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Old 08-25-2012, 07:41 AM   #1
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Honda Element AWD, a worthy Suv "dual sport" ?

Howdy.

I am considering a Honda Element AWD SUV as a used car purchase for a family member-- sometime in my future. No particular model year in mind, although my budget will probably dictate a 2003-2004 model with some higher miles, 100k+ perhaps.

Anyone ever own one of these at the 100K mile mark plus?

Does a guy want to hold out for one with a manual trans so as not to be bored to death?

What kind of real world fuel economy could be appreciated?

Other than the potential windshield problems I read about, what else should I know or look for?

Thanks. Trying to fit the needs of a family member who hauls a dog, occasionally camps, hauls a kayak and typically only one other human passenger, but travels in snow and is looking for fuel economy to some degree as well.

Thanks-- the model years we are considering look like this one:

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Old 08-25-2012, 08:30 AM   #2
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We have a 2006.

Bulletproof.
LOUD. I put Bridgestone REVO tires on that don't help with noise, but do help with traction and wind sensitivity.
Wind sensitive. You wouldn't want to haul a kayak.
OK mileage, but not great.
Overall...very solid and dependable. There is an element owner's group forum that will fill your head with all the information you can stand.
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Old 08-25-2012, 08:34 AM   #3
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Dedicated snow tires and wheels on a FWD will cost less than the permanent mileage and purchase price penalty for an AWD vehicle. YMMV.
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Old 08-25-2012, 08:35 AM   #4
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I'm looking at them also, but all the ones I see locally have a 170,000 miles or more, and no maintenance records.

Speaking of camping:
ecamper

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Old 08-25-2012, 08:36 AM   #5
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We recently bought a black 2003 EX AWD with ~68,000 miles at private sale for our daughter who is going to be a senior in HS. She promptly named it 'Pop-Tart'

Initially she was.. shall I say... not 'crazy' about it.. But... we.. the parents who paid for 100% of it... like it for the following reasons:
      • Honda reliability
      • A silly amount of room (looking forward to college moving/weekend roadtrips home)
      • 4 cylinder engine returns OK mileage, but more importantly doesn't have enough power to drive like her mother, who apparently was a Formula 1 driver in a previous life...
      • Great stereo; who doesn't love a factory sub mounted right below the stereo.
      • AWD is on demand and is handy for piece of mind and making sure she can get around OK where we live (in the hills of NH)
      • Honda reliability
      • Ohh.. and Honda reliability ... am I getting through on that???
We've only had it for a few months, but it seems to be doing the job nicely...

Mileage is in 22-25MPG range so far.. not great, but it is actually a pretty big vehicle..relative to a Civic or the like.. the boxiness doesn't help on the highway....

Personally I think it is the balls if you do a lot of running around town and you would like to have AWD and Honda reliability.. If you are going to be on the highway a lot, this might not be the vehicle of choice, as the road noise is more than many vehicles and the less than aerodynamic design doesn't make for great mileage...as well the engine is a little under-powered if you like your vehicles to effortlessly sail down the highway at 80mph.. which again.. is just fine for my sanity..

You mention manual trans: Ours is an automatic.. From what I gathered, there are not a lot of manuals out there.. The auto is fine.. in fact our daughter prefers an auto.. I appreciate that you don't want to be bored; out of four cars this is the only auto we have.. but this isn't exactly 'a drivers car' to begin with, so I don't know how much a manual would add to the 'enjoyment'..

I don't know if you've checked out the Elements Owners forum, but like any single vehicle with its own forum, you'll find more info than you could have imagined there...
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Old 08-25-2012, 08:49 AM   #6
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You mention "SUV" in your initial post. I drove my mom's '07 up a somewhat rough mountain driveway, and was pretty uncomfortable doing it because of limited ground clearance.

The Caliber I had at the time had quite a bit more clearance than the Element, in fact.
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Old 08-25-2012, 09:13 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grainbelt View Post
Dedicated snow tires and wheels on a FWD will cost less than the permanent mileage and purchase price penalty for an AWD vehicle. YMMV.
I've seen guys blast those AWD Elements (Bender) through shit a FWD could only dream about.
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Old 08-25-2012, 10:38 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grainbelt View Post
Dedicated snow tires and wheels on a FWD will cost less than the permanent mileage and purchase price penalty for an AWD vehicle. YMMV.
I'm with you on that.. 99.99% of the time two wheel drive with quality snows are just fine for me.. especially because I log 25k a year with maybe a couple hundred miles when AWD would be handy and even fewer where it would make the difference between getting home and not..

Funny..now that I think about it... the only time I've ever been stuck was in my 4wd Subaru in college that had all-season tires....

AWD for a daughter doesn't break the deal if it costs couple MPG... she doesn't drive a ton of miles anywho...
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Old 08-25-2012, 11:03 AM   #9
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My friend has one. It's pretty good, because it looks like a toaster, on the inside with the backseats folded up to the side, you can fit a lot of crap in it. Spacious back seats, flat floor is useful. Has a tailgate. His is an Auto, maybe there would be less loss from a manual power wise but it's going to be slow either way. It has an undersize engine for it's size, so yes it is very slow. His returns mid 20's for mpg. For a high school and college student, you really can't go wrong with it. Super reliable and practical. AWD is good for loose surfaces such as snow and whatnot, just don't expect to be taking down jeep trails(low clearance). For light duty off roading/camping it would be good. It actually has pretty meaty tires for it's size.

Just view it as an underpowered, funky looking small van. It's slow and practical with the benefits of AWD, spacious for passengers and for storing things with no rear seats.
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Old 08-25-2012, 11:40 AM   #10
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You know what they say about the Element, right? It's the box that the CRV comes in .

We bought my wife a 2010 that was barely used (8k miles) because the dealer wasn't asking too much and gave me what I wanted out of her Altima. We have dedicated snows because the set I had for the Altima fit and the thing does just fine in everything I've seen, including the January drive across I-80 through Wyoming where we were being chased by highway closures due to incredibly heavy snow.

The seats are not bad for 10+ hour trips and we regularly load up my 14 month old daughter and my two dogs (great dane and mastiff/aussie shepherd mix) for long distances. The engine is not great (a bit anemic and underpowered) but I get ~24mpg all day with the aforementioned passenger load and a roof box on top, the utility can't be beat. The gas tank isn't huge, it's pretty sensitive to wind, and as others have said, it's not the quietest ride. Also, if a rear facing car seat is in the future, beware, it's quite interesting getting a baby into one. Front facing is a piece of cake. Rear seats are easily big enough for someone 6'4" and 300 lbs, which was a big selling point for us. They have a nice theater seating style too, helps with folks that get carsick.

Maintenance/mods to be aware of: You can add a sixth gear to the manual trans if you want, I hear it's not that bad. The diff fluid on the AWD needs to be changed more than the recommended interval as it tends to gum up about every 30k miles. Otherwise it's typical Honda, very basic routine maintenance. If you don't mind the looks, worth every penny.
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Old 08-25-2012, 03:06 PM   #11
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Dang, you guys are quite a supportive lot.... great info there, all of it.

I expected more flack, about how my man-breasts would grow bigger if i got one and how i would want to vote differently even if i ever leaned on the thing.... heck i might look for a pair of them now... torn between the metallic army green and the burnt orange...
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Old 08-25-2012, 03:23 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unstable Rider View Post
Dang, you guys are quite a supportive lot.... great info there, all of it.

I expected more flack, about how my man-breasts would grow bigger if i got one and how i would want to vote differently even if i ever leaned on the thing.... heck i might look for a pair of them now... torn between the metallic army green and the burnt orange...
I'd be all over one of those for a work ride, but they're too pricey.
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Old 08-25-2012, 04:38 PM   #13
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I've twice come very close to getting one as the family-mobile, but my wife doesn't like the suicide rear doors. Or the looks...
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Old 08-25-2012, 06:55 PM   #14
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I own a 2WD 08 Element



I really like it but as mentioned more than once, not the quietest nor quickest car out there. I like the seats very much and there is lots of room in the front or back for the passengers. I took out one seat so my mountain bike would fit in easier (didn't like the seat folded up on the side), If I had a normal 26" wheel'ed MTB I wouldn't even have to take the front wheel off to fit it in but my 29'er is just a bit too big for that so the wheel needs to come off. I have about 30K on it now and have had no problems at all aside from a failure of one of the gas pistons that hold the rear hatch up, fixed for free.

One thing people really notice about it is how easy it is to get in and out of the front seats, you don't have to sit down into the car or climb up into it, you just sort of slide in, small thing but more than one person has commented on it.
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Old 08-25-2012, 06:58 PM   #15
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Thats a pretty cool pic of your rig, thanks.

Couple of us do have back issues, and the thing about easy gettin in and out is a bonus-- thanks. What kind of fuel economy you get with the front wheel drive version then?

I also like the idea of stem to stern vinyl flooring when hauling camping stuff, dirty dogs, busted lawn mower, etc.
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