The driver gets gauges that are easy to read, with traditional white numerals on a black background. It's maneuverable in tight parking lots, thanks to its tight turning radius 33. Cruise control is standard, as is an adjustable steering column. The parking brake is disguised, subtly integrated into the vertical panel forward of the center console. Vehicle Stability Assist, standard on all models, uses sensors at each wheel and the anti-lock brake system to modulate the electronic throttle and apply brake force to individual wheels as needed to maintain traction and avoid skids on slippery pavement and in tight turns. Those figures are lower than last year's ratings due to changes in the testing procedure used by the Society of Automotive Engineers.
However, the lower part of the gate is side-hinged and opens to the right, so you'll have to walk around the tailgate when you're loading cargo from the curb, inconvenient at the airport. It rides more smoothly than most sport utilities, which makes for pleasant motoring beat-up city streets. The front seats are excellent. It isn't really, and you can be sure Honda's big four-cylinder is sturdy. So don't be afraid to rev it. Its four-cylinder engine generates 156 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque. The rear glass opens on its own, separately from the tailgate, which is good.
You can put lots of stuff in it and the back seats are quite comfortable. Although the engine generates the same power as last year, the new testing procedure results in a lower number. Almost everything else seems to be where it should be, and there are no less than 21 storage nooks spread through the cabin. The rear seats offer space and comfort as well. It earned five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for front and side impacts, the highest ratings possible. Downshifts come quickly, and full-throttle upshifts come smoothly just before redline. Torque, that force that propels you away from intersections and up hills, peaks at just 3600 rpm and remains strong over a broad swath of the engine's range.
It looks like a grab handle until you spot the icon in the grip. It's a great aid when winter snowstorms hit, adding vastly improved stability and traction in slippery conditions. It's surprisingly maneuverable in tight quarters and handles well on winding roads yet it's stable at freeway speeds, even in stiff crosswinds. Its interior is roomy and stuffed with convenience features. Honda does not provide a compass, however. It feels sure-footed on twisting roads.
Most important, it doesn't look like a minivan. The rear bench is neither too soft nor too hard, and all three rear positions have three-point belts and head restraints. The moonroof reduces headroom by nearly two inches, however, and taller drivers will notice. Power isn't a problem here. Put your foot to the floor and acceleration comes on quickly, important when passing on two-lane roads. Getting in and out is quick and easy and doesn't require climbing or stooping.
. The five-speed automatic is fairly responsive and helps keep the four-cylinder engine in the right rev range for power or fuel economy. And it's roomy, with generous headroom and leg room up front. A convenient, collapsible tray table is provided between the front seats with a couple of cup holders and a recess for a cell phone. It doesn't push excessively at its front end or slide at the rear, and the tires offer good grip. The four-cylinder engine isn't as smooth as a V6, however, and because it revs higher it sometimes seems like it's working harder.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Tom Lankard reports from Northern California. As odd as the placement might seem at first, using the hand brake gets more comfortable in short order. Coat hooks are provided above the rear seats. The cover for the spare-tire bin does double duty as a folding picnic table. . .
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