The new Honda Accord Crosstour looks weird. Its nose is too long, its roofline a little too low, and the back end comes from outer space, with no known automotive predecessor. If an elephant sat on an SUV, you might end up with something like the Crosstour. But weird is not necessarily bad.
The 2010 Crosstour is undeniably functional; the rear hatch has inserts that lets it be either a large cargo space or a traditional closed trunk. And once in the driver's seat, the car feels like a Honda Accord, until you look in the rear-view mirror. With its horizontally bisected rear glass, the view out the back looks the same as in a Prius or Insight.
The Crosstour that we reviewed was in EX-L trim, with the surprising addition of all-wheel drive. As we drove it up a rocky embankment to position it for a photo shoot, it began to feel like a capable off-road vehicle, high enough from the ground not to bottom out on a ridge. With the Crosstour, Honda is stepping into Subaru's market, offering a carlike all-wheel driver with enough cabin room for weekend ski trips.
An Acura interface
In EX-L trim, the cabin features wood trim, leather seats, and generally soft plastics covering every surface. The effect falls a little short of luxury, but it is nicely done overall. Familiar to us from many drives in Acuras was the large knob in the center of the stack, below the navigation LCD. This knob works as a joystick and dial to make selections onscreen. The Crosstour dashboard and steering wheel also suffer from button overload, a disease caught from Acura as well.
What the Crosstour didn't get from Acura was traffic and weather data integrated with the navigation system. As we drove this car along the freeways in the San Francisco Bay Area, we missed seeing the colored lines that indicate traffic flow, or the icons showing where an accident occurred. This lack of traffic integration was surprising, as the car does have XM Satellite Radio, which offers a traffic service.
Likewise, the navigation system lacks 3D maps, something which is becoming more and more common. The 2D maps are perfectly usable, however, showing street names with good resolution. The system's route guidance graphics are also decent, but it doesn't show lane guidance, nor does it read out the names of streets. The one standout feature in this otherwise average navigation system is the Zagat ratings integrated into the points-of-interest database, identifying good restaurants in certain cities.
After going over the navigation system, we expected the rest of the Crosstour's cabin tech to be about average or below, but the car had some unexpected treats. Popping open the console, we found a USB port, and were impressed when it worked seamlessly with an iPhone, showing the music library on the car's LCD.
Similarly, after pairing the iPhone to the car's Bluetooth phone system, the car gave us the option of importing the phone's contact list to the car. The full contact list was available on the car's LCD.
The audio system, although lacking a name brand, was also surprisingly good. It excelled in clarity, making the swipe of fingers over nylon guitar strings apparent, for example, or letting us hear a bell ringing clearly amid a complex, layered track. The low frequencies seemed underwhelming, until we played a track featuring heavy bass.
The only complaint we have about this audio system is its weak staging. Too much of the sound emanated from the door we happened to be sitting next to. Good digital signal processing would make the sound seem to come from the center of the dashboard. This audio system makes do with six speakers, the subwoofer, and a 360-watt amp.