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kreb SuperDork
3/28/14 4:03 p.m.

What is the mileage/weight/reliability penalty over FWD? As a general rule, I avoid having a feature that I don't need, but some of the better deals that I've seen power all wheels. My Dakota spit out a transaxle to the tune of $3500 or so a few years ago, but it's an entirely different animal than the Element. Then again, Honda has had trouble with some of their automatic trannys.

I'm looking at sub 100k examples around 8 years old.

Whatcha think?

Vigo PowerDork
3/28/14 4:44 p.m.

Well, since i THINK they made both, i will just say that manual + awd is probably more reliable than auto + awd.

Plus with an auto you cant launch from 6000 rpm properly. Oh wait, we were talking about reliability, weren't we?

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
3/28/14 4:45 p.m.

Hopefully Ottawa will chime in here. He's a serial Element offender and has explained to me in the past why the FWD is superior, even in the Canadian snow.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
3/28/14 5:28 p.m.

Guy at my last work place bought one. He bought a new Camaro SS and almost couldn't get home after a snow storm one day, so bought the AWD toaster on eBay for 4 large to use on snow days. He said it did great in the ice/snow.

emodspitfire Reader
3/28/14 5:32 p.m.

We have 80k on a Auto-AWD. Bigmommas car, and she did not consider FWD.

No reliability issues. Best AWD system that I have ever driven. (We live in CO)


JoeTR6 Reader
3/28/14 6:55 p.m.

We have a newer 2011 Element with AWD and automatic. No problems so far, but it's still fairly low mileage (< 15k). It got a workout this winter and did pretty well in the snow. Of course, I'm comparing it to a Miata with all-season tires, so YMMV. You take a bit of a fuel mileage hit with the automatic, but ours averages about 22 MPG in No. Va. traffic.

bastomatic SuperDork
3/28/14 9:29 p.m.

It was indeed available with a manual trans - I had a top of the line 2006 EX-P 4WD model with every option, and a manual trans.

On topic - you can expect to get about 22-25 mpg reliably with the 4WD and manual trans. I'd expect 20-23 in mixed driving with the auto 4WD. Honda's Real-Time 4WD is a poor system that sends very little power to the rear wheels and only in cases where the front slips enough to activate the hydraulic dual-pump system. The system isn't maintenance intensive, nor is it very failure prone. It's a goofy system that works fine so long as you're pointed straight ahead, but in the real world adds no benefit over the front wheel drive.

I'd shop the FWD variants, and use the saved money on a better set of tires.

plance1 Dork
3/28/14 11:00 p.m.

interesting thread. I've always liked the element. Ive been thinking about buying one for work (construction). I saw one with a roof rack on it the other day and it got me thinking im not the only one. I recall from the advertising that the insides were good for hauling dogs or something to that effect. I assume they are good for hauling construction material? I don't know. Im disappointed to hear that the AWD is not that great of a system as that is what I would want, or at least I thought I did. Wife likes CRV's so I assume that AWD system is the same?

bastomatic SuperDork
3/28/14 11:36 p.m.

CRV is the same 4WD system up to 2012.

The interior of the Element is durable plastic. It's very slippery - groceries always ended up all the way up under the driver's side footwell until I got some cargo organizers. The dog actually didn't like riding in it because the floors were too slippery. Also, the seat fabric is very cheap and tears easily.

I wanted to love the Element, but for every unique awesome thing about it, there is a counterbalancing negative. It just didn't work for me.

neon4891 UltimaDork
3/29/14 1:09 a.m.

With the manual, making it a 6 speed is only $200 worth of parts and not supposed to be too difficult. There was a thread here a while ago about it, as well as every honda forum.

Nets several MPGs, enough that doing it your self should pay for itself in a year.

neon4891 UltimaDork
3/29/14 1:16 a.m.
series8217 Reader
3/29/14 3:53 a.m.

My parents have one with an automatic. I used to drive it around when I was at home for summer breaks from college so I have some experience with it.

It has the same size gas tank as the FWD model but gets worse gas mileage. Range is pitiful... IIRC ~22 to 24 mpg and a 12 gallon tank.

The seating position is not great if you're taller than 5'6". Your knees will often hit the steering column.

The rear suicide doors are pretty much always annoying to deal with.

I have no experience with the manual transmissions, but unless they're a class apart from the auto AWD Element, I would stay away from this car.

BTW the only reason my parents chose the Element over a Forester or whatever else is because the Element is one of the few automatic AWD cars that can be flat-towed behind their RV. You need a manual in pretty much everything else.

Ottawa New Reader
3/29/14 6:40 a.m.

Hi, my name is Ottawa and I'm a serial Element offender.

I have 10 years with Elements, I have three dogs (largest is 120lbs) and I live in a place where it snowed 2" yesterday.

The mileage estimates above are about right, but interestingly its hard to get this much higher/lower by changing driving style, its rather odd.

As bastomatic said the AWD system is sub-standard, definitely not Subaru quality. I would much rather have really good snow tires and FWD given how its not likely to really help when I need it. To make matters worse AWD always has the removable "moonroof" 2/3 the way back the roof and this is prone to blocked drains which brings leaks and other issues.

My FWD Elements have been absolutely reliable, nothing but consumables. I have automatic and no issues there either.

bastomatic said:

The dog actually didn't like riding in it because the floors were too slippery.

Yes, the trick is something called http://elemmat.com/ that provides just the right surface for pets and stuff. Trust me.

I think a 8 years old Element with less than 100K is a solid choice.


Vigo PowerDork
3/29/14 10:38 a.m.

I like how no one has suggested snow tires AND awd.

I think the annoyance with this system stems from the fact that the system doesnt really let you put more power down BEFORE the front wheels start spinning. So if you're trying to put down power in a turn without understeering, yeah, it's not going to help. If you're trying to get rolling with zero tire spin, yeah, it's not going to help.

But it still lets you put down more power AFTER the front wheels start spinning. I think it's a system that doesnt so much prevent tirespin as much as it prevents getting ACTUALLY STUCK. In that way, it is actually more off-road biased than on-road. I think the Element AWD system is mostly useful for situations where the FWD wouldn't just slip, it would be STUCK. Or for drag racing.

92dxman Dork
3/29/14 10:47 a.m.

I think a fwd/manual with good snow tires is the best anecdote mentioned here.

kreb SuperDork
3/29/14 10:50 a.m.

I need a (edit - I meant automatic) manual so that my wife can also drive it. You guys have reinforced my feeling that I should hold out for FWD. I need AWD about once every two years, and can get chains for that situation if I have to.

I'm a construction project manager,and have access to full-sized trucks, so my quad-cab Dakota is wasted on me. The Element will take a small pile of construction-related stuff without me having to worry about the interior finishes of a more upscale SUV. It's also shorter than a Civic, so is perfect for the dense urban area that I live/work in, yet powerful enough to tow a trailer with a couple of Karts or even a Locost on it. (I'd throw a bigger transmission cooler on first)

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
3/29/14 10:52 a.m.

I can tell you that Element owners (or at least one serial Element offender) get all wound up when you call it a minivan. It's fun.

Knurled PowerDork
3/29/14 11:17 a.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: I can tell you that Element owners (or at least one serial Element offender) get all wound up when you call it a minivan. It's fun.

All trucks that don't have beds are minivans, except for full-size vans.

I got a little wound up when reading a Lewis Grizzard book and he mentioned someone picking him up after heart surgery in a "Blazer van". But then I thought about it and realized that he's right. The only difference between an SUV and a minivan is a handful of letters. To this day, I cannot think of a definition that separates the two that does not have a counterexample that breaks the definition.

The Element is a minivan. Sorry.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
3/29/14 11:40 a.m.

I have been informed, enthusiastically, that sliding side doors are a defining characteristic of the minivan species.

Knurled PowerDork
3/29/14 12:14 p.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: I have been informed, enthusiastically, that sliding side doors are a defining characteristic of the minivan species.

Buick Rendezvous/kin. Hinged side doors.

bastomatic SuperDork
3/29/14 12:47 p.m.

The Buick Rendezvous is not a minivan, and not just because it lacks sliding doors.

However, this is a minivan. the only one I can think of without sliding doors.

I think the Chevy Traverse and its cousins come closest among crossovers.

Ottawa New Reader
3/29/14 12:58 p.m.

I understand that Keith is just trying to justify that his Series Land Rover and Jeep Cherokee are minivans, since those are both "trucks that don't have beds", I guess so are H1 Hummer hard tops for that matter...

Knurled PowerDork
3/29/14 9:53 p.m.

There is nothing mini about an H1, except for room around the engine. Been there, swapped that

Really, given the size and construction techniques, they're a lot closer to motorhomes with really good ground clearance. Lots of fiberglass, lots of bits sourced from all manner of unlikely places, lots of kit car like engineering.

beans Dork
3/30/14 5:27 p.m.

Watching this with interest. My brother's in a wheelchair and refuses to buy a minivan, so he's convinced himself that an AWD Element's his ride of choice.

stumpmj Dork
3/31/14 11:30 a.m.

My wife has a 2004 auto AWD Element that was purchased new. We're up to 170k miles on it now and it's been reliable. Outside of normal maintanence (fluid changes and brakes) it's only needed sway bar end links. This summer, I do need to replace most of the suspension bushings and ball joints plus the shocks/struts but after that many miles, I'm OK with it. The rear cargo area is massive. My wife loves it and says she wants to keep it forever.

The bad: Mileage is terrible. We get 20 mpg under all conditions (city, higway at 60, highway at 80, with and without a rocket box on the roof) unless E10 goes in the tank in which case we get 16-18. I find that inexcusably horrendous. I rented a Suburban that got the same highway fuel economy and a minivan which is way bigger gets better mileage.

For a tall guy (I'm 6'2") the seats are really uncomfortable. The lumbar is just in the wrong spot. They're great for my 5'1" wife.

The rear suicide doors are stupid and akward to use at best. Don't get one if you plan on actually using the rear seats regularly.

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