Plus: Honda's Element doesn't drive as cool as it looks. But it's close!
Essential irony: I'd love to see the corporate charts comparing the Element's demographic target with a profile of the car's actual buyers. I bet Honda missed its target by a mile. The idea was supposedly to appeal to 20-year-olds, yet everybody I've seen driving this Bradley Shopping Vehicle (and there are already two on my block) has been a satisfied-looking, flea-market-ready middle-aged boomer. Not that there's anything wrong with it! ... Still, I'm somewhat mystified by all the youth-targeted cars now coming on market. (Click here for Toyota's equally cubic Scion xB.) Who decided that Gen-Y-ers wanted to bop around in boxes? Don't they like to drive like everyone else their age in the past? Don't they have the same genes as their parents? Do they not like sex either? (Well, OK. They get those rear seats. Still.)
What the Element needs: More guts. Raise the price $5,000 and use the money to stick in a bigger engine and bigger tires. There's plenty of empty space left under that windshield for a V-6. If my theory is right, and it's boomers who are buying the Element, they can afford the extra few grand. Rear-wheel drive would be better still. Barring that, a bit more noise--rumbling, mechanical, military-industrial noise!--would help, even if it didn't mean the thing went a whit faster. Right now, the Element is too polite; it needs to drive as rugged as it looks. In comparison, the PT Cruiser is hideous, and not much faster, but it drives (and sounds) the way a car that looks like it looks should drive.
Patented Gearbox Parking Lot Test: (On a scale of 1-10, how happy was I to step out into the parking lot and realize the keys in my hand were for this car?) 6. That's better than a Lincoln LS (5). Worse than a Cadillac CTS (7). Worse still than my own $10,000 used Nissan 300ZX (8). But not bad. (I'd give the PT Cruiser a 6 too.)
Conclusion: The longer you live with the Element, the more its Honda-esque virtues--reliability, stability, fit and finish, efficiency--grow on you. It's what I think I'd be like as a husband! And it's great-looking. But ...[You really want to finish this thought?--ed. No.]
Update:Business Week reports that the Element's "typical buyer turned out to be 41 years old." Hah! Not exactly Gen Y. Or even Gen X. ... [Thanks to alert reader J.G.] ... There's more on Honda's demographic miss here. [Thanks to S.R.] ...
[Correction: The initial version of this review erroneously reported that the Element is assembled in Japan. It's made in Honda's East Liberty, Ohio factory. Thanks to reader J.P.H.] 12:41 A.M.
Tuesday, June 3, 2003
AnthropomorPhantom ... Here's an exercise: Go to the Facial Beauty Experiment page. Click on the arrows to morph the face to maximum masculinity. There. Doesn't he look like the new Rolls Royce! It's those huge, wide-spaced, architect-straight brows. ... 9:03 P.M.
New Jersey mayor indicted. Artist sleeps with model. Italian government falls: Land Rover is having quality problems. This is the most shocking information since the news that Scott Weiland of the Stone Temple Pilots is entering rehab. ... Update: Dave Leggett has more on the chronic Land Rover quality problems on his excellent auto business blog. ... 7:21 P.M.
Embattled BMW design chief Chris Bangle reacts gracefully under pressure,saying (of the imposing but gratuitously weird 7 series luxury sedan):
Only people who ... say 'I've got to not like something,' have a problem with it.
Photographs of: Honda Element from American Honda Motor Co.; Chrysler's 300c concept car © 2003 DaimlerChrysler; 2003 Pontiac Aztek © 2003 General Motor. All rights reserved.