Dateline Palos Verdes, California: Guess what, automotive blogosphere, Honda's Accord Crosstour is not the design catastrophe you so deliriously predicted.
Prior to the new Crosstour's traditional introduction, Honda, rather innocently, released early images of the Crosstour on Facebook. However, these social networks can often be less than sociable gatherings. Snap a finger, and a bunch of collegial car-loving "friends" can transform into a pack of frenzied piranhas. And on their menu last September was the complicated-looking Crosstour, which was spilling blood in the water even before it was properly introduced to the mainstream press. Okay, so just about every car company these days is upping the ante with their online stripteasing, leaking a photo here, releasing a gallery to a social network there, but this time, the viral publicity machine chose to bite back-and bite back hard. Oh, for the days when a new car was revealed to the world with one mighty whiskaway of a black sheet at a major car show.
In my humble opinion, the miscalculation with the Crosstour's Facebook moment was that its shape is so complex, so unusual, it's almost impossible to accurately convey to a 2D audience (even here in this story). The car almost refuses to be photographed; it needs to be physically pondered on two moving feet, watching the surfaces blend and emerge as you change perspective. And while-even after lots of pondering-we might all agree that the Crosstour is not exactly museum material, parked next to Toyota's Venza or Nissan's Murano (as Honda smartly arranged) the Crosstour is aesthetically competitive. Sure, its stern appears to be in an early stage of the Porsche Panamera's elephantitis, but it's a pleasant visual adventure nonetheless. In the sedan, where the rising side creases empty into nowhere, here the grooves neatly transition from a concavity to a convexity and then nicely resolve into the rear bustle. Alas, the biggest problem is the Crosstour's rejiggered Accord snout; pulling out of the driveway I asked my wife if she saw anything wrong with the car's appearance. She pointed to the nose and then slightly fluttered her flattened hand. Signal to the folks who penned that wondrous-looking FCX Clarity (also a big four-door hatchback): It's time to stage that revolt against the sausage-makers in Honda's mainstream design department.
Inside, the Crosstour's Accord origins are entirely familar, and a good thing, too. Our example was an EX-L with Navi (Crosstour's trims consist of either EX, EX-L, or EX-L with Navi-no base LX), and it makes for a very premium environment. Unique to Crosstours are blue instrument lighting effects, a nice faux wood trim, and interiors that are either all black, or, like ours, a split, upper black/lower tan motif. Compared with the sedan, there's a smidgeon more head- and shoulder room, but the news, naturally, is the cargo bay's nominal 25.7 cubic feet (expanding to 51.3 when the split rear seats are folded) vis-a-vis the sedan's puny 14.0.
Lifting the hatch raises the aft portion of a two-part security screen (an EX-L feature), revealing a handsomely finished flat-floored luggage compartment (including scrap plate) that's conveniently extensible via twin rear-accessible seatback releases. It's an awfully handy volume, though the multilink rear suspension's spring towers do noticeably intrude. Stashed under the reversible floor panel (carpeted on one side, plastic on the other for grimy items) is a removable and washable, 1.9-cubic-foot plastic bin; under the stern is a space-saver spare that lowers by cranking.
From the driver's seat, the split-window rear view is tolerable (and thank heavens for the Insight-like second window and available backup camera). However, in every other direction, the view's great, and why not what with you sitting some two inches higher (look to the taller section tires and/or available 18-inch wheels that contribute some 1.4 inches of it).
Dynamically, the added height's hardly noticeable. This is partly creditable, we're told, to curious, new springs (yep, second small coils) added above the front shocks. It's said to aid in keeping the inside tire better planted during cornering (hmm); interestingly, it was also employed on the original Acura Legend back in 1987. An old Honda trick, it would appear. Whatever, the result is unlike any Accord I've ever driven. It's smooth, supple (though rarely floaty), and simultaneously nearly absent the tire noise we've come to grudgingly endure in Accords. Frankly, it rides more like a big Toyota or Lexus. The steering too, is more languid, with intentionally slower response than the Accord sedan. Again, Lexuslike.
While the front-drive Crosstour's underpinnings are essentially Accord (the AWD version being 60 percent so), there are plenty of interesting new tricks that are sure to appear among its brethren. The latitude given the V-6's cylinder deactivation (it can drop to four or three powered cylinders) has been increased, while the consequent vibration and noise have been nixed by active engine mounts (which actually vibrate in sync) and noise-canceling tactics within the cabin. Two other developments are rev-matched downshifts and the inclusion of cornering data into the transmission's shift strategy (any detection of lateral g suppresses unwanted upshifts). What's amusing is that none of this is noticeable. Ab-so-lute-ly none.
Now, some of what I've said might have you wondering. A softer ride? Slower steering? Lexuslike this and that? What's up?
The Crosstour has been tuned for a narrow new market, one that's always been within a tantalizing finger's reach of the Accord sedan-empty-nesters. Hence the softening, the V-6-only availability, the absence of a base trim level. Our question is whether the Crosstour's added utility might actually be more attractive to full-nesters, but, hey, Honda owns the market research data, not us. What we are sure of is this is one delightful car to drive, as well as a lot more useful than the Accord sedan. Oh, and also that early images of a complicated-looking "empty-nest"-bound vehicle on Facebook may not be a good idea.
Prior to attending the Crosstour's introduction, we asked our online audience to submit some questions for me to ask Honda on your behalf. (Subliminal message: Get involved with motortrend.com; you never know when you might be quoted.)
Thewiione: What does Honda expect the take rate for the Crosstour to be versus the standard sedan? About 10 percent. Honda expects the Crosstour's first-year sales to reach about 40,000 compared with the sedan's approximately 400,000.
Deerefan87: Is this Honda's direct response to the class-wayfaring Toyota Venza? Not at all. Its product planning far predates the Venza's appearance. Their similarity simply shows that both companies are looking closely at the same market and finding similar opportunities.
Will it appear in Motor Trend's Car of the Year or SUV of the Year competitions? The EPA classifies it as a passenger car while NHTSA regards it as a light-duty truck. The EPA's decision was triggered by two little aero flaps ahead of the front wheels, which are six inches above the ground; the rest of the vehicle is 8.1 inches, enough to make it a light truck. (Fortunately, Motor Trend has several months to mull this one over!)
21budd: Sales data demonstrates that, while fewer customers buy wagons, when they do they seldom get a sedan again (one reason for Subaru's customer loyalty). Wouldn't this car have a bigger market as a sedan? No. (But late-breaking news has it that the Accord Touring, available elsewhere, will be coming to our shores as the Acura TSX Sport Wagon. Hot diggity.)
K-omar: Will it come to Puerto Rico? Probably. (And, yes, that's the first time I've asked that question at a press introduction).
|2010 Honda Accord Crosstour|
| Base price range || $30,380-$36,930 |
| Price as tested || $35,480 (EX-L with Navi, FWD) |
| Vehicle layout || Front engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback |
| Engine || 3.5L/271-hp/254-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6 |
| Transmission || 5-speed automatic |
| Curb weight (dist f/r) || 3859 lb (59/41%) |
| Wheelbase || 110.1 in |
| Length x width x height || 196.8 x 74.7 x (est) 61.7 in |
| 0-60 mph || 7.3 sec |
| Quarter mile || 15.6 sec @ 91.1 mph |
| Braking, 60-0 mph || 131 ft |
| Lateral acceleration || 0.77 g (avg) |
| MT figure eight || 28.4 sec @ 0.55 g (avg) |
| EPA city/hwy fuel econ || 17-18/25-27 mpg |
| CO2 emissions || 0.92-0.98 lb/mile |
| On sale in U.S. || Currently |