According to Gish, 2003-2008 Elements offer two distinct advantages that are of major importance to the outdoor enthusiast. One, they have the option of all-wheel drive, making it easier for owners to get to places that are off the beaten path. Two, all-wheel-drive Elements come with a sunroof at the rear of the interior cargo area, making it easy to access the sleeping area above when the ECamper top is raised for use.
With the top raised and the sunroof panels-lightweight composite panels replace the factory sunroof hatch-stowed out of the way, a six-foot-five individual can stand upright in the back of the Honda Element and use it as a changing room. The ECamper instantly becomes the perfect place to don a bathing suit or wetsuit or change from wet to dry clothes after a day in the water.
Why can't 2009 Elements get the ECamper treatment? They will -- soon. For 2009, Honda no longer offers a sunroof in the Element, so Ursa Minor is proactively and aggressively crunching numbers and running its computer-aided design programs to work around the change; the hope is that, by the time you read this, the company will have created an access point in the rear portion of the roof. Thus, the conversion will be available for any Element owner, including those with two-wheel-drive models dating back to 2003.
We paid a visit to Ursa Minor's shop to watch the guys do a conversion on a 2004 Element. Following its completion, we borrowed the unit for several days to see how well it performed, both on the road and at the end of the day when it was time to go to sleep.
We checked the fuel economy over a 300-mile stretch and it came in right at 24 mpg, about the same as before the modification was made. With such a slight addition, only 4.5 inches, to the height of the roofline, we couldn't detect any wind or added noise from the composite top, even at freeway speeds.