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New Car Review

1996 HONDA PASSPORT

by Matt/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 26,000
     Price As Tested                                    $ 26,395
     Engine Type                            3.2 Liter V6 w/MPFI*
     Engine Size                                  193cid 3165 cc
     Horsepower                                   190 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               188 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  108.5"/68.5"/176.5"
     Transmission                           Four speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4150 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  21.9 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P245/70R16
     Brakes (F/R)                                  Disc/disc-ABS
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/Four-door
     Domestic Content                                 40 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            15/18/17          
     0-60 MPH                                       11.6 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     18.2 seconds @ 75.0 mph
     Max towing capacity                             4500 Pounds

     * Multi point fuel injection

(The sport/utility vehicle (SUV) business is still the hottest segment of the auto market and everybody wants to get into the act, according to Matt Hagin. His dad, Bob Hagin, points out that to get into the business, Honda put its logo on the hood of an Isuzu.)

MATT - Honda definitely wasn't prepared when the craze for fancy, upscale SUVs infected American buyers, but it wasn't about to let the lack of a suitable product stop its entry into the field. It went to Isuzu and arranged to have that company put the Honda logo on its four-door Rodeo. It was a move calculated to give Honda dealers instant access into the market with a high quality machine.

BOB - Like the rest of its "fancy, upscale" brethren, this Passport has more luxury built into it than most of the motels I've stayed in during my travels. The sound system is better than the one we have at home, and the a/c unit can pull the interior temperature down low enough to freeze meat. And when you were doing the driving, that reclining front seat put me right to sleep - until you hit a couple of potholes. The bench seat in back isn't nearly as comfortable, however, but that area is usually relegated to the kids and they never complain about how the seats feel. I almost think that these new rigs are too nice to be used off-road.

MATT - Dad, you've got to remember that not one in a hundred of these Passports will ever see any dirt road service. They're usually bought as the family's primary source of transportation and that means lots more time doing family chores than following fire trails to "secret" fishing holes. But there's enough rough-stuff equipment built into the Passport to do the job if it's necessary. The rear axle has a limited-slip differential that would keep both rear tires gripping if the trail gets muddy, and the rear brakes have an anti-skid system to keep them from locking if there was a forward weight shift going down a steep incline. The four-speed automatic transmission has a lockup torque converter, too, and it can be selected into a power mode if the going gets really tough. Oh yes, the front drive axles can be engaged at any speed. Before, the driver had to slow the thing to engage 4WD.

BOB - And when the road conditions become too slippery, and you can't get underway without spinning the tires, the transmission can be put into a winter mode, which makes the transmission start off in third gear. And finally, there seems to be enough power coming from its V6 engine. It's been bumped up by 15 more horses this year and it now puts out 190 ponies. I don't think that Honda is going to have much luck selling Passports equipped with the standard engine, however. Pulling around a nearly 4000-pound SUV with 70 less horses it asking a lot from a 2.6 liter four-banger.

MATT - That version is the DX model, Dad, and it was never meant to go off-road. The DX isn't even available as a 4X4 and it only comes with a manual five-speed transmission. Four-wheel-drive is available only with the V6, but a buyer can get it with either a stick or an automatic.

BOB - That V6 is really a slick setup, too, Matt. Last year's version displaced 3.2 liters, just like this year's, but the new engine is way more powerful. With the help of a coil located at each spark plug, it's smoother, but uses less fuel. That's understandable, since it now has to work less to pull Passport's weight. The power difference mainly comes from a more sophisticated fuel injection system, reprogrammed engine management, and new camshaft timing.

MATT - One of the things I didn't like about the Passport is the location of the spare tire. It's mounted on a swing-away bracket on the left side of the rear quarter-panel and has to be pulled out of the way to use the rear doors. It also slightly blocks rear view mirror vision.

BOB - Matt, you're too young to remember the days when Continental Kits were an extra. A buyer had to pay for the privilege of having the spare hung on the back of the car. It was a big deal.

MATT - Dad, you're the only guy I know who can sneak 50 year-old trivia into a new car review.