Here’s Why the 2023 Passport Is the Cowboy of Honda Vehicles

January 13th, 2023 by

A grey 2022 Honda Passport Trailsport is shown from the front at an angle while driving off-road.

What does a modern cowboy drive? An array of different cars probably come to mind (Ranchero? Frontier?), but I’m guessing a Honda might not be the first. Honda’s are fondly known as gentle commuters whose clean and calculated engineering allows them to drive reliably mile after mile. It doesn’t exactly go with the rough-and-tumble image classic cowboys are known for, but we’re here to make the case that there are many out there looking for a Honda Passport for sale. The Passport has been around for a while, and once you start delving into its history, its cowboy origins become clear. From its days with Isuzu to its current off-roading flair, the Passport has embraced the trail’s spirit since day one.

The Passport’s Story Begins With the the Isuzu Rodeo

The Honda Passport’s story starts with the Isuzu Rodeo. Isuzu is a Japanese automaker that has been around since 1934, but if they don’t sound familiar, it’s because their presence in the United States passenger auto market has been largely behind the scenes. Currently, they sell commercial vehicles in the United States and partner with GM to create diesel engines, but it’s been years since any passenger automobiles were sold here with the Isuzu badge.

One such vehicle was the Isuzu Rodeo. It debuted in the United States for the 1991 model year as an SUV with a rear hatch, a spare tire on the back, and body-on-frame construction. A second generation of the Rodeo debuted in 1998 and was available in both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. A three-door version, the Isuzu Amigo, was also sold in the United States. It had a shorter wheelbase and a folding soft top, the bread and butter of the stubby, off-roading vehicles of an era gone by.

A silver 2022 Honda Passport Trailsport is shown from the rear at an angle after leaving a dealer that has a Honda Passport for sale.

It was just as adventurous as the Rodeo of not more, plus its name feels like an homage to the Spanish roots of cowboy culture. Meanwhile, the Isuzu Rodeo Camper, produced from 1990 to 1993, made anyone feel like a cowboy. It was sold in four-wheel drive only, had a sturdy diesel engine, and a camper bolted to the back of it, allowing drivers to explore the world off the roadway and sleep on the trail without the need for setting up a campsite. It had a wild run, but the Isuzu Rodeo was discontinued in 2004. By then, the torch had already been passed to the Honda Passport.

The Passport Is Born

You may wonder what the Isuzu Rodeo has to do with the Honda Passport. Well, have you ever seen two vehicles that look virtually identical aside from their badging? They were likely the result of rebadging or a joint venture between automakers that resulted in one vehicle being sold under two different names. The Mazda Tribute and Ford Escape are notable examples, as is the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ.

Honda and Isuzu enjoyed a fruitful partnership throughout the 1990s, as both had exactly what the other needed. While Isuzu excelled in brawny, truck-like performance, Honda was perfecting the passenger vehicle. Cue the Isuzu Oasis, a rebadged Odyssey, and the Honda Passport, a rebadged Rodeo. In true cowboy fashion, the Passport was Honda’s first venture into new territory: the SUV market. It was rapidly expanding in the United States, and the Passport was Honda’s quick ticket to give consumers what they wanted.

The Passport debuted for the 1994 model year. Like the Rodeo, it had the body-on-frame construction that made SUVs for sale during this era great for off-roading and hauling. It was also available in 4WD and had the option of a 2-speed transfer case, allowing drivers to switch to different gear ratios to maximize torque at slower speeds, a great feature for vehicles driving on shifty terrain. The second-generation Passport debuted for 1998, alongside the second-generation Rodeo. It got a new look and a more powerful V6, but the sun was setting on Honda’s first SUV. While the Rodeo rode on for another couple of years, the Passport was discontinued in 2002. The same year, Honda debuted an SUV that was entirely its own in the form of the 2003 Honda Pilot.

If You Fall off the Horse, Get Back Up

After its discontinuation and issues with rust that caused extensive recalls for the second generation, it seemed like the Passport would be hanging up its hat for good, but after a long hiatus, it was back for a third generation. Completely redesigned, the 2019 Honda Passport was a zesty crossover with a thirst for adventure. Its capable 3.5-liter V6 produced 280 hp and allowed for a maximum towing capacity of 5000 lbs. It came standard in front-wheel drive, but an all-wheel drive was available, too. In addition to the boosted traction, opting for the all-wheel drive also means greater ground clearance, up to 8.1 inches from 7.5.

It may look like your typical, affable crossover, but with all-wheel drive, ground clearance, and a strong engine factored in, the new Passport was a capable steed that makes a great partner in exploration. It went largely unchanged for the next few years, but in 2022 received significant upgrades, matching the Passport’s outside to its inside. The latest Passport looks more set in its resolve with a bulkier, squared-off front end. The grille is made bolder with an enlarged, honeycomb design.

Cowboys are no strangers to uncharted lands. They played a crucial role in settling the west, tending to the care and transport of the animals that made up the lucrative ranching industry. The Passport is indicative of leading the way into the unknown. It was the first SUV from Honda, and in 2022, it achieved another first with the new TrailSport trim, a nod to that sense of exploration.

It gets a wider stance, 18-inch wheels, and all-wheel drive. It also adds styling features for a more off-roading look and feels, like roof rails and rugged-style tires. You never know what you might run into off-road, which is why all Passport models have Intelligent Traction Management systems. Depending on the mode the driver selects, the Passport’s performance can be optimized for different driving conditions, which include snow, sand, and mud.

A white 2022 Honda Passport Elite is shown from the side while driving off-road.

It’s Time to Saddle Up

Today, the cowboy is romanticized as being wild and free, with unyielding grit and determination. While there surely was a lot of that, they didn’t call it the Wild West for nothing; being a cowboy required a certain amount of steadiness, too. It was a notoriously difficult gig and demanded a calm mind and even temperament. If there’s one thing a Honda is, it’s steady. Regardless of the segment, Honda is known for crafting incredibly reliable vehicles that consistently fulfill their duty with incredible endurance and longevity.

Honda’s pioneer SUV combines both sides of the coin, embracing freedom and stability at the same time. The days of westward expansion are gone, but the spirit of those enduring buckaroos lives on in a new way. Instead of horses, vehicles are our means of exploration, and there’s no better way to feel like a cowboy in the modern world than saddling up with the Honda Passport. It is truly an SUV that needs to be experienced in person, and we here at Ryan Honda of Williston invite you to come in and get behind the wheel of this rugged explorer. Before you know it, you’ll be venturing through the unknown with your new trusted travel companion, the incredible 2023 Honda Passport.