SUV Comparison: 2021 Honda Passport Touring vs 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness
We agree to disagree on this one. Here’s how it all shakes out
Stephanie Wallcraft: SUV fatigue is real. We see it everywhere, from buyers to enthusiasts and even the experts who grace these pages. When we’re all driving vehicles that are so similar in looks and capabilities, how does anyone stand out from the crowd?
Here, we’ve got two antidotes to the same-same SUV craze. On one side we have the 2021 Honda Passport, with the Touring grade being the one under the microscope, priced at $52,971 with the $1,870 destination charge. This is the top trim of Honda’s mid-size, two-row SUV, which makes no attempt to disguise its intended audience of adventure-focused families with its upright stance and prominent roof rails.
On the other side we have the 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, the new off-road oriented trim of a vehicle that already works as a pleasant SUV alternative thanks to its part-wagon, part-crossover aesthetic. The Wilderness is a new-for-2022 mid-grade offering in the Outback line-up, ringing in at $44,249 including a $1,875 destination charge.
Because we’re looking at two significantly different grade levels here, feature content becomes an important differentiator, which we’ll discuss shortly. But the powertrains don’t have as much variation within their respective line-ups, and when we’re talking about vehicles with rugged intent, we need to start under the hood where it counts.
Every grade of Passport gets Honda’s traditional approach to powertrains in the form of a 3.5-litre iVTEC V6, which makes 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque peaking at 4,700 rpm. This is matched with a nine-speed automatic transmission and Honda’s i-VTM4 all-wheel drive system , which supplies full-time all-wheel drive with between 10 to 70 per cent of available torque going to the rear axle at all times. This system also uses torque vectoring to push more power to the outside wheel to assist with turning. This is the kind of classic, reliable capability adventurous drivers are looking for.
On the other hand, the Outback’s powertrain is a different beast. The Wilderness represents Outback’s entry point into the upgraded 2.4-litre turbocharged engine with four horizontally opposed cylinders, which makes slightly less horsepower than the Honda at 260 hp but slightly more torque at 277 lb-ft between 2,000 to 4,800 rpm. The transmission is a CVT, differentiated from those in other Outbacks through a shorter ratio for improved response at lower speeds. Finally, the Outback is fitted with Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive, which is a full-time 60-40 AWD system but lacks the single-axle torque vectoring of Honda’s setup.
It’s fair to expect that, on paper at least, the Passport’s specifications might inspire more confidence in the serious off-roading crowd, particularly its transmission as the lack of ability to select true gears in the Outback is a potential drawback. However, where I find the Subaru stands out is in its excellent balance between on-road and off-road performance: its powertrain is pleasantly responsive both on a potholed dirt path and on route to the grocery store or along the highway, while the Passport lacks a little get-up-and-go in the latter scenario. And the Outback looks a fair bit cooler doing all of the above, too.
Renita Naraine: Agree to disagree, as we generally do on exterior styling, Steph. As much as I can appreciate some added style on the outside, especially considering most vehicles (specifically the ones we’re usually testing) are bland and colourless, I like the looks of the Passport, much more. Sure, the Passport could have used a brighter colour to make it pop, but I’m just not a fan of the Outback’s stripes — despite Clayton telling me that stripes mean speed. To be fair, it isn’t just the colour. I prefer the big and classic SUV type of look that the Passport has, whereas the Outback, needless to say, looks more like a station wagon that’s trying to be an SUV. I’m not hating on the station wagon look, but it’s hard for me to compare these two vehicles on their individual, and very different exterior looks.