G. Chambers Williams

Honda's 2015 Crosstour hatchback offers great utility, roomy interior, optional V-6

Honda's midsize Crosstour got a complete redesign with new exterior styling just two years ago. With that re-do, the Accord-based hatchback/crossover also received an upgraded interior and a more-powerful optional V-6 engine that also comes with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The car returns for 2015 with prices beginning at $27,530 (plus $880 freight) for the entry-level EX front-wheel-drive model with the base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission, or $31,190 for the front-drive EX V-6 model, which comes with the six-speed automatic.

It tops out at $37,390 for the four-wheel-drive EX-L (leather) model with navigation, our test model. Four-wheel drive is available only with the V-6 engine, and only with the leather interior.

Four-cylinder models come only with front drive, but can be equipped with leather and navigation. With the leather upholstery, the four-cylinder EX-L is $31,215, and with navigation, it’s $33,315. The V-6 front-drive with leather is $33,840, and with navigation, $35,7940. And the V-6 four-wheel-drive with leather but no navigation – the EX-L model – is $35,290.

Originally introduced for 2010 and originally called the Accord Crosstour, this essentially is a hatchback version of the Accord sedan. The Accord designation was dropped from the name three years ago, when the four-cylinder model was added.

This is still mostly an Accord, which is a good thing. But the Crosstour does have a larger grille and some other subtle differences. Its rear end is sloped to give it more of a sedan or coupe look rather than the boxy appearance of an SUV.

But it still has the versatility of an SUV, with 25.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat. That can be expanded to 51.3 cubic feet by folding down the rear seatback.

Standard on all Crosstour models are a rearview camera, Bluetooth hands-free phone link, USB/iPod connection, fog lights, one-touch turn signals, and Honda’s Expanded View Driver's Mirror.

Exterior colors include Kona Coffee Metallic, which was on our tester, and Mountain Air Metallic, a nice medium blue. The leather interior of our vehicle was black. Also included was keyless entry with pushbutton start, which is becoming a standard feature on many new cars, even ones that cost a lot less than the Crosstour.

But the coolest feature is LaneWatch, a right-side blind-spot camera system that projects a live image of the right side of the road on the dash screen from a camera mounted on the passenger-side mirror. It automatically comes on when the right turn signal is switched on, showing the driver what’s to the right of the car and any traffic approaching from the rear in the right lane. You can see the side of the car from the mirror back. It’s a great help when trying to line up the car with the curb while parallel parking, but its greatest value is in eliminating the blind spot on the right side of the car when changing lanes or turning right.

The four-cylinder engine, with 192 horsepower and 162 foot-pounds of torque, has the best EPA ratings: 22 mpg city/31 highway/25 combined. The 3.5-liter V-6 has 278 horsepower and 252 foot-pounds of torque, and EPA ratings of 20 city/30 highway/23 combined (front drive) or 19/28/22 (4WD). The highway rating is aided by the six-speed automatic, which also comes with manual shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

With the V-6, there is all the power you’d need for any situation, and we even tested it on some hilly roads. The transmission shifted smoothly and at just the right spots, but I did not experiment with the manual shift paddles.

The V-6 engine uses variable cylinder management to save on fuel. This system automatically cuts out either two or three of the cylinders during highway cruising to help give the vehicle better highway mileage.

Crosstour comes with chrome door handles, 17-inch alloy wheels (EX, EX-L four-cylinder) or 18-inch alloys (EX-L V-6), automatic projector-beam headlights, a one-touch power moon roof, body-color power/fold-away outside mirrors with defrost, express up/down front windows, and rear privacy glass.

Other standard features include automatic climate control with an air-filtration system (dual-zone on the EX-L V-6), a 360-watt AM/FM/six-disc CD audio system with seven speakers, Bluetooth hands-free phone connection, USB audio hookup, steering-wheel-mounted cruise/audio/phone controls, auto-dimming rearview mirror, 60/40 split-folding rear seatback, and a hidden removable utility box.

My tester came with heated front seats, along with a two-person memory for the driver's seat and outside mirrors. It also had a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, HondaLink telematics with Pandora Internet radio compatibility, XM satellite radio, compass and outside temperature indicators, and a universal garage/gate opener, which comes only on the EX-L V-6.

We also had the Honda navigation system, which was fairly easy to program, and gave good directions – both audibly and on the screen – as we followed our programmed route.

Safety features include Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering – ACE – body structure, along with electronic stability control, antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist; side-curtain air bags with a rollover sensor for both rows; driver and front-passenger side air bags; and active front head restraints.

Recently added high-tech safety features on the EX-L models include Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning systems.

The rear headrests have been slimmed down and reshaped to provide better rearward visibility. The air conditioning has second-row ventilation.

Up front, the center console has an armrest/storage box at the rear that has the USB/auxiliary ports inside, along with a 12-volt power outlet. The box lid has a feature that holds it open while you deal with hooking up your devices. The rear seat has room for up to three people, although two would be more comfortable. A center armrest with built-in cupholders can be pulled down when there is no one riding in the middle position.

We actually had up to five passengers in the Crosstour on several occasions, and the backseat riders seemed to be comfortable enough and have plenty of head-, leg- and knee room. Up front, the driver and passenger rode quite comfortably, and the cabin was quiet, even at Interstate highway speeds.

An under-floor storage area is provided in the rear, along with reversible cargo floor panels – carpeted on one side, hard on the other (ideal for dirty objects). There is a large opening for the rear hatch, which helps immensely when loading luggage or other cargo.

Four-wheel-drive models have Honda’s permanent “Real Time 4WD” system, which operates automatically with no driver input. There is no way to turn it off. It’s designed for everyday driving, though, not for serious off-road exploring, as it does not feature low-range gearing.

Total sticker price for our EX-L four-wheel-drive Crosstour with navigation was $38,270.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com.

2015 Honda Crosstour

The package: Midsize, five-door, five-passenger, front- or four-wheel-drive, four-cylinder or V-6 powered hatchback/utility vehicle.

Highlights: Essentially an Accord sedan with a rear hatch instead of a trunk, the Crosstour was introduced for 2010 with only a V-6 engine available. For 2012, a four-cylinder option was been added, and for 2013, the car received styling, performance and technology upgrades.

Negatives: The automatic transmission with the four-cylinder engine still has only five speeds; only the V-6 comes with the better six-speed.

Engines: 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder; 3.5-liter V-6.

Transmission: Five-speed automatic (2.4-liter); six-speed automatic (3.5-liter).

Power/torque: 192 HP./162 foot-pounds (2.4-liter); 278 HP./252 foot-pounds (3.5-liter).

Length: 196.6 inches.

Curb weight: 3,703-3,934 pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; side-curtain for both rows.

Cargo capacity: 25.7 cubic feet (behind rear seat); 51.3 cubic feet (rear seat folded).

EPA fuel economy: 22/31 (2.4-liter); 20/30 (3.5-liter, 2WD); 19/28 (3.5-liter, 4WD).

Fuel capacity/type: 18.5 gallons/regular unleaded.

Major competitors: Toyota Venza, Nissan Murano, Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon.

Base price range (2015): $27,530-$37,390, plus $880 freight.

Price as tested: $38,270, including freight (EX-L V-6 4WD with navigation).

On the Road rating: 9.3 of a possible 10.

Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.