the all-new 2019 honda passport is more than just a clone of the honda pilot on which it's based, with an improved driving experience plus spacious passenger and cargo areas. even though the passport comes with two rows of seats, it actually starts at a higher price than its three-row pilot sibling.
the passport is offered in four trim levels. to keep things simple, honda doesn't offer any options or packages - what you see is what you get (all prices include a $1,045 destination charge):
- sport: $33,035
- ex-l: $37,455
- touring: $40,325
- elite: $44,725
the passport does have one catch: the all-wheel-drive system is only standard on the top elite models. the system is rather robust, and my guess is that most buyers interested in the passport will want or at least consider it. on the three lower trim levels, awd costs $1,900, which seems expensive on its face, but the passport isn't the only 2019 vehicle with an expensive awd system, however. looking at competitors, it costs $1,995 on the ford edge, up to $3,000 on the jeep grand cherokee, $1,600 on the nissan murano and up to $2,900 for the chevrolet blazer. against those figures, it doesn't seem quite as bad.
what you get
all trims feature the same used engine and transmission combination, a 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter v-6 mated to a nine-speed automatic. the base honda passport sport, is well-equipped, with features such as tri-zone automatic climate control, 20-inch wheels, led headlights, the honda sensing suite of safety features, a smart entry system, two usb ports and a 5-inch multimedia screen.
the ex-l adds leather upholstery, a power liftgate and power moonroof, powered and heated front seats, auto dimming rearview mirror, four usb ports, a blind spot monitor and an 8-inch multimedia display with android auto and apple carplay connectivity. honda expects this to be the volume trim, and i think it's the trim that offers the most value with the upgraded multimedia system and leather seats.
touring models top that with heated rear seats, navigation, front and rear parking sensors, a 115-volt household outlet behind the center console and a hands-free power liftgate that's activated by kicking your foot under the rear bumper.
finally, there's the elite trim. this adds a wireless phone charger, rain-sensing windshield wipers, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and some gloss-black exterior trim pieces along with a subtle rear spoiler.
what about the pilot?
the honda pilot lx starts at $32,495 including a similar $1,045 destination charge (about $500 less than the passport), and it's similarly equipped outside of a smaller set of wheels, a six-speed automatic instead of the nine-speed and manual air conditioning. honda sensing and the same multimedia system are found here, as well.
move up the trim levels and the pilot does pull away. an ex-l version of the pilot starts at $38,805 ($1,350 more than the passport ex-l), and the touring starts at $43,565 ($3,240 more). the pilot elite runs the biggest gap in starting at $49,065, $4,340 more than the passport. as you move up the trim levels, the passport's pricing falls more in line with where you'd expect the smaller vehicle to end up. but down at the bottom, there's a pretty good case to be made in opting for the pilot at that price - having a third row essentially for free is an enticing proposition.
what competitors cost
the passport's pricing puts it on the higher side of its competitive set of two-row, five-seat mid-size suvs. the exception would be the 2019 jeep grand cherokee, which starts at $33,440, around $400 more than the passport. the 2019 nissan murano starts slightly lower at $32,315, and the new 2019 chevrolet blazer goes much lower at $29,995.
though those competitors start at nearly the same price or lower, the passport has a big advantage on those vehicles, especially in the safety department. the grand cherokee and the blazer don't offer those safety technologies until higher trim levels (the blazer is especially egregious in this regard), and the murano comes with standard automatic emergency braking, but not the other major features like adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist.
the more intriguing comparison is the 2019 ford edge, which starts at $31,090 and got a big boost in standard safety equipment for the latest model year. it also features a robust standard safety feature list, including a blind spot warning system and many of the same features found on the passport, with the exception of adaptive cruise control. but it doesn't feature automatic climate control, and it also comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder used engine rather than the v-6 of the passport.
i think the passport's edge in equipment and safety features justifies its higher starting price among this set of competitors at the low end, and the elite trim level has enough quality to compete at the top even as the grand cherokee's price climbs beyond $50,000.
the 2019 passport goes on sale on monday.
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