We wrote recently about Honda’s new TrailSport trim. I theorized it would first go to Ridgeline and perhaps be a competitor for other brand’s off-road truck trims (Chevy’s ZR, Ford’s FX4, etc) and then perhaps go to Passport as a trim with some light off-roading features.
Turns out “light” is an understatement.
It’s all part of a Passport refresh that sees the five-seat SUV get a more rugged grille — a la the Ridgeline. It also gets a different rear bumper with larger exhaust cutouts.
If you opt for the TrailSport trim, you’ll get unique interior and exterior styling. You’ll also get what the press release calls “skid garnish designs prominently painted silver.” WTF is that? We read that as underbody paint that makes it look like there’s a skid plate. Other than that you get unique badging and trim accents, 18-inch wheels, and a wider track (10 mm). The tires get sidewall tread in order to look more rugged. You can also fold the mirrors with the touch of a button and the windshield wipers are heated so they can work in the cold.
When it comes to off-road goodies, that’s about it. Honda suggests that maybe, possibly, in the future, TrailSport models could get an off-road-tuned suspension or off-road tires.
That’s not good enough. For now, the TrailSport package strikes us as a poser package.
The other changes for non-TrailSport Passports are more in line with mid-cycle refreshes. A rear-seat reminder is added to the suite of safety tech, the EX-L and Elite trims get new 20-inch wheel designs, the EX-L gets different interior trim, and an HPD appearance package is available.
To be clear, I liked the Passport when I drove it a few years ago, and I like the current gen’s styling. This update also looks good to me, in photos. So I am not just dismissing this Trailsport out of hand.
But Honda needs to do better than just a cynical appearance play if it wants to truly sell customers on off-road adventure. A true off-road package would include skid plates, all-terrain rubber, special suspension tuning, and perhaps some electronic trickery via drive modes. Ford got it right with the Bronco Sport Badlands. There’s no reason Honda can’t follow that lead.
Instead, they slapped a few badges on and called it a day. Disappointing.
Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by subscribing to our newsletter.