When talking about off-road trips and adventures most likely vehicles like the Toyota 4Runner / Tacoma / Land Cruiser 70 or some of Jeep models come to mind. A bit rare choices are Toyota Rav4 and Subaru Forester. When equipped with proper components, they can become reliable off-road warriors too. However, there are some unexpected models that can be used for off-roading with even better results. Just a while ago, we told you about a heavily modified Hyundai Kona and today there is another very rare off-road version of the Honda Passport.
Most of the production run of the Passport fell in the 90s and the early 2000s, but in 2018 the model was revived. It is still a mid-size crossover with a V6 engine under the hood and an optional all-wheel-drive layout. Of course, the model looks and feels more modern but is still rigid enough to go off the pavement in case of need. The corporate all-wheel-drive system features special Sand, Snow, and Mud settings and the Passport’s clearance equals to solid 8.1 inches. Besides, it is tow-capable, enabling you to haul up to 5,000 pounds.
Jon Tuico from Cerritos, California was also impressed with this Japanese vehicle and wasn’t afraid to try new things, but the final result exceeded his expectations in every way possible. Jon had the needed experience and modified his SUV just right – fabricating all the necessary stuff he brought the off-road capabilities of this rig to a whole new level. Plus, thanks to the technological and comfortable nature of the current-time SUV, it is also an efficient and reliable daily driver, delivering a perfect balance needed to both off-road and on-the-pavement trips.
“Jon was impressed with this vehicle and wasn’t afraid to try new things”
It is safe to say that this particular vehicle has the most extensive off-road modifications – there are no other Passports taken to this level. In fact, Jon did such an excellent job that Honda even invited him to take part in development of the factory Trail Edition of the Passport that greatly emphasizes his incredible effort. We were able to get in touch with Jon to ask him about his upgraded 2019 Passport and the modifications he made to it.
“Jon did such an excellent job that Honda even invited him to take part in development of the factory Trail Edition Passport”
How did you become interested in off-roading?
– Back in 2015 I started camping for the first time in my adult life with my girlfriend now wife. We started exploring side roads to get to hiking trails and kayaking spots and became hooked. It’s been a progression from there.
Why did you choose this particular model for your project?
– I use to drive a 2008 FJ Cruiser. For day-to-day driving, it wasn’t so great. I didn’t like driving it and the fuel economy was poor. At the time, I was taking it to the ski resorts. I then purchased a 2010 WRX and couldn’t be happier. This is the vehicle I actually started going overlanding in. I then purchased a 2015 Forester XT for the cargo room, but the off-road capability was limiting. Skip to the present day and I couldn’t be happier with my 2019 Honda Passport. To me, it’s the perfect mix of on-road handling, performance, fuel efficiency, daily drivability and off-road capability.
“ 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.”
What inspired you to choose this modification style?
– I modified my 2015 Forester XT, but it didn’t respond to the modifications well. Before 2 years of ownership, the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) failed catastrophically. Before I purchased the 2019 Honda Passport I made sure that it would accept modifications. It’s been an amazing and reliable vehicle. I’m 86K miles in and not one single repair. I haven’t even replaced my brakes yet. I’ve been running 2”+ taller tires since the 8K mile mark. This is crazy! This vehicle is overbuilt for what it is!
“Before I purchased the 2019 Honda Passport I made sure that it would accept modifications. It’s been an amazing and reliable vehicle.”
What challenges did you face while putting it together?
– None really. Everything has either met or exceeded my expectations. I did some DIY bumper cutting and vinyl wrapping, but for the lift kit install, I had the guys at Central Tire #5 near LAX to do the install.
“If I’m getting through trails like this, how much more capability do I really need? My Subarus would get through there trails, but do I really need a Toyota Tacoma?”
What do you love about your vehicle?
– It’s my favorite daily driver ever. It’s capable enough to get where I want to go. I’ve taken my Honda Passport up the Ouray side (more technical) of Imogene Pass with no issues. I actually felt it was easy, especially compared to Fins N Things, which I thought was considerably more technical than Imogene. If I’m getting through trails like this, how much more capability do I really need? My Subarus would get through there trails, but do I really need a Toyota Tacoma? Oh speaking of which… the Tacoma was my first choice to replace my 2015 Forester XT, but I couldn’t properly fit in it. Being 6’1” and 270 lbs. my body could not fit. My head probably is at the same height as someone 6’6” and 200 lbs. just to put that in perspective. So, I love how comfortable my Passport is.
Is it your daily or a weekend ride?
– Daily driver.
Do you take it off-road? If so, where and how often?
– In 2020, I went on 40+ overlanding trips. So almost every weekend. I tour southwestern United States
2019 Honda Passport EX-L AWD Specs
Engine specs, modifications
- 3.5L V6
Lift height and suspension modifications
- 3.5” Traxda Lift kit
- Honda Ridgeline rear shock/spring transplant
- Deleted rear sway bar
- Quick disconnecting front sway bar
- Black Rhino Chase wheels
- Rotary forged aluminum
- 18” x 8”
- 120mm x 5
- 10mm offset (-45mm from OEM)
- 24 lbs
- Falken Wildpeak AT3W
- 255/70R18 (32.1” x 10.0”)
- DIY Avery Dennison Rugged Marsh green vinyl wrap
- DIY Cut front and rear bumpers
- Diode dynamics S3 pro ditch lights
- Nolo designs ditch light brackets
- Thule motion XT Alpine cargo carrier
- Dirt Complex “Trail Swing” rear hitch tire carrier
- Scan gauge II (trans temp monitor)
- DIY rear shelf
- DIY artificial grass rear cargo mat
- Digital rear view mirror
All other mods
Nolo designs engine/transmission, rear differential skid plate
What are your future plans about this vehicle?
– I’m almost done with it, but I’m waiting for companies like Bilstein to produce beefier strut/shocks and other companies to produce springs.
I was contacted by Honda to help them with the Honda Trailsport “rugged roads project” that debuted at Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, AZ. I’m hoping this brings more attention to the Honda Midsize SUV/Trucks, so companies will provide more after market support. Check out my YouTube video.
Watch the progress and find out more about this Honda Passport EX-L AWD project by visiting the Instagram profile of the owner: @jondz_adventuring!
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Automotive journalist and technical writer at Offroadium.com with more than 10 years of experience in the sphere of aftermarket parts and 4×4 vehicle modifications. Passionate about off-roading, outdoor adventures, and an active lifestyle.