The recipe for any crossover is pretty simple:
1. Read memo from marketing department about the urgent need for a "crossover" to compete in the "fastest growing segment ever."
2. Take a top selling car, add a hatch on the back, and notify marketing: "mission accomplished." Reject marketing's idea of a third row made of vinyl-covered plywood.
3. Read memo from marketing about America's fear of the word "hatchback" and why no one says "mission accomplished" anymore.
4. Curse the Ford Pinto, AMC Gremlin and Yugo GV, then send note to marketing that the new vehicle is technically a five-door crossover.
5. Wait for North American Truck of the Year award.
Inventing new words doesn't necessarily mean it's a new idea. The 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour is essentially a slightly deflated Accord wagon -- something Americans are as foolishly averse to as hatchbacks. It was designed to take on the likes of the Toyota Venza and Nissan Murano, and for the most part falls right in between the sporty Murano and bigger Venza.
But more importantly, the Crosstour is better than the Accord sedan, one of the top-selling cars in America because of its stalwart reliability and customer loyalty. Convincing a Honda customer to buy something else is like showing a chef a new way to cut onions -- everyone ends up crying.
The Crosstour offers more space inside than its Accord sibling, so there's more versatility and just as good of a ride; most of the parts in the Crosstour can also be found in the Accord.
It also improves on the Accord's bland exterior. The Crosstour includes a more dynamic roofline -- to accommodate the wagonesque functionality. It looks like engineers heated up an Accord and then ran it through a taffy puller, tacking on some checkered running boards and then changing out the front fascia.
The front end takes a much more aggressive look. The regular Accord has the expression of a therapist asking "and how do you feel about that?" The Crosstour doesn't care how you feel, it just wants the car in front of it to speed up. Shuts off unneeded power
Following the crossover recipe, the Crosstour avoids spicing things up with performance. The super high-tech 3.5-liter V-6 is improved over the original version that debuted in the regular Accord.
The engine can shut off two or three cylinders depending on the Crosstour's power needs. This means that if the vehicle is cruising along on a flat or downhill road and doesn't need all 271 horses and 254 pound-feet of torque under the hood, it could stop sending fuel to three cylinders and use only half of what another vehicle might use.
For the Crosstour, Honda has created a wider range of the time the engine stays in three- or four-cylinder mode and the transition between all three modes (including the regular six-cylinder one) is seamless. I could never tell how many cylinders were firing at any given time.
The end result of this high-tech engine is an impressive 27 miles per gallon on the highway and 18 mpg in the city for the front-wheel dive model. The all-wheel drive Crosstour averages 25 mpg on the highway and 17 mpg in the city.
Honda continues to advance its five-speed automatic transmission and now offers rev matching on downshifts, which helps eliminate that lurching feel some cars have when you downshift. However, it seems that such a high-tech vehicle should come with a six-speed transmission, which is becoming the industry standard.
The ride is smooth and clean. The double wishbone front suspension and multilink rear suspension is a formula that has served Honda well and provides an excellent ride. My only complaint with the Crosstour was the variable power rack-and-pinion steering, which felt too loose at speeds under 50 mph. The problem was more that it didn't push back against my hand as much as I'd like when going through a big turn. Turning down the noise
But you quickly forget about that misgiving when you're behind the wheel. The interior provides an understated elegance with lots of high-tech features and an extremely quiet ride.
One reason the car is so quiet is Honda's use of an Active Sound Control system to mask unwanted low and high frequency noises seeping into the cabin. The noise is there, you just can't hear it. The system is a step up from the noise cancelation system in the Accord and is even tied to the throttle to dampen out some engine noise at different revs.
Riding in luxury means you want for nothing, and the Crosstour provides all of the amenities you'd expect. Answer a friend's call on your Bluetooth connected phone and never take your hands off the steering wheel. (Or turn up the stereo, change stations or adjust the car's cruise control while still keeping both hands on the wheel -- it's all about the thumbs.)
That may be handy, in part, because the center stack on the dash remains a confusing array of buttons and one big knob. The system offers a lot of buttons to select and it takes a good week before you know where to reach for the defrost button or stereo controls.
The deep-set 8-inch navigation screen is easy to read, even with the bulky knob protruding out of the dash like an unchecked mole treated with massive dose of gamma rays. The screen also shows the back up camera's view when in reverse, which also projects guidance lines on where the car will go.
Other than the mess in the center of the dash, everything else in the front of the Crosstour is elegant. Nice wood trim accents the dash's curves and the driver's instrument panel is simple and elegant, like a nice watch. Room to spread out
But the real importance of the Crosstour is the space it creates. The front seats provide plenty of legroom and the second row can sit three adults nicely. Even with the sloping roof line, there's plenty of head room.
The 60/40 split folding seats allow more space in the back for those big rows. With the second rows up, there's still 25.7 cubic feet of usable cargo space. Fold them down and there's 51.3 cubic feet.
There's even a hidden utility box under the floor of the cargo area that can hold all kinds of stuff -- or at least 1.9 cubic feet of stuff. Honda accomplished this by moving the spare tire outside the crossover instead of leaving it inside. It's a simple solution that owners will appreciate over the long haul.
That's really been the recipe Honda has followed for years. Serve up a vehicle that is satisfying in all the right ways. It's not too sweet, not too bitter and always filling.
The Crosstour may be more meat and potatoes than dessert, but that remains its key to success. Now send marketing a memo.
firstname.lastname@example.org (313) 223-3217
2010 Honda Accord Crosstour
Type : Five-passenger crossover with front-wheel or all-wheel drive Price: $30,380
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Power: 271 horsepower; 254 pound-feet torque
EPA gas mileage :
FWD: 18 mpg city / 27 mpg highway
AWD: 17 mpg city / 25 mpg highway
Exterior: Good. Looks like a deflated station wagon but very distinctive. Sharp roof line and aggressive front end make it stand out.
Interior: Good. Comfortable and versatile, the interior has lots of space and can be changed depending upon needs. The dash, however, could use some cleaning up.
Performance: Good. Quiet and responsive. The steering was soft through turns but this is not a vehicle made for curve carving.
Pros: Good ride and lots of space lets you carry lots of people and all their stuff.
Cons : Polarizing exterior is not pleasing to everyone. High starting price may push you back into an Accord.
**** ExcellentÂ *** Good ** Fair * Poor
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