I’ve never been a huge fan of American station wagons. I spent countless hours in third-row jump seats without a seat belt. Facing backward, my so-called friends made rude gestures to shocked housewives stuck in traffic in their burgundy Chevy Impalas. Back in 1970s, these were “old school” housewives, not modern and/or hip soccer moms. Which brings me to the 2010 Honda Crosstour.
Today’s modern soccer moms and dads wear Crocs and Reefs, not Birkenstocks and flip-flops. They drive Crossovers, not station wagons. Minivans are uncool and SUVs are so yesterday.
So what’s the next big thing? It’s not a station wagon — Volvo can’t seem to sell the XC 70. The only “station wagon” that sells substantially is the Subaru Outback. And Subaru has gone out of its way to re-brand it as a crossover.
Enter the Honda Crosstour and the 2010 Toyota Venza.
Both cars partially fill the elusive domain of the American station wagon. Think of the Crosstour as the next MUV (Modern Utility Vehicle).
With a 271 HP 3.5L V6 engine, real time all-wheel drive, and tons of space, the Crosstour can easily accommodate a small family or serve as the main cross-country tourer for two “empty nesters.” And it can even take the kids to soccer game.
The first thing I noticed is how un-ugly the Crosstour is. Still, the complicated design of the Crosstour makes it almost impossible to take a handsome photo of the car.
But when I took it all in, I understood the initial media poo-pooing of the car’s design was based on photos, not on real-world encounters.
When I sat in the Crosstour, I noticed its roominess. This is a AMC Pacer on steroids, and unlike the Toyota Venza, the Cosstour is light, open and airy. And as soon as I drove the Crosstour, I was impressed by its power, ride comfort and throttle response.
Honda engineers are among the best designers of how a car should respond to throttle inputs, and the Crosstour is a fine example.
Unlike many other cars, the Crosstour’s accelerator feels immediately hard-wired to your brain. Combined with the perky and willing V6, and the well-sorted suspension, and the Crosstour is a pleasure to drive around town and on the highway.
All of the main controls, with the exception of the overly complicated center stack, work as advertised. If you’ve ever owned or driven a Honda, the Crosstour will feel like a comfortable pair of old shoes.
The problem with old shoes is that they sometimes stink. The Crosstour doesn’t stink, but it tends toward too much convention. For a car with a radical, elevated four-door coupe design, the interior is pedestrian and uninspired.
Where’s that wacky French car design that would give the Crosstour much needed personality? I wish Honda engineers had placed the windshield wipers upside down so they sweep from the top instead of the bottom. Or, maybe they could have put the headlight controls in the center of the steering wheel.
That way, I could complain. But I would eventually and inevitably conclude the wacky design is quirky and lovable and sets the Crosstour apart from the Venza.
Instead, I’m going to complain about the 30,000 buttons in the car’s center stack that control most of the secondary controls, including the radio, navigation and HVAC. Unfortunately, all of those buttons are neither wacky or lovable.
That’s the biggest issue I have with the Crosstour: When Honda decided to build a people’s BMW X6, I wish they had gone all in.
I love it that Honda took the bold step of breaking the traditional wagon/SUV/CUV/coupe mold and built a car that re-imagines practical transportation. But I wish Honda had smashed its traditional mold and made a completely different Honda — a vehicle that kept the DNA without all the Honda parts bin pieces and traditional Honda “baggage.”
Article Last Updated: August 20, 2010.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.