Honda Crosstour boldly goes in a new direction

by Andy Stonehouse :: posted in Reviews on October 28th, 2013
When I first got a chance to drive the still slightly unusual Honda Crosstour four years ago, I noted that the car – basically a Subaru Outback-ed version of the Accord – was not quite as weird as it seemed. For the most part.

In the years to follow, Honda’s had some issues – an undercooked version of the Civic which was so widely chastised that the company fast-tracked a re-do just a year later – but considering that GM had to do almost the same thing with its Malibu, that’s not a major crime.

Perceived quality issues were certainly a bigger problem. That and a certain predictability in design and execution.

The funny thing is that by comparison, the Crosstour – which was in a way similar to the now-defunct Acura ZDX and the not-particularly pleasing BMW X6 (again, think odd-looking, quasi-station-wagon crossovers) – seems pretty cutting-edge and creative by comparison.

The 2014 version of the Crosstour was released a few weeks back and while it hasn’t changed a whole lot on the outside, a couple of new, high-efficiency engine choices and new safety tools do help bring the car even more up to date.

Oddly, while the Accord-based Crosstour sports a big look that’s a bit four-door-Euro-coupe up front and voluminous station wagon in the back, it’s not really all that much larger on the inside. The pop-up hatchback with its two-level glass reveals a space that, like the ZDX, gets you about 26 cubic feet of storage (or 51 if you drop the rear seats). That’s a considerable boost from the standard Accord sedans, but not quite minivan or true SUV territory. Which, may have been the point. More on that in a second.

You do get a considerably more civil space for rear passengers than your average vehicle, including an almost theater-styled seating position and loads of foot room, but there’s no hidden third row, and the driver and passengers’ seating and arrangement is still pure Accord.

Unlike the very odd X6, that swoopy bodyline doesn’t result in pure roof claustrophobia in the back, though the angles and the back seat’s headrests mean you can only really clearly see out Crosstour’s flat, Prius/Aztek-styled bottom rear window when you have the back seats flattened.

A major plus is the addition of Honda’s real-time four-wheel-drive system, which genuinely puts it into Outback territory, especially for us mountain staters. And it’s got 6.2 inches of clearance, which makes it infinitely more rugged than a standard Accord, but not exactly a Jeep, either.

Crosstour’s eight models – six 2WD models, starting at $27,380, and two 4WD options, starting at $35,140 – are now split between a more austere 192-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a 3.5-liter V-6 that’s been upped to 278 HP and 252 lb-ft of torque.

The four-cylinder choices come standard with a five-speed automatic; the V-6, standard with any 4WD model, has a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for some extra personal involvement – something that was missing many years ago when I drove the first models.

Fuel economy is pretty good: as high as 31 MPG highway for the four-cylinder and, surprisingly, 30 MPG for 2WD V-6 models, or approximately 28 highway MPG with the full 4WD system.

How does that happen, you might ask? The extremely flowery sounding “Earth Dreams” technology, part of  a Honda-wide push for more efficiency, also includes cylinder deactivation – under lighter load, the V-6 turns into a V-3 – and the higher figures are part of the result.

The more basic version of the Crosstour is still about 3,700 pounds and the full-blown V-6, 4WD version skips dangerously close to 4,000 pounds, some 500 to 800 pounds heavier than a standard Accord.

Do you feel that extra metal and size? Yes. In a prohibitive way? Not necessarily, though I did find some slight shortcomings when I tried to access the last blast of passing power in the V-6 while traveling over the Continental Divide in Colorado earlier this year. Everywhere else, the 278 HP truly allows you to fly along.

Seventeen-inch wheels are standard and get bumped up to 18-inches on the EX-L models; other niceties include an available moonroof and folding, electronically defrosting side mirrors. And it’s Honda perfect throughout, with fantastic leather quality on the seats, doors and console, and a few woodgrain surrounds added. The controls are a bit less insane than the information overload found in an Acura, though audio, navigation and AC rack up 34 different buttons.

There’s great audio and a 360-watt, seven-speaker system, and the new satellite-linked navigation system (a useful gift from the Acura products) is an intuitive and not overly complicated offering. You can also get the HondaLink system, which wirelessly ties your phone’s social media and music into the stereo and navigation setup, as well as being a portal for the Aha radio streaming system (which I have not used, but sounds like a Pandora/I Heart Radio variation).

Safety systems now include the freaky but eventually learnable LaneWatch camera – the nav screen gets a projected image of the scene behind you on the right side of your car, which might make you physically ill the first time you use it, but is not a bad idea – plus a European-style, expanded-view driver’s mirror.

Honda also continues its commitment to domestic auto assembly with the Crosstour’s production being carried out in East Liberty, Ohio.
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