2008 Honda Element Performance
On balance, reviewers find the performance of the Element satisfying, peppy, and nimble for a vehicle of this class.
Acceleration and Power
All Elements are powered by the same 166-horsepower, 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, which is the same i-VTEC four-cylinder engine found in Honda's other small SUV, the CR-V. Kelley Blue Book praises it as "very smooth for a four-cylinder, and quite strong for its size, with a good deal of torque for pulling and passing. The Element will easily cruise at 75 mph, and even accelerate up a highway grade in fifth gear." Drive-by-wire throttle is standard, to increase the responsiveness of the engine. The 2008 Honda Element, with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission, has an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated fuel economy of 20 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. The four-wheel drive has an estimated fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway.
The optional automatic transmission is well-matched to the engine. Cars.com says it "consistently holds gears a few moments long, allowing drivers to wring out a bit more power than they could with an early-shifting transmission" With the manual transmission, all Elements achieve and EPA-estimated 18 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway. Such numbers are "on par with most small SUV's in this class and, considering the Element's boxy shape, roomy interior and large frame, that's a commendable achievement," according to Kelley Blue Book.
Handling and Braking
Of the standard suspension found on LX and EX models, Kelley Blue Book says, "The Element's ride and handling characteristics are much more akin to an Accord sedan than a truck-based SUV." Handling characteristics of the Element are generally regarded as quite good, but noise concerns are not uncommon. Car and Driver describes the Element as "surprisingly agile," and adds the compliment that it "feels like a Civic camouflaged in a Coleman tent." At the same time, Cars.com comments, "Speed bumps and potholes intrude both in noise levels and ride comfort, but the suspension seldom feels disconnected or trucklike," adding, "It mitigates body roll unexpectedly well, and it settles down on the highway, resisting undue disruption and making for a relatively quiet cabin." Still, the Element is a tall vehicle, and "it's got a higher center of gravity than a typical car. That means it leans more, which means the driver gets tossed around more," notes Autoweb. But considering the class in which the Element competes, ride and handling is quite good. Our Own U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman notes that "The Element's width gives it a feeling of stability and stiffness that's missing in many SUVs"
SC models have a lowered, firmer suspension and faster steering response. Most reviewers were unimpressed with the change. "There is a downside to the SC's sportier suspension tuning," explains New Car Test Drive. "While the steering is surprisingly quick for a vehicle of this type, the springs are still fairly soft, with quite a bit of suspension travel." The Element can be found in front-wheel-drive or with Honda's Real Time Four-Wheel Drive system on LX and EX models. SC models are available in front-wheel-drive only.
All 2008 Elements include standard four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with Brake Assist, which increases brake force when drivers brake at higher speeds, reducing braking distance. Braking distances for the Element are squarely within normal limits for this class, though some reviewers reported that braking felt weak. "The pedal in my test car felt sure-footed, though not as strong as many Hondas I've driven," reports Cars.com.
All 2008 Elements are rated for a maximum towing capacity of only 1,500 pounds. Most vehicles in the Affordable Small SUV class manage between 3,500 and 5,000 pounds, placing the 2008 Element near the bottom of the class for towing capacity.