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2003 Honda Element

black_element.jpg

SPEX

Year: 2003
Class: Compact Crossover SUV
Type: MPV

Country of Origin: Japan
Host: GT4 & GT5

Price: $23,339 (GT5 used car lot)

GT5 mileage as tested: 12,360.0

Length: 169.3" // Width: 71.45" // Height: 70.5"
Wheelbase: 101.4"
Overhang: 5feet 7 inches
Track: 62.1" [F] 62.3" [R]
Ground Clearance: 6.9"
Test Weight: 3,438 pounds
Wgt. Dist: 58/42

Steering: pwr.-assisted rack & pinion
Turns: 3.260
Radius: 34.2 feet

Layout: front engine / all-wheel drive
Tires: P215/70R-16
F. Suspension: MacPherson struts, coils, anti-roll bar
R. Suspension: dual wishbones, coils, shox, anti-roll br
Brakes: vented discs/solid discs
ABS? yes

The GT5 Element had oil change but no other maintenance for all specs & testing below

Engine: 2.4 liter DOHC inline 4
Aspiration: natural w. vtec
Construction: aluminum block & head
Fuel system: MPFI
Valves / Cyl: 4
Bore x Stroke: 3.43 x  3.90"
Compression: 9.70:1

`````````````````````GT4``````````````````````GT5`````
Final HP:                             157 @ 5,500 
Fnl Torq:


Credits / HP:                             $148.66
Pounds / HP:                             21.90
Pnds / Torq:                               21.62
HP / Liter:                               @ 66.2

Idle: 750 // Redline: 6,500 // RPM Limit: ?

Transmission: 4-speed automatic
TCS? no
ASM? no
LSD? no

`````````````````GT4````````````````````````````````GT5`````
0-60 mph:                                      11.017
0-100mph:                                  @ 34.xxx

400 M:
1 Kilom:

100-zero:
Test Track:                                   1:23.676

Top Gear RPM @ 60 mph: NA

GT5 Top Speed at Redline
1st: 43 mph
2nd: 77 mph
3rd: 107 mph @ 6,400 rpm
4th: nil
 

element_topview.jpg

---------------------EXTERIOR / HISTORY---------------------

Is the glass half empty? Or is it half full?

This is one of those psychological conundrums which gets thrown around from time to time, often when we've reached a point of our lives which seems to suck more than usual. Maybe we're behind on our bills. Maybe we've mailed off our bills, but the bank forecloses anyways. Maybe that girl who said "yes" really meant "no".  Maybe it's finally time for those final exams.  

The point is, there are always supposed to be two ways to look at our sucky situations ...we can either accept what's going on/see it for what it is and make the best of it, or we can pout and complain. "Half full" is supposed to be us making the best of things. We "learn" from our experience, or whatever. We look at that girl who lied to us and at some point learn that she's got an incurable STD. Or we wind up losing that house, only to find it was located next to a pedophile's registry location, and the fact that we can't afford it means there is now more money for something smaller.

Basically, we see what positives there could possibly be. There's always a positive way of looking at any situation, somehow.  

"Half empty", on the other hand, is supposed to be us looking at how things really are: SUCKY! Everything was, is, and always will be sucky once we're looking at things thru the half-empty viewpoint. Everybody else has it better. That flat tire on the beltway may have been looked at as a positive by the "half full" guy, because he learns something new in the process of fixing it, but to the "half empty" guy, it's just that. A flat tire on the beltway. Screw the "learning experience" part. Now he's late. Again.   

Today, we are going to take a drive in a vehicle which one can either look at with a half-full attitude, or a half-empty one! The Honda Element is a multi-purpose vehicle which has so many biases for or against its existence, so that often folks either completely hate it or completely love it. Kinda like the VW Bus back in its heyday, matter of fact.

So what of this odd & silly vehicle? What um... element of the driving population is the Element supposed to attract?  

The Element was released to the public not long after it appeared at a high-caliber auto show. This is one of those vehicles which made a splash with the critics (in a mostly good way) during its debut appearances, because there had never been anything like it previously on the automotive market, especially from a company like Honda. And nobody thought this odd 5-door would actually make to production. Yet it didn't take long for Honda to get this one onto many roads, all over the world, with its weird concept car looks.  

Young males were supposed to be the target audience for this box with its suicide doors. The utilitarian aspect of the Element, its ability to be many things for many people of all walks of life was key, but for whatever reason, guys aged 21 to 40 were the ones Honda was after. Hence it's not very expensive. 

At the car wash (the real-life car wash, not the one in our game which has a few dopes scrubbing 3 or 4 spots, followed by a "spin cycle" drying period), there's a surprise. One can simply open all the Element's doors and hose away! The seats, floor, and I'm assuming portions of the dash are actually waterproof. Young males were supposed to be the target audience, yet I've seen just as many females and older people behind the wheel. Often, artists and hippies are attracted to an Element (assuming they can afford one), simply because of its uniqueness. But we can't just dismiss ordinary parental types with straight jobs, either. The Element caters to these folks, too.  

But that's real-life. In the game, who actually is gonna buy and race an Element?

NOBODY! That's who! Nobody! Well I mean, I am joking a bit, but heck, there's a lot of truth here. The Element is a vehicle which is no-doubt rarely chosen in Gran Turismo; and if it is chosen, somebody out there must have one heck of an odd reason for doing so. Usually it's just curiosity, or perhaps someone want to show up online in an Element just to get a few laughs.

I must be one of these oddballs, then. Although I never got around to driving an Element in GT4, I always wanted to, just never had the time. The Element (as mentioned) is not overly expensive, and this is because it's not overly expensive for Honda to build. This isn't a top-line luxury SUV as is so popular nowadays; instead, the Element presents the driver with many basic elements, or at least it did back in 2003.

I'm not sure about the rest of the world, but in America, there are three levels of Element: DX, LX, and EX. I'm thinking we get the EX or whatever the Japanese equivalent to the EX is. This is the top-line, most expensive model, costing just over $21,000 when the Element was new in 2003. I bought my used Element in GT5 with just over 12,000 miles on its odometer for $23,339, which means it's somehow gained in price. Hmm. At just under 3,500 pounds, the Element is also more car-like than it is truck-like in weight, but reductions help a lot.

So let's go ahead here. Let's see what we've got, what sort of elements we've got to play with to make this one a success.

...And notice, I'm already assuming it isn't going to start off being much of a success! Sigh.  
        

--------------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN---------------

"When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!" goes the maxim. Somebody who goes around saying this is speaking directly from the "half full" school of thought, of course. Why lemons, though? Why did this saying not include apples or watermelons? Well, it's because we can suck on these other fruits, but sucking on a lemon really happens to uh ... SUCK. To put it succinctly. Try it sometime. Sucking on a lemon is not very fun, and in some folk's opinion, that's exactly what attempting to race an Element is like.

There's no beating around lemon tree here, folks. We've got just over 150 horses in a 3,500 pound vehicle, which of course happens to suck massively once we're trying to make our name while tearing up those courses. This 2.4 liter engine is the same one which appears in the Odyssey and Accord. Honda and/or PD can be blamed for including this engine in the Oddyssey. However you spell it. Odyssey. PD or Honda can be blamed for placing this underpowered effort into the Odyssey while ignoring the 3.5 liter V6 which could have gone in there.

But in the Element, there is no alternative. The Element in real-life only gets one choice and no optional V6. We are stuck with nobody to blame this time. That 2.4 liter dual overhead cam 4 does not sound happy to be burdened with lugging the luggy Element around once it's at speed. The stock gearbox is also a 4-speed, geared rather tall, which does not help our situation.

There is some power to be added, but I'm afraid we'll have to take the half-empty view here. At least I am. I haven't maxed up an Element in GT4 yet, but in GT5 it'll take on just under 300 horses at max. I have yet to actually do a race so far in which I'm needing more than 210 (Clubman at Route 246), but I imagine eventually the Element will hit a big virtual wall of suckdom once it's out of the Amateur Series. We shall see.   

In real-life, the Element could be had with either a 4 or a 5-speed. The 5 happened to be a manual box, while the 4 is automatic. As a 4-speed automatic, the poor Element really struggles. The fact that it can occasionally keep up with actual cars is amazing, but there's still work to do. Buying a close-ratio transmission is a great idea in either GT4 or GT5 if we want better performance at tight, technical tracks like Tsukuba, but I've also used this box at Route 246 with success. 

Eventually this 3,500 pound-snail is going to need full-custom gearing, though, assuming the driver happens to be daring to take this MPV to the next level. Half full? I think not.    

element_posterized.jpg

-----------CHASSIS / HANDLING-------------

Sometimes, I like to give my cars a name. My black Element is named #26. That stands for iron. #26 happens to be iron on the Periodic Table of Elements, see. It's one of the elements with a lot of strength and stability, and as we'll see, these are a couple traits which this Honda happens to carry. But there are some unexpected merits, as well as some issues to discuss, which have nothing to do with stability or a decently strong sort of stance.   

Despite its utilitarian aspect, the Element makes a poor off-road vehicle (as it's based on the Accord chassis), which means this is purely a city/highway vehicle. But like the Odyssey, it does have all-wheel drive. That does seem to help at times.

Honestly, as I first took the Element to Tsukuba in both GT4 and GT5, I was surprised that it wasn't quite the mailtruck I was expecting. Notice how tall it is, yet it's not really leaning as massively as it seems a nearly 6-foot tall vehicle should.  

Maybe this is due to the fact that it's such a slow vehicle with stock power, and doesn't get much faster with upgrades. It's on medium comfort radials in GT5, yet maneuvered those Tsukuba hairpins rather efficiently. Steering is accurate, which is a Honda trademark of course. Only once the Element gets deep into some turns with a tad too much speed does understeer make its way into the picture, and we can't do anything about it. Otherwise, understeer is surprisingly tameable most of the time.  

Understeer, that half-empty demon. This is the main detriment to watch for at first, even when those radials are upgraded to sport tires. As power gets added and speed rises, other factors start to take sips from that glass, so that now it's maybe three-quarters empty instead of just half. As the Element tackles larger turns (like at Route 246) there are times it's not necessarily understeering, yet the driving line feels bulkier than it would be in many actual cars. And those "actual cars" are causing the Element to NOT take the racing line it should be, simply because it can no longer fit in such a line...   

On the other hand, let's turn that frown upside-down! Let's try to see some positives. Let's have a look at that glass with a half-full approach! Is there anything of merit here?  

Certainly, one of the Element's more useful traits is its stability. This is a multi-purpose vehicle which rarely gets upset, even as it rolls over bumps & grids of all kinds and needs to take turns while passing other vehicles. Helps that there's so much ground clearance... I have yet to see any bottoming-out sparks during an Element replay. Other cars occasionally take turns punting the back-end (there's a lot of back-end to punt, after all!), yet rarely does the Element lose its preferred lines.  

As I drove my black Element in the first GT5 Clubman Cup race at Tsukuba, never did I have to worry about this tall machine leaning so much it lost composure, as I expected it would. Never did its 7 inch ground clearance upset the Element into harmful racing lines. I raced the Element on a stock suspension during this and the two other Clubman Cup events, folks, and did not need an underparts upgrade of any kind.

During the second race at Route 246, the Element now had an extra 50 horsepower, and I was fearing it wouldn't be able to take this track's higher-speed turns without MASSIVE understeer ruining everything. While this race was challenging, and it took me several tries to win, still the Element impressed more than it disappointed.

One thing to note is what was happening in turn # 4, the long right curve. I'd brake late into this one, hitch those front tires into a line while keeping off the throttle for a moment to avoid understeer. Now add the gas. The Element allows us to use ALL of its available power now, with perhaps a few releases, which is one of the advantages of being an underpowered all-wheel drive. After a moment, amazingly the Element now started to mildly throttlesteer, getting a tighter angle out of Turn 4. This could be PD's rendering of Honda's so-called "Real Time AWD" system. It's hard to say though, since I have yet to read an article on a Element of which the driver actually raced this one.  

Anyways, bottom line: I did manage some wins, and skooled a few GT5 computer drivers, in a vehicle which would normally feel most comfortable taking passengers to school. "OH, well, that's because GT5 sucks!" some of you half-empty audience members are certainly thinking. "That's because PD is lazy and did not program the game right!" they argue. Hey, I'm with them to a point. I agree to some extent, not about the "lazy" part, but certainly portions of GT5 could be more challenging than they are. 

Yet it's notable that I've just been showing up some Supras, some Focuses, and some Skylines in my 3,500 pound monster van! Not all of this is due to talent versus poor game programming ... the Element itself must also be given credit.

Braking is also a plus. This vehicle brakes-inwards while turning better than some cars, and with rare complaints, and we don't always need to be super-early with that brake pedal. In fact, most of the driving situations the Element wins at happen because it can out-brake so many other sim autos. Amazing. Once it's in the turn (even those tight hairpins at Tsukuba), the Element's turning circle happens to be much tighter than expected. In other words, assuming there's no understeer happening, the Element does happen to be able to take some tight racing lines, getting by plenty of "sports cars" in the process. That's something of merit, eh? All of this assumes there's room for the Element to maneuver, of course.  

Leaving turns is also never a problem so far as traction goes, especially with all-wheel drive to rely on. The Element's "Real Time" AWD system never slips or slides, yet it does provide some leeway once the throttle is dropped out of turns. Only tighter areas present a problem at these times; understeer on-exit can ruin that perfect pass just when you're needing to gain position.

But I was more-often surprised by this one than I was disappointed. Alternative racing lines (on the inside or the outside) can often be played with when the bulky Element is needing to find a better way past some other car, assuming it's got some space and perhaps a couple seconds to get situated. Matter of fact, the better I get to know this boxmobile, the more I'm realizing it's actually doing better in those turns than it is down those straights. Quite unexpected. The Element understeers, yes, and understeer is definitely its worst trait. But note: it doesn't understeer all the time, every time. The fact that this vehicle often offers more than some assistance in those turns completely floors me at times. 

But of course, there are also plenty of other times when the poor Element gets trapped behind some other stupid driver, and can't do any thing about it. It's sometimes too big and slow on its feet for on-the-spot strategy, so that even though you may have had faster exit-speed out of that turn, the Element can't pass some schmuck because it's out of room. It's a Honda, true, and Hondas often do have superior steering and braking, yet by the time the Element has figured a way out of some of its more difficult dilemmas, it's often too late. Often getting trounced by an S2000 or some other car with better acceleration ability.

But let's have a hand for #26 anyways. It has won a few races for me, and added a few notches to my seatbelt. That's like taking a half-full glass, filling it to the brim, and then drinking it all down in celebration.
           

PROS----------------------------------

1). For those looking to be different on those tracks, here's a great choice for you.

2). Engine upgrades are available, amazingly.

3). Great low-speed cornering agility at times.

4). Ultimate traction.

5). Better braking action than found in some actual cars, too. 

6). Commanding view of the road.  


CONS---------------------------------

1). WHY? Why an Element in a racing game???!!!>?

2). No turbos??? Well okay. No turbos!

3). Occasional understeer. GT4 is worse than GT5, of course.

4). Difficult to maneuver on-the-fly, especially at higher speeds deep in some turns.

5). GT5: this is one of those vehicles which (for whatever reason) cannot be painted. I REALLY wanted to paint my Element, man.

6). The Element also rarely appears in GT5's used car lot, and is only offered in a handful of colors.

7). Noisy, underpowered engine being forced to haul 1 and a half tons around.

8). Tallish, 4-speed gearbox. 4th gear almost never gets used.  

9). Terrible aerodynamics for racing.

10). Some 4-banger engines sound completely at home ripping off those higher revs. This is not one of them!

11). Where's the torque?

12). Cargo vans are not welcome during sports car races. There's often one too many bumper punted, one too many wall rubbed. Simply because the Element is so damn big.

13). Not enough power available for extended Element racing careers when it comes to upgrade time.

14). WHY???????????????????????????!!!!111  

Published: summer of 2011?

GOODNESS GRACIOUS