2008 Element New Car Test Drive
The Honda Element was created to be the ultimate in utilitarian chic, and this year it got a little chic-er. The mainstream models that dog lovers and surfers love remain, but the introduction of the chic new Element SC turns this versatile box on wheels into a lowered, carpeted, monochromatic urban cruiser.
As with the other models, the 2007 Honda Element SC can in minutes change roles from a four-seat people mover to a surprisingly big cargo hauler. Likewise, it delivers sedan-style driving dynamics and good fuel economy, at least by SUV standards. However, the SC is not a muddy boot, hose-it-out kind of vehicle, and it's dropped any pretense of all-terrain capability. Clearly, the Element has evolved.
Launched as a 2003 model, the Honda Element was originally aimed at young adventurers who need to haul wet or messy gear within the security of an enclosed cargo area. Its durable, quick-clean interior was a big part of its charm, rather than a strippo-model drawback. Low step-in height made loading mountain bikes or surfboards or big dogs easy, and vinyl flooring made it extra dog-friendly. Dark vinyl fenders and heavy cladding made stone chips or brush scrapes a non-issue. But young surfer boys weren't the only ones attracted to the utility and cuteness of the Honda Element. Other folks saw the benefits of roomy box that got good gas mileage and was easy to park.
The utility benefits mentioned above still apply to the 2007 Element LX, an unadorned base model. And to a considerable extent those benefits still apply to the high-trim EX. Starting with the 2006 models, however, the EX models began rolling out of the factory with painted fenders and cladding, though the bumpers and roof trim remained basic dark vinyl.
Now comes the Element SC, the first model with a fully painted exterior and cloth upholstery. Its suspension is lower and stiffer for improved handling, and it has big 18-inch wheels.
All 2007 models benefit from a major infusion of safety features, including curtain-style head protection airbags for front and rear passengers and Vehicle Stability Assist for improved driver control, making them the benchmark for small utility vehicles. With these upgrades, Honda completes its Safety First marketing initiative, which it claims gives all its vehicles luxury-grade safety features.
A new five-speed automatic transmission for 2007 and a slight increase in horsepower improves throttle response. Despite its utilitarian roots, the Element has always driven more like a car than a truck. Think of a base Honda Civic sedan with softer springs and a higher driving position and you won't be far off. The Element is a fine little automotive appliance. Dressed up as the SC model, it has a little more style.
The Honda Element is available in three models. All come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a choice of five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission ($800). All come standard with front-wheel drive, but the LX and EX models are available with all-wheel drive.
The LX ($18,900) and LX 4WD ($20,300) come with air conditioning with micron filtration, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, cruise control, an adjustable steering column and a four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo. This is the only Element that still sports the unique gray vinyl fenders and lower body cladding. For 2007, the LX comes standard with remote keyless entry.
The EX ($20,910) and EX 4WD ($22,310) add aluminum wheels, a passenger-side armrest and a 270-watt, seven speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with subwoofer, XM Satellite Radio hardware and redundant controls on the steering wheel. EX models have fenders and cladding painted to match the rest of the body.
The SC ($22,695) is equipped comparably with the Element EX model, including the upgrade 270-watt stereo.
Safety features include curtain-style head protection airbags for front and rear passengers with rollover sensors, as well as Honda's Vehicle Stability Assist anti-skid electronics and a tire pressure monitoring system. That's in addition to side-impact airbags for front-seat passengers for torso protection and the mandated dual front airbags with dual-stage deployment. Also standard are LATCH child-seat anchors, three-point seat belts for all seats with automatic tensioners on the front seats. Be sure and wear your seat belts because they're your first line of defense in an accident. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist come standard.