Best Honda Off Road Vehicles With AWD Ranked

Best Honda Off road Vehicle with AWD

While Hondas are generally not purpose-built for off-roading like some specialized vehicles, certain models like the Honda Passport and Pilot with all-wheel drive (AWD) offer decent off-road capabilities for light to moderate terrain.

These models feature higher ground clearance, robust suspension systems, and drivetrain configurations that provide better traction, making them suitable for gravel roads, dirt trails, and mild rocky terrains. However, they are not equipped to handle extreme off-road conditions such as deep mud pits, steep inclines, or technical rock crawling like big trucks and 4x4s.

Best Off-road Honda models are: Passport 2nd gen (with 4WD & LSD), New Passport TrailSport, Ridgeline and CR-V (2nd gen), because they allow installing large A/T tires, have decent ground clearance (from 7 up to 9” + lift) and come with AWD for optimal traction of all four wheels on slippery surfaces.

If your idea of off-roading is more along the lines of camping trips, forest trails, and beach drives rather than tackling severe, obstacle-laden terrains, then certain Honda SUVs could be a reasonable choice. It’s important to note that preparation is key: investing in off-road tires and potentially additional protective equipment like skid plates can enhance your vehicle’s capability and safety while venturing off the beaten path.

Throughout the years we have featured some of the best Honda off-road projects in America. The majority of them feature extensive suspension upgrades and oversized wheels which allows them to keep up with big off-road SUVs and even outperform them in terms of comfort, reliability, fuel efficiency and on-road manners. It’s hard to believe, but except for the crossovers and trucks, you can even go off-roading in a Honda Fit FWD hatchback if properly equipped, which is proven by an enthusiast from California. More on that below!

Best Off Road Hondas to Consider

The ability to off-road in a Honda vehicle largely depends on the specific model and its features. Some Honda models are better equipped for off-road use than others. Here’s a breakdown:

Honda CR-V

Lifted Honda CRV Gen 1 Off roading with big 33 inch A/T tiresWhile primarily designed as a road vehicle, the CR-V can handle some light off-roading, especially the all-wheel-drive (AWD) models. It’s not built for serious off-road conditions (especially the newer models) like rock crawling or deep mud, but some owners challenge this concept by fitting their CR-Vs with oversized wheels.

Form Factor – Compact Crossover

The Honda CR-V is a compact crossover SUV that offers a blend of utility and comfort. It is designed primarily for road use but also comes with some light off-road capabilities, especially in the all-wheel-drive (AWD) models. The vehicle generally features a unibody construction, giving it better ride quality and handling on paved roads compared to body-on-frame SUVs.

Key Specs and Features

Key specifications and features generally include a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine, continuously variable transmission (CVT), and available all-wheel drive. The CR-V also comes equipped with advanced safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and collision mitigation braking.
It often features a roomy interior with fold-down rear seats, offering versatility for cargo storage. Infotainment options usually consist of a touchscreen display, smartphone integration, and sometimes premium audio systems.

Best Generation of CR-V Suitable for Off-Roading

2nd Generation CR-V models are the most popular among the off-road fans thanks to their ground clearance and All-Wheel-Drive. Honda even mentioned that it’s suitable for light off-roading in their sales brochure:

“Let the CR-V’s 4-wheel independent suspension take you somewhere you’ve never been before. Front and rear stabilizer bars, variable-assist power rack-and- pinion steering, 15″ wheels and wide, P205/70 R15 all-season tires deliver a taut, car-like ride, yet provide tantalizing smoothness on any road. Wıth 8″ of ground clearance and automatically engaging Real Tıme 4WD on available models for enhanced grip, you may fınd yourself venturing off pavement.Where another whole world is awaiting you. – Honda CR-V sales Brochure 2003.

Benefits of a Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V offers a variety of benefits such as excellent fuel efficiency, a comfortable and spacious interior, and a suite of advanced safety features. Its compact size makes it easy to maneuver, yet it offers ample cargo space, making it versatile for both city commuting and weekend getaways. Its AWD options also offer improved traction, making it capable of handling light off-road situations and inclement weather conditions.

What Aftermarket Parts Are Available to Enhance Its Off-Road Capabilities

While the Honda CR-V isn’t built for serious off-road use, some aftermarket parts can enhance its capabilities for light off-road adventures. All-terrain tires can provide better grip on unpaved surfaces. Wide off-road rims can add a bit more stability and better tire fitment.

Bull bars can offer added protection to the front of the vehicle and a mounting point for auxiliary lights. Roof racks can provide additional cargo space, useful for carrying outdoor equipment like bikes or kayaks. However, heavy-duty off-road equipment like steel bumpers, rock sliders, or winches are generally not available due to the CR-V’s unibody construction and the limitations of its drivetrain and suspension systems.

Honda Element

Lifted Honda Element off road build

Form Factor

The Honda Element is a compact crossover SUV with a unique and distinctive construction that set it apart from other vehicles in its class. One of its standout features is its super-cab-style doors, which allow for easier access to the rear seats. Additionally, the Element offers a spacious and flexible interior, with rear seats that can be folded flat, removed, or even converted into a bed, making it a versatile choice for various needs.

Key Specs and Features

The Honda Element typically came with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and was available in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations. Its key features included a rubberized floor that was easy to clean, making it ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and pet owners. The Element also had a high roofline, providing ample headroom and making it a suitable choice for transporting tall items.

Benefits of a Honda Element

The Honda Element’s unique design and versatile interior have garnered it a community of loyal fans. Its spacious interior, easy-to-clean surfaces, and configurable seating make it especially practical for those with active lifestyles, pet owners, and outdoor enthusiasts. The distinct and unconventional styling of the Element also makes it a standout choice for those looking for something different from traditional crossovers.

Availability of Aftermarket Parts

Owners looking to enhance the Element’s off-road capabilities have options like model-specific lift kits and other overland/off-road accessories. These can increase ground clearance and improve the vehicle’s ability to handle rough terrains. For those seeking more advanced upgrades, such as undercarriage protection or specialized off-road equipment, custom fabrication may be necessary, as such specific aftermarket parts are not widely available for the Element.

“Probably the best thing about the Honda Element is the community surrounding them. The saying is true, you really do meet the nicest people driving a Honda.” – Owner of the modified Element E-Camper.

 

Honda Passport

Honda Passport 3rd gen off road build in the desert
Read more about this Off-road ready 3rd Gen Honda Passport in our exclusive review.

The Honda Passport is a midsize SUV that is positioned between the CR-V and the Pilot in Honda’s lineup. Unlike the CR-V, the Passport is built to be more rugged and off-road-capable, especially in its all-wheel-drive configurations. It offers higher ground clearance and a more robust suspension system than many of its stablemates.

Key Specs and Features

The Passport typically comes equipped with a V6 engine that offers a good blend of power and efficiency. It features an independent suspension system, available all-wheel drive, and is equipped with Honda Sensing® safety features like collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, and adaptive cruise control. Infotainment options often include a touchscreen display with smartphone integration and available premium audio systems.

Best Generation of Passport Suitable for Off-Roading

The 1st and 2nd generations of the Honda Passport (1993–2002), which were rebadged Isuzu Rodeos, were genuine off-road vehicles. Unlike later models, these versions were true 4×4 vehicles with features like low-range gearing, 4-wheel drive, and a limited-slip differential. These characteristics made them competitive with other serious off-road vehicles like the Toyota 4Runner and the Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ. If hardcore off-roading is your aim, these older models are more suitable, although they are becoming increasingly rare.

Benefits of a Honda Passport

The Passport offers a variety of advantages such as a spacious and comfortable interior, powerful V6 engine, and advanced safety features through the Honda Sensing® suite. Its rugged design and higher ground clearance make it more off-road-capable than the CR-V. It provides a good balance between off-road capability and on-road comfort, making it versatile for a range of driving conditions and needs.

“I couldn’t be happier with my 2019 Honda Passport. To me, it’s the perfect mix of onroad handling, performance, fuel efficiency, daily drivability and off-road capability.” – Jon Tuico, the owner of an off-road modified 3rd Gen Passport.

What Aftermarket Parts Are Available to Enhance Its Off-Road Capabilities

For the 1st and 2nd generation Passports, aftermarket parts are rare but can still be found online (especially on Isuzu forums). There isn’t much you can find the 3rd generation models, as they are rarely used for off-roading (not because they can’t, it’s just that people rarely want to utilize the full potential of their costly crossover).

While heavy-duty parts like steel bumpers, rock sliders, and winches are not readily available, they can potentially be fabricated, as demonstrated by enthusiasts like James who have customized their Passports for more serious off-road use.

See Also
Honda CRV off road build with 34" 285/75R17 BF Goodrich T/A KO2 tires

Honda Pilot

The Honda Pilot is a midsize three-row SUV that offers seating for seven or eight passengers. It is larger than both the CR-V and the Passport, providing ample space for both passengers and cargo. While designed primarily for on-road comfort and utility, certain models and generations do come with features that can handle light to moderate off-road conditions.

Key Specs and Features

The Pilot is usually powered by a V6 engine paired with an automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is available as an option on most trims. Key features often include Honda Sensing® advanced safety technologies, a touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone integration, and optional luxury features like a sunroof, leather upholstery, and rear-seat entertainment systems.

Best Generation of Pilot Suitable for Off-Roading

The first generation of the Honda Pilot is often cited as suitable for light off-roading, largely because it came with Honda’s Variable Torque Management 4WD system (VTM-4). The system primarily sends power to the front wheels but can send up to 50% of power to the rear wheels under certain conditions. A VTM-4 lock button allows the driver to lock the rear differential manually, distributing power evenly to each rear wheel. In addition, the upcoming 4th Gen 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport aims to be a special off-road version, featuring protective body panels and an advanced all-wheel-drive system tailored for off-road use.

Benefits of a Honda Pilot

One of the major benefits of the Honda Pilot is its spacious interior, which can accommodate seven to eight passengers, making it ideal for families. Its roomy cargo area adds to its utility, and it often includes advanced safety features, infotainment options, and comfort-oriented amenities. The Pilot offers a good balance between on-road comfort and off-road capabilities, particularly in all-wheel-drive configurations.

What Aftermarket Parts Are Available to Enhance Its Off-Road Capabilities

Aftermarket options for enhancing the Pilot’s off-road capabilities are relatively limited, mostly restricted to universal accessories and wheels.

Honda Ridgeline

2nd generation Honda Ridgeline Prerunner off road build with steel bumper and long travel suspension

The Honda Ridgeline is a midsize pickup truck that stands out in the segment primarily due to its unibody construction with a built-in frame. Unlike traditional body-on-frame pickup trucks, the Ridgeline’s unibody design offers better ride quality, improved handling, and greater fuel efficiency. This unique construction lends itself well to a more car-like driving experience while still offering the utility of a pickup.

Key Specs and Features

The Honda Ridgeline is usually powered by a V6 engine coupled with an automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard in some models, but all-wheel drive (AWD) is also widely available. Key features often include a dual-action tailgate, an in-bed trunk for additional storage, and a spacious and comfortable interior. The truck also frequently comes equipped with Honda Sensing® safety technologies and infotainment options like a touchscreen display with smartphone integration.

  • Powerful 3.5-liter, i-VTEC® V-6 engine
  • 6-speed automatic transmission
  • 280 hp1 and 262 lb-ft of torque1
  • 25-mpg highway rating*
  • Fully independent multi-link rear suspension
  • Rigid lightweight unibody design
  • Available intelligent Variable Torque Management AWD System

Best Generation of Ridgeline Suitable for Off-Roading

Both the 1st and 2nd generation Ridgeline models are considered suitable for light to moderate off-roading, owing to their advanced AWD systems. The latest models come equipped with features like a fully independent multi-link rear suspension, rigid lightweight unibody design, and an intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) AWD System. These features make the Ridgeline more capable than one might initially think, especially for mild off-road adventures.

Lifted Honda RIdgeline with off road wheels and a lift
Read more about this lifted Honda Ridgeline with off road wheels and a lift in our special feature!

Benefits of a Honda Ridgeline

One of the major benefits of the Honda Ridgeline is its practicality. The unibody construction provides a smoother, more car-like ride compared to many body-on-frame trucks, such as the market’s best-seller, the Toyota Tacoma. The Ridgeline also offers innovative features like an in-bed trunk and a dual-action tailgate, adding to its utility. The spacious cabin, advanced safety features, and infotainment options add to its overall appeal.

What Aftermarket Parts Are Available to Enhance Its Off-Road Capabilities

Historically, aftermarket support for the Ridgeline has been somewhat limited, mostly consisting of universal accessories and wheels. However, the aftermarket scene is gradually expanding, and now you can find model-specific accessories like lift kits designed to enhance its off-road capabilities. While it may not have as robust a selection of aftermarket parts as some other trucks, the availability of specialized items is slowly growing, allowing owners to further tailor their Ridgelines for off-road use.

Bonus section: Cars

Lifted Honda Fit Battlewagon on Xxr 527 16x8 0 offset and kenda klever mud tire 245 75r16
Lifted Honda Fit Battlewagon on Xxr 527 16×8 0 offset and Kenda Klever mud tire sized 245/75r16. You can read more about it in our exclusive feature.

Most Honda cars, like the Civic or the Accord, are not designed for off-road use. They have lower ground clearance and lack the suspension and drivetrain necessary for off-road conditions.

ModelDrivetrainGround ClearanceFactory Wheel SizeBiggest Aftermarket TiresAvailable Lifts
Honda CR-VAWD7.8-8.2"29"30" Lift RequiredStrut spacers 1-2"
Honda ElementAWD6.9"28"30" Lift RequiredStrut spacers 1-2"
Honda PassportAWD7.5"-8.1"29"32" Lift RequiredStrut spacers 1-3.5"
Honda PilotAWD7.3-8.3" (TrailSport)30" (trailSport)32" Lift RequiredStrut spacers 1-2"
Honda RidgelineAWD7.3-8.2" (1st gen)30"32" Lift RequiredStrut spacers 1-3.5"

Points to Consider

  • Tires: Regardless of which Honda you have, if you’re considering going off-road, you may need to invest in off-road tires that offer better grip and durability.
  • Ground Clearance: The higher the ground clearance, the less likely the underside of your vehicle will scrape against rocks and rough terrain.
  • All-Wheel Drive (AWD) or Four-Wheel Drive (4WD): These systems provide better traction on uneven or slippery surfaces.
  • Protection: If you’re serious about off-roading, you may want to consider adding skid plates to protect the undercarriage of your vehicle.

Key Takeaways

  • Honda crossovers and pickup trucks are generally designed for on-road use but can handle light to moderate off-roading when properly equipped.
  • All-wheel-drive (AWD) options are available for most models, enhancing off-road capabilities.
  • Aftermarket upgrades such as all-terrain tires, roof racks, and bull bars can further enhance off-road performance.
  • Older generations of certain models like the Honda Passport and Pilot may offer more robust off-road features.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Honda’s range of crossovers and the Ridgeline pickup offer viable options for those interested in light to moderate off-road activities. With proper upgrades like all-wheel drive and various aftermarket parts, these vehicles can be equipped to handle terrains that go beyond the paved road, making them versatile choices for outdoor enthusiasts.

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