January 10, 2010
An upscale Honda Accord.
That used to be the role of TL, Accord's cousin at Honda's luxury Acura division.
Now you can go upscale and stay at Honda with the 2010 Crosstour, which Honda calls a crossover utility vehicle.
Crosstour is the new top-of-the-line Accord for those who want all its amenities and the styling of a coupe, the function of an SUV and the performance of a sedan. Honda says Crosstour is for those who want a little more utility and a lot more styling than Accord without moving into an SUV.
Crosstour is offered with front-wheel drive for Sun Belt motoring or four-wheel drive for Snow Belt security. Either way, stability control is standard to keep from slip sliding away from the light, pulling out to pass or enjoying the twisties.
It has two rows of seats, with or without leather trim, EX-L or EX. EX comes in FWD only; EX-L in either. Honda provided the FWD EX for testing, but until Mother Nature starts dropping flower petals rather than snow each winter, the 4WD version is preferred.
While Acura offers all-wheel-drive versions of its RL and TL sedans, Crosstour is the only 4WD car in the Honda lineup. But don't plan any exotic off-roading, as it has no low gear.
Only one engine, but it's a good one, the same 3.5-liter, 271-horsepower V-6 in the regular Accord, teamed with 5-speed automatic and rated at 18 mpg city/28 highway with FWD, 17/25 with 4WD. You don't get those numbers from an SUV.
The V-6 is spirited, and it comes with cylinder deactivation to run on 3, 4 or 6 cylinders, depending on whether you need get-up-and-go performance or sit-back-and-relax savings.
In keeping with the Honda, specifically Accord, DNA, ride is smooth, handling very precise and the cabin quiet to allow chatting. Cloth seats are cozy with ample support.
Crosstour's shortcoming is a sharply sloping roofline for the coupelike profile that automakers have adopted. Yes, it reduces air drag and improves mileage while minimizing noise, but it also makes it hard to see out the rear window. Teeny sideview mirrors don't help.
Crosstour starts as an Accord but adds 2.5 inches in length, more than 7 inches in height and 2 inches in width. The added height keeps the melon from feeling that sharp roof slope, and the extra width gives all occupants ample elbow room. The extra length? It makes the cargo hold spacious, bordering on massive, had Honda only found a way to minimize the intrusion of the rear wheelwells.
The swing-up hatch lid makes for easy loading/unloading. Well-placed handles along both sides of the roof allow the rear seatbacks to fold flat so quickly you'd think they were power operated. Kudos to Honda engineers.
And lift the cargo-hold floor covers to expose storage bins on the sides and a huge plastic bin in the middle with adjustable dividers to separate goodies. Oh, that bin also has handles, so it can go where you do, with your cold pop or wet swimsuits and towels. Hats off again to the engineers.
Up front, the center console has a pair of cupholders and two small shelves below the instrument stack to hide things, if you can maneuver around the gearshift lever.
The 2010 Crosstour 2WD EX starts at $29,670 with such goodies as dual-zone, automatic air conditioning, AM/FM audio system with a six-disc changer and seven speakers, and power moonroof. 4WD starts at $34,020 in the EX-L, which in addition to leather offers an optional navigation system with backup camera.
Have to wonder, however, why Honda didn't simply add a 4WD sedan to the Accord lineup rather than a station wagon look-alike. Of course, with Honda's success in the U.S., maybe it's best not to raise questions.
Read Jim Mateja on Sunday in Rides. Contact him at email@example.com