The Honda Crosstour was introduced for 2011 as a model of the Accord, but is now a model of its own. It's been left behind by the Accord, which began a new generation for the 2013 model year, while the Crosstour continues to ride on the old Accord's platform, which dates back to the 2008 model year. However, the 2013 Crosstour received extensive updates to the styling and interior that mimic the new Accord.
Crosstour is about 5 inches longer, 4 inches taller, and, with all-wheel drive, 600 pounds heavier than the Accord. Plus, it can tow 1500 pounds.
We compare all-wheel drive because that seems like the main reason for choosing the Crosstour over the Accord, although by then you're looking at a price that's nearly $8000 higher than the base 2WD four-cylinder Crosstour. With all-wheel drive, the Crosstour connects with its intentions: a crossover that's actually a sedan, that looks like a coupe. The only car like it is the BMW X6; or rather, we should say the Crosstour is like the X6, because the design was BMW's idea, and the X6 came first. No other carmaker has copied this idea, which makes you wonder. During the week we drove the Crosstour, it was the object of favorable attention and curiosity, but Crosstours aren't exactly selling like hot cross buns.
If you look past the fastback sedan styling, the Crosstour might compete with the Toyota Venza, with stats and prices that are very close.
The Crosstour only seats five, like the Accord, but offers expanded cargo capacity. Not that much, however, with the rear seats folded: 59.7 cubic feet, compared to 51.3 in the 2012 Accord (meanwhile the less swoopy but still sleek Venza has 70.2). But with the rear seat up, there's 25.7 cubic feet in back, compared to 15.8 cubic feet in the trunk of the Accord sedan. And because the slope of the long rear hatch is so shallow, it won't hit you on the chin on the way up, like a liftgate will unless you step back.
The fastback roofline is a big compromise, as the shallow slope gets in the way of rear-passenger entry and headroom. On the upside, a couple inches of height at the floorboards, combined with its taller roof, make the Crosstour easier than the Accord for the driver to climb in and out of.
The driver has the higher seating position of a crossover, though not quite as high as an SUV. The big hatchback opens wide to the cargo area, while lift-over height at the rear bumper is not much higher than a midsize sedan's. There's 6.2 inches of ground clearance, to make it more versatile like the SUVs it competes with, but that's still just 0.4 inches more than the Accord.
The Crosstour shares no body panels with any Accord, neither 2012 nor the redesigned 2013. However, its sheetmetal is more like the 2013 Accord, thanks to revisions for 2013. Honda says it's more rugged looking, presumably because there's more black plastic in the fascia at the front, rear and rocker panels. We don't get rugged out of that. But we do see a cleaner shape at the nose, thanks to its mimicking the new Accord.
There are two engines. Acceleration with the four-cylinder is satisfactory, while with the V6 it's heavenly.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine makes 192 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque and islinked to a 5-speed automatic transmission. The 2.4-liter 16-valve DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder engine gets a class-leading 22/31 EPA-estimated City/Highway miles per gallon
The 3.5-liter SOHC V6 makes 278 horsepower and comes with a 6-speed automatic. The 3.5-liter V6 is rated at 20/30 mpg with 2WD and 19/28 mpg with AWD.
The 2013 Honda Crosstour comes in four models. Crosstour EX ($27,230) comes with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and 5-speed automatic transmission. Standard equipment includes fabric upholstery, full power, rearview camera, Bluetooth, USB port, iPod connection, power moonroof, heated side mirrors, steering wheel controls, 60-40 folding rear seatback, 360-watt AM/FM 6-disc audio system with seven speakers, hidden removable utility box, fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, projector-beam headlights. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which may change at any time without notice, and do not include destination charges.)
Crosstour EX-L ($30,915) adds leather interior, two-zone climate control, heated front seats, memory driver's seat and mirrors, upgraded speakers, an 8-inch display screen with Pandora internet and XM radio, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and LaneWatch blind spot monitor. Crosstour EX-L Navigation ($33,015) adds a voice navigation system with steering wheel controls.
The V6 and 6-speed automatic transmission are available for Crosstour EX ($30,890), EX-L ($33,540), and EX-L Navigation ($35,640).
All-wheel drive, which Honda calls Real Time 4WD, only comes with the V6 ($34,990) or EX-L Navigation V6 ($37,090). All-wheel drive models come with 18-inch alloy wheels with P225/60R18 all-season tires.
Safety equipment on all models includes six airbags, electronic stability control, ABS with EBD, tire pressure monitor, active front headrests, and side impact beams. Optional safety features include Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), and LaneWatch blind spot display. The 2013 Crosstour earns top IIHS roof-crush safety scores, as well as a 5-Star NCAP rating.
The Crosstour design is unique, give it that. It's similar to the BMW X6, but swoopier. We looked down into a parking lot at our Crosstour, from the top row of grandstands at a soccer stadium, and its roofline appeared almost Jaguar XF-like. But then, you can find an Audi or Mazda or others that have similar fastback lines.
It has a high butt, big but not fat. One long character groove extends from the top of the front fenders through the door handles, climbing slightly to the taillights, contributing to the vision of the raised rear. The roofline flows in the opposite direction, its slope so long and shallow that the vast rear glass seems almost flat. There is no trunk lid at all, you can't even call it a liftgate, more like a big fastback hatch. There's a black spoiler that contains the horizontal brake lights, but it's lost in the tinted privacy glass.
The hips appear huge, like no midsize car we know. And from the front, the Crosstour appears widened at the fenders, and dropped at the nose; however that's an illusion that seems to come from the windshield and rooftop above it. The Crosstour's track is no wider than an Accord's.
The hood has one wide groove, like a shallow riverbed that flows from the windshield to the grille. The fascia below the front bumper contains a horizontal stretch of black plastic with a silver faux skid plate, with mesh around foglights, it all looks cheap.
The pillars are blacked out, and there is a chrome rim around the glass. The rear corner is a sharp triangle following the roofline, back behind the C-pillar where there are no passengers to look out the tinted glass triangle. We wonder what it would do to the car's lines if there were no chrome.
Also if there were no flat black plastic rocker panels with silver plastic strips.
The Honda Crosstour has a nice cabin. Interior materials have been upgraded on the 2013 Crosstour. What we liked best about our Crosstour EX-L Navigation model was the comfort of the leather seats, whose contours matched our body and bolstering matched our needs. We think our body and needs are what they should be. The seats were not too firm, not too soft, not too wide, and not too flat. Fabric upholstery comes with the base Crosstour EX model.
What we liked least was the rearward visibility. Rear-seat headrests have been tweaked to improve this, but it's still bad, because of the roofline and the obstructive horizontal bar at the deck that's structurally needed, because of all the glass (it contains the CHMSL brake lights). It blocks the view of cars in your rearview mirror, when they're at a common following distance. It's annoying, if not unsafe. We don't know what can be done about it, in a car with this much glass in back. The Toyota Prius is the same.
What we liked second-least was the complicated radio tuning. We think it's a dastardly plot by manufacturers, because nowadays it seems they're all like that. Far too many touches and clicks are required to get where you want to go, on satellite radio. Not to mention non-intuitive thinking. The distraction is dangerous.
The instrumentation is clean. The speedometer and tachometer are crisp, white numbers on a black face, with nice silver rings that change colors at night, into a moody electric blue, needles too. The pillars allow good forward visibility.
The Crosstour EX-L with Navigation puts its trip information on the big navigation screen on the center console. The information should be been displayed in a smaller box ahead of the driver's eyes. On the nav screen, it takes up more space than needed. Efficient use of small visual spaces is important in car design.
The standard rearview camera is nice and clear, but the optional/upgrade LaneWatch blind-spot display malfunctioned on us. It shows on the camera screen what's behind you to the right when the right turn signal is on; for a while, it stayed on. We wanted the navigation map on the screen, and all we could get was the right lane behind us.
We are not fans of Lane Departure Warning systems and find them annoying. In the couple years since these systems were invented, we've gotten hundreds of warnings in cars we've driven, every single one of them false alarms. On a two-lane road with curves, it's impossible to keep it from repeatedly warning you that you're about to run off the road. The basic problem is sensitivity. The camera sees painted lines, and if you move 12 inches in your lane, it'll go off. Dario Franchitti on a perfect lap around Indy couldn't keep his car on a line that precise.
You can turn it off, but you must do so each time you get in the car. That's annoying. At the least, they should get rid of the default ON position. Turn it on when you might need it, like on a long trip to Las Vegas where you expect to be half-asleep at the wheel. But they probably can't do that, because drivers would sue them if they crashed, blaming the car for their lack of control of it. And they can't get rid of it because their competitors have it, and that would make them look like they didn't care as much about human life.
As for the Forward Collision Warning, it's a mixed bag. In stop-and-go 20-mph traffic, unless you leave a big gap between you and the car in front, the collision warning will go off. If you do leave that gap, someone will jump in it. At the least, the jam would back up twice as far. So then you can turn off the FCW. Other times, it might indeed wake you up.
Finally, one more feature with unintended consequences: Smart Entry. We unlocked the car with the remote on a hot day, and all four windows plus the sunroof came down a few inches, to let hot air out of the cabin. But we weren't going anywhere, only getting something out of the car. When we locked it, the windows didn't go back up. We had to climb in the car and start the motor and roll them up, plus the sunroof. How come everything named Smart nowadays (like our Direct TV Smart Search) is really rather stupid?
Rear-seat legroom is average for a midsize car, with 37.4 inches (37.0 with AWD), but rear headroom is compromised by the roofline, enough that a six-footer has to duck to climb out.
Cargo capacity is a good news, bad news story. When seating five people, Crosstour beats the Accord sedan by a lot: 25.7 cubic feet behind the rear seat of the Crosstour, compared to 15.8 cubic feet in the trunk of the sedan. But with the rear seat dropped for maximum space, the sedan looks better, beaten only by a score of 59.7 cubic feet to 51.3. And if you compare the Crosstour to real SUVs with their boxy shapes, it comes up short in cargo space. Even the smaller Honda CR-V has nearly 20 more cubic feet of cargo space. But still, it's mission accomplished for the Crosstour. It's as much about style as cargo.
The space behind the rear seat measures 41 inches deep by 55 inches at its widest and 30 inches between the wheelwells. The carpeted floor can be flipped over to its plastic underliner, so no worries with wet or dirty things. The 60/40 rear seat folds with the flip of a lever, creating nearly seven feet from the front seatbacks to the tailgate, with tie-down points to keep objects secure. There's also a couple more cubic feet of space under the Crosstour's cargo floor, divided into separate plastic bins. The largest measures two feet square by nearly a foot deep; add ice and it works as a makeshift cooler for drinks.
As good as the seats were, they didn't protect us from a sharp jab on some bumps, at both high and low speed. We don't know if it's the price Honda pays for a double-wishbone front suspension or not. We do know that the other 99 percent of the time, the suspension is beautifully firm. And it handles with precision, if somewhat heavy. This is the AWD Crosstour we're describing.
The car moves up and down with bumps, ripples and undulations. The suspension doesn't swallow them, it hugs them. Especially the up bumps; you feel those first. There's no discomfort here, just an awareness of the road's undulations when you're in the saddle. Again, that's where good handling comes in.
The Crosstour handles like the Accord (which is livelier than the Toyota Camry and less edgy than the Nissan Altima), bit it's heavier, taller, and less nimble. It corners with precision, thanks to its double-wishbone front and independent multi-link rear suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, and front shock tower bar. The steering is old-school hydraulic-assist, unlike the new Accord that has switched to electric.
It stops well, thanks to its ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder base engine makes 190 horsepower at a high-revving 7000 rpm, and 162 foot-pounds of torque at 4400. That's a bit more horsepower and a bit less torque than the Nissan and Toyota four-cylinders. With a 5-speed automatic transmission, the acceleration is fine.
What we liked most about driving the V6 Crosstour was its power. It zooms seamlessly. Freeway on-ramps inspire confidence. When you put your foot in it, it does everything you need and want it to do. Honda calls the engine Earth Dreams, which seems to mean 7 more horsepower than last year.
The 3.5-liter, 24-valve SOHC i-VTEC engine now makes 278 hp at 6200 rpm, and uses variable cylinder management to maximize efficiency, allowing the engine to run on three cylinders when that's all it needs to maintain a speed. The torque peak hasn't changed, with 252 foot-pounds at 4900 rpm, but Honda says torque is available over a much wider range with Earth Dreams.
The V6 is somewhat thirsty around town. Honda rates the Crosstour AWD at 19 City/28 Highway mpg, but we got more like 12 in the city (hills but not jackrabbit starts) and 25.4 mpg on the highway at 72 mph. We averaged 22.4 mpg for 405 miles.
The Crosstour AWD uses Honda's fully automatic Real Time 4WD, which sends power to the rear wheels only when there is slippage at the front wheels. It improves control in rain, snow or on unpaved surfaces.
The 6-speed automatic transmission has a Sport mode and paddle shifters. We just don't feel like this is the kind of car where these features add much. Mechanically, they add a lot of capability; it's just that canyon carving isn't the Crosstour's thing.
You don't want to be in Sport mode by accident, which too easily happens because of its position on the lever. You'll feel the lack of upshifting right away, like you forgot to release the emergency brake. It won't glide to a stop sign, remaining in a lower gear and over-slowing the car.
The Honda Crosstour is a niche-of-one vehicle. You can make it what you want, a swoopy sedan or fastback SUV, both with good cargo capacity. Built on the Accord platform, it has good power with the four-cylinder and 5-speed automatic; excellent with the V6 and 6-speed. Ride is smooth and firm, handling precise. All-wheel drive is available.
Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report from the Pacific Northwest.