Honda’s not known for weird cars here in the U.S., that is, with the exception of the Element. Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe EX-AWD even comes with a remote starter. We’ll need to decide if its price makes it a non-starter.
So I was thinking last night, as I am wont to do, and began to wonder—will there ever be another production Porsche as revered by its adherents as the 356 and the 911? I mean geez, the fans of those models are like cults—very rich cults.
You didn’t have to drink any Kool-Aid, nor be particularly flush to buy yesterday’s 1998 Porsche Boxster. That model does not carry the cachet of its rear-engined elders—not yet at least—and so makes for a modestly modern point of entry into the Porsche clan. How modest? Well, that seemingly well-sorted 986 asked a mere $5,800, a pittance in Porsche parlance. That was good enough to elicit cheers in the comments and an 80 percent Nice Price win in the voting.
There was a lot to like about that Boxster. That’s reasonable considering that it’s a mid-engine convertible with excellent handling, has a decent rep for reliability and a brand history of redemption out of the ashes of Nazi Germany. If this were a movie, that Porsche would play the stoic hero.
What if however, you were looking for something a little more mainstream for your personal conveyance, but still wanted a machine that was far from mundane? What if what you needed was a vehicle that could carry a load, didn’t cost a load, and caused joyful exultations of “get a load of this” every time you arrived? What might such a vehicle look like?
My guess is that it could very well look like this 2004 Honda Element EX-AWD. Yeah that’s right, we’re talking about an Element today.
You have probably relegated acknowledgment of the Element’s existence to the deeper folds of your memory, but I don’t think we can be so dismissive of this little carry-all since it truly is one of the weirdest models Honda has released in the States since… well, ever.
What makes it weird? Well for starters, when the Element was introduced its design included fenders that came exclusively in charcoal colored plastic. I mean the whole freaking fender—all four of them—from wheel arch to shadow line.
That’s a good thing if you ever get a damaged fender since the fix is a little more than a driveway unbolt and reinstall, the Earl of Scheib be damned. It’s a bad thing because at first glance it looks unfinished. This was such a polarizing styling feature that Honda later sold the car with painted panels. That made it look more cohesive, but a hell of lot less unique. I happen to dig the black plastic fenders like on this ’04.
Another weird element of the Element was that it was based on Honda’s CR-V, a model that was almost identical in form, function and size, but was more traditional in style and offered five-place seating to the Element’s four. How’s that better?
Ah, it’s better because while the Element may have required that you Kevin McCallister one of your three kids, the two remaining ones would get to sit on individual thrones that when not in use would fold up agains the inner walls of the rear compartment. That leaves a flat and unencumbered load space between. That’s kind of cool/weird. Don’t even get me started on the doors!
So, it’s an exceedingly eclectic wagon, which elevates it above the average, but is it any good? Well, those back seats that do all the Cirque Du Soleil folding? They aren’t very comfortable. And those weird-ass back doors that constantly make you think you’ve bought a pickup and worry about getting T-boned? Well, they’re actually not all that convenient to use. The handling is average, as is the fuel economy (mid-20s) from the 160 horsepower 2.4-litre four. This one comes with Honda’s 4-speed automatic and full-time AWD so the mileage can be excused to a certain extent.
This one also comes with 156,000 miles on the clock, but aside from some scuffing on the silver center of the rear bumper, it doesn’t seem to show them. The paint is Sunset Orange Pearl, and that is accented by acres of the charcoal plastic on the fenders, tailgate and roof edges. The Element’s design is something that you either love or abhor, there is no middle ground here.
The interior seems to have held up well, as Hondas do. There’s a handy shelf running beneath the dash, punctuated by an outcropping that holds the shift lever. The rear seats have been removed for the ad’s photos, but do come with the car. The space in back where they would go is covered with a vinyl floor protector. More plastic has been applied to the front doors in the form of wind deflectors, and there’s a similar piece on the nose to smash errant bugs.
This being an EX—the top of the line trim—the car comes with a decent amount of kit, including A/C, power windows and locks, keyless entry and a moonroof. An interesting added feature is the remote starter which allows the driver to fire the car up from the comfort of their bed so as to get the heater going. That’s probably not an important factor in most of the country, but in frigid Wisconsin, where the car is being offered, I’ll bet that’s a deal maker.
Ah, but is the price as well? The asking here is $6,200, or $400 more than yesterday’s Porsche. Which one would you rather have? Don’t answer that.
What you do need to answer however, is the question of whether this Element is worth that asking. What do you think, could this EX-AWD edition command that much? Or, is this an odd car with an even odder price?
H/T to RevUnlimiter for the hookup!
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