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2022 Honda Passport TrailSport first drive review: A semirugged refresh

Honda's midsize SUV has a great all-wheel-drive system, but needs more capability to really go off-road.

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2022 Honda Passport TrailSport

2022 Honda Passport TrailSport

MSRP

Honda's midsize Passport SUV gets a new TrailSport trim for 2022, priced at $43,695 including $1,225 for destination. But despite this rugged name and a few upgrades, this new addition to the Passport lineup doesn't really make this SUV any more or less capable than before.

The TrailSport has the same 8.1 inches of ground clearance as other Passport models. That means its off-road geometry is unchanged, with a 21.1-degree approach angle (if you ignore the chin spoiler) and 24.3-degree departure angle. The TrailSport does have a 10-millimeter-wide track, which Honda says gives the Passport more stability in turns, but it's hard to notice a real difference when we're talking about less than half an inch.

Like other Passports, the TrailSport has a number of drive modes: Normal, Sand, Mud and Snow. Each does a nice job of switching up the throttle mapping and transmission's shift points, and they even alter the stability control's intervention. In a soft, sandy wash, for example, Sand mode does a great job of keeping the engine revving high so I can easily maintain momentum.

2022 Honda Passport TrailSport
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2022 Honda Passport TrailSport

Inside it's... well, it's a Passport.

Honda

Honda's all-wheel-drive system can send 70% of the engine's torque to the rear wheels, and then 100% of the power side to side to whichever wheel has the most grip. This isn't a substitute for a locking differential, of course, but for places people are actually going to take a Passport, it fulfills its duties. When I last wrote about our long-term Honda Passport, it handily conquered 25 miles of washboard roads near Moab, Utah.

However, a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system is only great when matched with appropriate tires, and this is where the Passport TrailSport suffers. Sure, the TrailSport gets 18-inch wheels but the 245/60 Firestone Destination tires are merely all-season rubber with a little extra tread on the sidewall. More than once during my test in the desert I saw the car in front of me spin a rear wheel because the tire couldn't get traction in the sand. Drive with a bit of speed -- especially over rocky terrain -- and these tires likely won't last long. If you're planning on taking your Passport out to the lake house or on an extended off-road trip, I'd recommend swapping the stock tires out for a set of actual off-road shoes like BFGoodrich KO2s or Falken Wildpeaks.

One cool thing: If you plan on taking your Passport into the wilderness on the regular, Honda offers a number of adventure-ready accessories, including a roof box or basket, and attachments for bikes, kayaks, surfboards or snowboards. You can even get a six-person tent.

2022 Honda Passport TrailSport
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2022 Honda Passport TrailSport

Put some better tires on it, give it a lift, and then this Passport can really off-road.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

The Passport doesn't have any underhood changes for 2022, TrailSport or otherwise. It uses the same reliable 3.5-liter V6 good for 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. During a brief drive on the pavement I'm reminded that the Passport's power delivery, ride and handling are all fine. Driving the Passport neither impresses or annoys. It just gets the job done.

Like the rest of the 2022 Passport lineup the TrailSport gets oversize dual exhaust tips and new front and rear bumpers. The grille is unique to the TrailSport, and the Passport's folding mirrors help out when the path gets narrow. I like the look of the TrailSport badge and the orange contrasting stitching on the inside. However, don't expect any major cabin upgrades, save for a new rear-seat reminder and rear seatbelt reminder on all trims. All Passports also get the Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistance features, including lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are here as well, displayed on an 8-inch touchscreen in the dash.

Honda says it might up the TrailSport's off-road cred for the next-generation Passport, adding things like skid plates, better tires, a lifted suspension and retuned all-wheel drive. That would make the TrailSport better equipped to battle Subaru's Forester and Outback Wilderness, not to mention other rugged-ish SUVs. For now, however, this Passport isn't any more capable than all the others. But it's still a solid, well-rounded SUV.

2022 Honda Passport TrailSport goes a bit burly

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