Everybody loves the underdog. The ugly duckling. The plucky carmaker that keeps making the cars we need but don’t want. This is the story of the ugliest duckling to ever be under a dog; the Honda Crosstour.
Honda wanted me to review the Crosstour so bad they designed it on the back of a napkin while drunk at a sushi bar, tried to sell it as a crossover, and then canceled it when nobody buys wagons anymore. They also knew I wouldn’t be able to fit my dogs in a Miata, and thought this would satisfy the ever-important Oppo demographic of used-wagon buyers. It also came with a CarMax warranty, which ended up being a waste of money because it never breaks down. Screw you Doug Demuro.
“Lumpy”, as we call her, came into our lives in 2016. We were moving back to the US and my wife needed to have a car waiting for her to drive our dogs from Austin to Maryland. I wanted a reliable AWD V6 wagon to commute in, and she wanted heated seats. In hindsight she also wanted a car that didn’t look like a chrome-trimmed Dung Beetle, but in my defense she never specifically mentioned that until after the fact. Enter CarMax, and ultimately a choice between a Venza and a Crosstour. I reserved the Crosstour because I had a ‘93 Accord that was amazing, and I was certain she’d love this Accord just as much. Fortunately for me our vows included verbiage pertaining to vehicular sins and forgiveness thereof.
Objectively, it is an amazing car. Accord reliability, decent V6 power, AWD that is all you need for suburban mall-crawling in the snow, and a Texas car that wouldn’t be 30% rust by volume.
Reality? It’s ugly. Yes it has been reliable, and the AWD easily conquers gravel roads to trailheads or snow-covered lanes to the local ski hill. I regret the lack of a true low gear, as it won’t hold first gear while descending a steep hill and requires riding the brakes. Of course there are the well-described weaknesses of the rear hatch that obstructs your view, and the less-than-ideal rear cargo area configuration. However, my dogs never complained.
Quirks? My wife complained about “all the beeping” on the maiden voyage from Austin, but it turns out it was the lane departure warning system. No comment on her driving style. She also used to complain about the “weird noise” our van would make while braking; during an emergency stop to avoid a deer, the ABS kicked in and she said “that’s the sound it always makes when I drive!”. Maybe the less I know about that the better. Also, it turns out this had been a Maryland car originally and was just on some Disney Journey Home after its family abandoned it in Texas.
Best feature! Empower seats. We were sitting in the Crosstour in a traffic jam on I-95, talking about how much we both hated our jobs (and everything else about living in the Baltimore-DC area); at that moment we decided we were going to move to the mountains. Your mileage may vary, but it has been the best decision we ever made. Thank you Crosstour! Lumpy even survived the 3275 mile drive to the other Washington, once again shuttling our dogs to a new home. My new-permit-to-drive son managed to drive the entire breadth of Montana without hitting anything; I managed not to die of angina.
Now it serves as my winter sled until my daughter takes the keys when she gets her license next year. There should be a “Frontal Collision Warning” system that lets you know that your kids will be adults any second, and will soon be driving their own roads.
Like the Pilot, the Civic, and the Ridgeline, the Crosstour is what we need, just not what we want. 90% of pickup drivers would be better served with a Ridgeline; most suburban SUV drivers would do well with an AWD sedan or wagon. The problem is that Honda is doing its best to design the ugliest cars possible. Nobody is asking for a Japanese Alfa Romeo, but can we have a little design icing on our cake of reliability and practicality? I happen to know a bunch of internet people who will never buy one new, but will be waiting patiently for used ones. Just offer something attractive (with a manual transmission) and we just might trade our Crosstour in.
Takeaway: all the capability of a Passport, but uglier