2021 Honda Passport vs. 2021 Subaru Outback

2021 Honda Passport vs Subaru Outback

To wagon, or not to wagon? That is the question on many American families’ minds. While there’s certainly something to be said about the novelty of a station wagon like the Outback, it’s important to take a step back and truly appreciate the perks of a traditional SUV. Take the 2021 Passport, for instance: It’s larger, more powerful, and can tow more than your typical wagon. Boil it down to overall versatility, SUVs like the new Honda Passport batter and bruise the Subaru Outback—and at its own rugged game, no less.

Power & Performance

Engine Comparison

Fastened under Passport’s hood of sheet metal is a husky 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 280 horsepower and pairs with a 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. It’s more robust than the Outback’s entry-level 2.5L 4-cylinder, which produces just 182 horsepower. In fact, Passport’s V6 even beats Outback’s more expensive powerplant: a 260-hp 2.4L turbo-four equipped alongside an 8-speed CVT.

2021 Passport Sport
(3.5L V6)
2021 Outback
(2.5L 4-cylinder)
2021 Outback
(2.4L Turbocharged 4-cylinder)
Horsepower 280 182 260

Intelligent Traction Management

Honda’s Intelligent Traction Management, which enables drivers to manually select between Snow, Sand and Mud modes, comes standard in the base Passport Sport. A similar setup is available in the Outback, though you’d have to pay about $6,000 more for the Onyx Edition XT trim to take advantage of Subaru’s upgraded X-MODE® system.

Intelligent Traction Management

Towing Capability

The success of the Outback—and Subaru in general—is based on a premise of supreme off-road and athletic capability. It’s a shame, then, that the 2021 Outback can’t match the 2021 Passport in the towing department.

For 2021, the new Subaru Outback can only hitch and haul 2,700 pounds with its standard 2.5-liter engine. Opting for one of the Outback trims with an upgraded 2.4-liter turbocharger only improves trailering capability by 800 pounds, give or take an ounce.

Those specs are easily outshined by even the 2WD Passport models, which can tow 3,500 pounds from the get-go. Choose a Honda Passport with all-wheel-drive, and you’ll be rewarded with a more SUV-like 5,000-pound towing capacity—enough to haul around your typical 22-foot boat.

Towing Capacity
Towing Capacity
2021 Passport 2WD 3,500* 2,700 2021 Outback
2021 Passport AWD 5,000* 3,500 2021 Outback Touring XT


Passenger Volume

Interior comfort and spaciousness are perhaps the best reasons to choose the Passport over the Outback. The 2021 Subaru wagon offers 109 cubic feet of room for passengers—or just 106.5 cubes, with a moonroof-clad Outback—which is noticeably less space than Passport Sport’s 115.9-cubic-foot cabin provides.

The 2021 Honda Passport pleases heads, shoulders, knees and toes, too. Depending on comparative trims, Passport offers more front and rear headroom, more rear legroom and lots more shoulder room for all riders. There’s no denying it: Honda Passport is a better value than the Outback if you’ve got a family.

2021 Passport Sport 2021 Outback Premium
Passenger Volume 115.9 cu. ft. 106.5 cu. ft. (w/ moonroof)
Headroom (front/rear) 40.1 in/40.1 in 37.7 in/39.1 in (w/ moonroof)
Legroom (rear) 39.6 in 39.5 in
Shoulder Room (front/rear) 62 in/61.9 in 58.1 in/57.4 in

Cargo Volume

You’ve got things to haul, and there’s only so much you can put on Subaru’s roof rack. With the Outback, you’re limited to just 32.5 cubic feet of rear cargo space and 75.7 cubic feet of room with the back row flipped down. In the wagon class, that 75.7-clip is astounding; put Subaru’s wagon in the midsize SUV class, however, and Outback would be laughed out of the arena. Guess you’ll have to make two trips.

With the Passport, you’re granted access to one of the segment’s largest cargo areas. With the back seat down, you get 100.7 cubic feet of space to store all your knick-knacks, paddywhacks, and dog bones. Comparing minimum storage capacity, Passport’s 50.5-cubic-foot cargo volume beats Outback’s by a staggering 18 cubes—or about 5 large suitcases.

2021 Passport Sport 2021 Outback
Rear Cargo Volume 100.7 cu. ft.* 32.5 cu. ft.
Max Cargo Volume 50.5 cu. ft.* 75.7 cu. ft.
Cargo Volume

Tri-Zone Climate Control

Comfort doesn’t come at a premium with the new Honda Passport. Just take a look at its tri-zone automatic climate control, which comes standard with all Passport trims. In the front, drivers and passengers each get an individual temperature and fan speed setting. In the back, the entire row can fight over whose comfort is more important. Ah, the finer things in life!

That level of comfort simply doesn’t come with any Outback—not in its base or its range-topping Touring XT. The entry-level Subaru Outback wagons come with a basic automatic climate setup. Pay about $2k to upgrade to Outback Premium, and you’ll get Subaru’s dual-zone climate control system. That’s a steep price to pay for something that already comes with every Passport.

Other Standard Features

If its superior comfort, space, power, and performance hasn’t sold you on the Passport yet, maybe its myriad standard features will.

Push Button Start

Every Honda Passport comes with push button start. Keyless Access with Push-Button Start, Suabru’s comparable setup, is not available in its base Outback; the system is standard in its Outback Limited trim, which costs nearly $7,000 more than the base MSRP.

Smart Entry

Smart Entry

All Passport and Outback models come with keyless entry—Honda’s is Smart Entry, because it’s so smart—though only the Passport SUV comes with the innovative Walk Away Auto Lock system on EX-L trims and up.

20-Inch Wheels

You’ve places to go, people to see, and even more places to go—some of which aren’t what you’d define as “easily accessible.” The Honda Passport puts you in the best position to get to you to your destination. In addition to offering Intelligent Traction Management, Passport also comes with chic 20-inch split-spoke alloy wheels that can handle the grittiest of roads.

Outback’s standard wheels are just 17-inches with a machined finish look, and the maximum wheel size you can get is 18 inches (Outback Limited).

7-Speaker Audio

Inside every standard Outback is a 4-speaker sound system—that’s it. The next trim up, Premium, only increases the speaker count by half, to 6 speakers. To really get an audible bang for your buck, you’d have to spend close to $7,000 for the Outback Limited and its Harman Kardon audio system.

In comparison, Honda Passport is an audiophile’s dream. It comes standard with a 215W sound system that includes 7 dedicated speakers and a beating subwoofer. In Passport Touring trims, you get a premium audio system with 540 watts of power and 10 speakers.

Wireless Phone Charger

Wireless Phone Charger

Because it’s the 21st century, Honda Passport Elite models come standard with a wireless Qi-compatible smart device charging pad. Select Outback trims can be equipped with a wireless charger as an add-on accessory.

Rain-Sensing Wipers

Yet another Passport Elite exclusive: rain-sensing windshield wipers. A similar feature isn’t available on the 2021 Subaru Outback.


Maximum towing capacity for AWD trims is 5,000 lbs. Maximum towing capacity for 2WD trims is 3,500 lbs. Towing requires accessory towing equipment. Please see your Honda dealer for details.

Cargo volume based on SAE J1100 cargo volume measurement standard plus, where applicable, floor space between seating rows and seats in their forward-most and upright position.

Honda wireless phone charger is compatible with Qi wireless charging standards. Check with your device’s manufacturer for wireless capability.