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2010 Honda Accord Crosstour: Modern Wagon or New-Style CUV?

Has Honda developed yet another blended vehicle–or just a big hatchback? On sale since November 2009, the Accord Crosstour aims to be a modern and stylish CUV. To our eyes, it is more like a hatchback on steroids. Honda’s not the only maker exploring this shape, as it is not unlike the idea behind the BMW 5-Series GT or Toyota’s Venza or Acura’s ZDX (the larger and more expensive ZDX is not a Crosstour in different metal). Accord Crosstour offers everything you expect from the Accord, wrapped in a new shape. Is that enough?
While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, most people we’ve talked to have not found beauty the shape of the Crosstour. A love-it-or-hate-it shape can be great for image and buzz. But it seems to be difficult to find the love-it Crosstour crowd, at least relative to styling.

Crosstour looks aggressive and purposeful from the front, with plenty of chrome to communicate its position, but the sharply creased look to the front is lost in the back. The tailgate is soft, and the words bubble butt come to mind.
Getting over the styling, which will appeal to some even as it turns others off, Honda maximized utility of the larger cargo area afforded by the hatchback shape, including an underfloor, washable plastic tray with dividers for keeping items separated; reversible cover (carpet to plastic); carpeted sides; and folding second-row seats. The Crosstour can haul more stuff than Accord sedan. You ride higher than in Accord, and get the option of all-wheel drive.
Living with Crosstour
The Crosstour is, from the driver’s seat, comfortable and predictable. After having driven both Venza and Crosstour, driving dynamics of the Crosstour are more rewarding–a relative statement, as neither promise nor deliver sports driving. Venza is stiffer and tips the SUV end of the scale, where Crosstour is biased toward a comfortable ride. Drivers looking for a smaller SUV may prefer the stiffer Venza, while those stepping out of a sedan and looking for a little more utility might appreciate the softer nature of the Crosstour.
Once inside the Crosstour, you’re effectively inside an Accord, contributing to the sense of familiarity in spite of the slightly elevated ride height. The cockpit of the two is identical. If you like the EX-L Accord interior, you will like the Crosstour interior. While Honda still does a solid navigation system, the center stack is fairly complicated, with a seemingly endless number of buttons to choose from. Once I got the Bluetooth phone set up, it worked fine, but the sequence for getting connected was not as intuitive as in some systems. The larger dial is for operating various navigation, phone, audio, and car settings, not for adjusting the volume of the radio.
Crosstour’s powertrain, Honda’s 271HP 3.5L V6 and five-speed automatic, moves the car along nicely and responsively, and braking power responsive. Crosstour, as one might expect, drives like an Accord. The engine has a more aggressive variable cylinder management system, necessary to achieve 17/25mpg for the AWD model, but it operates smoothly driving around town. Accord’s I4 is not offered in the Crosstour.
In terms of technology Crosstour follows Accord, and does not push the Honda envelope. Honda continues to use technology to separate Acura and Honda, offering Honda’s Real Time 4WD on Crosstour rather than Acura’s SH-AWD. CrossTour offers voice-controlled satellite-linked DVD-based navigation, but not adaptive cruise control, blind spot system, or the multi-view rear parking camera (a standard-view rear camera with guidance lines is available) found at the upmarket Acura showroom.
Where Does Crosstour Fit?
Based on the Accord, the size is between the CR-V and Pilot, but with a price point above Accord’s V6 models. Crosstour’s premium price is certain to help limit sales, even of current Accord owners. Through March, Honda sold nearly 7000 Crosstours in 2010. By comparison, and despite Toyota’s challenges in 2010, more than 12,000 Venzas have found homes. That Venza can be had with V6 or I4 and at wider price points is a factor. You must spend $30,000 to get a Crosstour, and our test car as equipped boasted a $37,000 tag. My Accord-sedan owning and Honda loyalist neighbor was very interested in Crosstour–until he saw the price tag.
Honda’s strategy is to present Crosstour as a premium offering, not a volume one. But at around 9% of Accord volume, Crosstour sales are so far playing much more like conventional wagon stories than like SUV offerings.
These two giants might say that their respective vehicles are wholly different animals, but they are both answers to the same question. Initial sales results support that Americans prefer the beefier SUV look of the Venza to the amorphous wagon/hatchback silhouette of the Crosstour–a lesson that both Chrysler (Pacifica) and Mercedes-Benz (R-Class) have also learned. There are customers for whom the sleeker shape is more pleasing, there just aren’t as many of them.

1 Comment

  • bob| April 21, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Just a sleazy excuse for driving an SUV without appearing to drive an SUV. Perhaps it’s because the sports car market is smaller, but the word got out long ago about the phallic symbolism of sports cars, and it made the sports-car market more self-aware, at least. Though it’s fairly obvious that SUVs represent strap-on male secondary sex-characteristics– brawniness, height, etc., the word didn’t get out on THEM. It wasn’t until gas prices rose that people started to pull back on SUV purchases. Male secondary sex-characteristics are preserved in crossovers, though in more muted forms, along with that annoying booster-seat competitiveness, which blocks the visibility of drivers behind. This has a venal appeal to both sexes– the arrogance of the overcompensating male, and the back-stabbing, mean-girl competitiveness that has become more prevalent in the American workplace since feminists entered the workplace in greater numbers. Crossovers are closet SUVs, a class of cars that says, “Who, Me?” to charges of driver arrogance and competitiveness.
    ___When American individualism was in its prime, free individuals cooperated with one another in a dignified manner. As American individualism is buried under collectivist politics, its expressions evolve toward reactionary caricature. SUVs and crossovers are manifestations of the ugliest psychological damage of this trend. Simply pulling on the road in one is an act of rudeness, unless one has a damned good excuse, like living with a half-mile driveway in snow country or being a wildlife naturalist. The rest is personal expression, and what SUVs and crossovers express is ugliness.

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