Honda Accord Crosstour — expanding the fastback crossover segment

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

It’s hard to top the feeling that a Honda vehicle imparts on the driver, whether it’s a simple commute to work or a coast-to-coast family vacation.

Honda models such as the Accord, Odyssey and Pilot are solid and comfortable. They provide entertaining driving dynamics. They are indeed the right stuff for the frugal family or for anyone who desires an outstanding ride at an affordable price. And the Honda Civic is perhaps the best compact currently in production.

To add to their luster these cars for the most part offer unseen rewards such as trouble-free ownership and high resale value.

Honda vehicles, it seems to us, just keep getting better. The Honda folks keep moving the bar a little higher and manage to stay a step or two ahead of the competition.

This was pointed up again after a seven-day stint in the company’s newest — and perhaps most controversial — vehicle, the Accord Crosstour. The behind-the-wheel experience was every bit as rewarding as any four-door Honda we’ve driven.

The 271-horsepower V-6 provided lively acceleration despite being asked to pull more than two tons, the five-speed automatic shifted flawlessly — even as it seemed a bit slow to downshift on hard acceleration. Steering feel is good, much like the Accord sedan. And the suspension proved compliant, but not so soft as to dull surprisingly good handling.

But this Honda is different than anything that has come before it. It is for lack of a better description a fastback crossover. It could be called the substitute for an Accord station wagon in North America, but with less cargo space than a wagon.

While we think build quality, reliability, the driving experience, performance and safety are the most important elements of a car, there are other things to consider. And Honda has slipped in some important areas.

For no apparent good reason Honda’s vehicles have become unattractive with big snouts — Jimmy Durante noses, if you will — that drag down the overall design. The 2009 Accord was the first example.

The fastback styling, something that one Honda official said is the “next trend,” is off kilter in this rendition. The overweight front end combined with a bulbous butt is to us homely from most angles.

That being said, styling is indeed in the eye of the beholder and Honda, which rarely makes marketing mistakes, may get the last laugh. That laugh, however, won’t come until 40,000 Crosstours leave dealer showrooms in a 12-month period, a goal Honda has set for the new vehicle.

To be fair, we polled people at our weekly breakfast gabfest over the Crosstour styling and three said they liked it. They wouldn’t be dissuaded by our diatribe and stuck to their initial reaction. We were supported by a like number just proving how polarizing the Crosstour can be.

And we must ask – what trend? The Crosstour and its just-released upscale cousin, the Acura ZDX, are the only two we know of other than the BMW X6, which started this “trend” more than a year ago.

The Toyota Venza, said to also be in this new segment, has the lines of a sleek SUV more than that of a fastback sedan. It may be part of the “trend” but it has the Honda vehicles trumped in the design department.

And the new Crosstour is also an excellent example of form over function, something that Honda has up until now managed to avoid. It’s not just the styling per se it’s that Honda has allowed the designers to run roughshod over function.

Honda has earned a reputation for having the best greenhouse in the business — the best visibility out front, to the side and out the back. The Crosstour has more blind spots than a man waiting on double cataract surgery, and visibility out the slit that passes for the rear window is limited at best. We highly recommend that buyers opt for a rearview camera.

Luggage capacity behind the seats is 25 cubic feet, five feet less than the Venza and 10 feet less than the smaller Honda CR-V. The Crosstour does afford more useable space with the seats folded, measured at 51 cubic feet.

Although it’s classified as a crossover SUV, the empty nester crowd will not be buying it to tow their boat to the coast. Not with a meager tow rating of 1,500 pounds. The Venza and the X6, on the other hand, have more SUV-like capability of 3,500 and 6,000 pounds respectively.

On the bright side the Crosstour does not take a backseat to any mid-to-full-sized vehicle in terms of comfort. The driving position proved easy to achieve with a power adjustable driver’s seat and a tilt and telescoping steering wheel.

Despite the sloping roofline, there is adequate headroom in the rear. And rear-seat passengers are rewarded with comfortable chairs and a decent amount of leg room.

Despite only 25 cubic feet of storage with the seats up, Honda has very deftly designed a big center bin under the rear floor and too smaller bins on the sides. The center bin is big enough to carry a load of groceries, or keep a large purse or computer bag out of sight of prying eyes.
The dashboard layout is also a job well done. Our only complaint is some too-small and look-alike buttons for the climate controls and the audio system.

But after driving several versions of the navigation setup in new Toyotas and Lexus models, we applaud Honda for keeping all the audio and climate controls on the dashboard and not embedded in the navigation screen.

The Toyota forces you to go through a three step process just to access satellite radio information. And once it is displayed, it disappears again after about 20 seconds. The radio presets as well as information you desire are always displayed in the Crosstour. The navigation screen is just for navigation. What a revolutionary idea.

The Crosstour comes in five flavors starting at $30,380 including destination charges for the front-wheel EX. Then there is the EX-L front-wheel, EX-L Navigation front wheel, and all-wheel drive versions of the EX and EX-L with and without navigation. The Crosstour tops out at $36,930.

As with most Honda and Acura products, options are few. Extras come with the packages. But note that such things as power liftgate (it could use one), Bluetooth, rear-seat entertainment, and HID headlights are not available.

Our test vehicle was a top line $36,930 EX-L with Navigation.

The Crosstour has a lot of redeeming qualities. But it has a number of downsides, too. Honda has several crossovers such as the CR-V on the small side or the Pilot on the larger side that can offset that ambivalence.

Base price: $30,380; as driven, $36,930
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 271 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 254 @ 5,000
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 110.1 inches
Length: 196.8 inches
Curb weight: 4,070 pounds
Turning circle: 40.2 feet
Luggage capacity: 25 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 51 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 25 mpg highway, 17 mpg city
0-60: 7.5 seconds (Edmunds)
Also consider: Toyota Venza, Acura ZDX, Subaru Outback

The Good:
• Quiet and comfortable cabin
• Responsive V-6 engine
• Honda quality

The Bad:
• Visibility out the back limited

The Ugly:
• Controversial styling