunk of power that moves the Passport with no small amount of authority.
All-wheel drive is standard when you choose the Elite trim. You also get anti-lock brakes, electronic brake distribution, vehicle stability assist, tire pressure monitoring and daytime running lights, as you do in all the Passport trim choices.
Where the Elite ups the game is with blind spot information and cross-traffic monitoring, a power moonroof, 20-inch alloy wheels, hands-free power tailgate, front and rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, automatic on-off headlights, LED headlights and taillights, automatic high beams, LED fog lamps, heated power door mirrors with turn indicators, auto-dimming side mirrors, power-folding side mirrors, smart entry with security system, remote engine start, walk-away auto lock, roof rails, a tailgate spoiler and dual exhaust.
And then there's Honda Sensing, which brings adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist and road-departure mitigation.
Inside, the Elite brings a leather-trimmed interior with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 10-speaker audio system with AM/FM/HDRadio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and SiriusXM. It shares a display with voice recognition navigation and a multi-view rear camera. There's also mobile hotspot capability and wireless phone charging.
You also get pushbutton start, a pushbutton shifter, tri-zone automatic climate control, a driver's 10-way power seat with memory, a front passenger's four-way power seat, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a remote 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback, auto-dimming rearview mirror, HomeLink, power windows and locks, a tilt and telescoping steering column, illuminated visor vanity mirrors, second-row sunshades, under-floor cargo storage and a 115-volt power outlet.
Thanks to Honda's one-price approach, that's it. There are no options. So, with $1,045 destination and handling, the bottom line works out to $44,725.
Looks aren't everything. But they're a start. And the 2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite is way more than its appearance.