By on July 30, 2013


Here are a few books I consider required reading for Transportation Design students: The Reckoning, Rude Awakening, All Corvettes are Red and Car: A Drama of the American Workplace.  These show what it takes to make a car…to make a designer’s work come to fruition.

Sadly, during my (short) time at the College for Creative Studies, we focused on creativity at all costs: pay no attention to the business behind the curtain.  So while the Honda Crosstour is a curious stylistic exercise, does this dog hunt in the real world?



First, let’s just be surprised (impressed?) this design made production.  The Crosstour’s XXL-sized grin proves something in the land of bloated CUVs, perhaps giving the impression there’s a big rig Cummins Turbo diesel behind it? This grille needs a good head shrinker, so to speak.



While the grille’s 2013 redesign (scroll to the end) helps tremendously, this frame’s massive size combined with its dull gray plastic frame doesn’t impress.  To the 2012’s credit, the wraparound grille’s teeth add visual excitement not available with the 2013’s thick, wholly generic chrome rim.

The hard angles and modest chrome trim catches the eye, though a body color paint job in lieu of the gray plastic is price appropriate.



One of my more favorite angles: the hood sports sweeping and fluid creases, in the proud Detroit tradition of long noses for overt style and swagger.  Unlike every other CUV, the Crosstour has some Vista Cruiser DNA. Not enough wretched excess, but the proportions and general attitude are the closest we’ve seen in a long while to yesteryear’s Olds wagon.


Aside from the appealing wedge at the bumper’s base, this nose is way over-styled. Note the headlight’s uncomfortable transition from the pleasantly proportioned yellow reflector to that massive center signal light with oversized black plastic frame: necessary to integrate the bloated grille into the bumper’s demure-ish form. Honda designer’s did a reasonable job cramming 10lbs of shit into a 5lb bag, indeed.

Then clock the fog light: the negative area (in the paint) at the leading edge of the fog light assembly needs to disappear to reduce the bumper clutter.


That said, the over styled negative area is trick when zooming in. Except for the fake slots in the black plastic: a smarter-textured alternative wouldn’t cost much more! Hell, make it out of  fake carbon fiber instead of this Band-Aid look.


The bumper’s strong lower wedge is also present from here.  The lower grille’s texture is simple, logical, and remarkably well proportioned…unlike so many elements on the Crosstour.


Shades of the Accord: the Crosstour’s headlights, fender flares and the fender/door’s swage line harken back to the last-gen Accord.  It’s all good, because the Crosstour is a station wagon at heart.  Aside from the suspension lift kit, clearly seen here by the big wheels and poseur-tall ride height.

But just wait…the lifted station wagon theme gets worse as we go further back.

6The chamfered edge of this flare is unique, and worthy of possible implementation elsewhere in automobilia.  The only problem? It tends to fight other elements presented on the Crosstour’s body.


Like the rim of the 1999-ish Chevrolet Silverado (and countless other GM products from this era) these fake wheel holes don’t evoke extra strength, performance or curb appeal. They merely look cheap. Either you add a hole at the bottom of this space or you fill it in. No excuses.


The Crosstour’s cowl is tidy enough, except that it’s not: the A-pillar’s bulk(?) requires a plastic filler panel for the fender to meet with the base of the windshield. A poor implementation, perhaps stemming from the Accord cowl’s inadequacies for CUV duty?

9But wait…did this just happen?  NO DLO FAIL?  The A-pillar, fender and door are so happy together?  ZOMG SON THE CROSSTOUR IS TEH BOMB!

9_1Another shot of the Accord-esque swageline.  Unlike most swagelines that start small but grow upwards, the Crosstour’s goes down as it enters the front door.  While not hideous, it’s certainly bizarre…you’ll see why in the next shot.

Combine the odd swage line with the fake slots (nestled in a negative area in the rocker panel) and there’s a lack of correlation. The design gets undefined, busy and generally messy.  That bolt-on mudflap could keep more dirty lines from entering the equation, but the Crosstour’s undersized affairs don’t match the fender flare’s prodigious width, nor do they hide that line separating the fender and the rocker panel.

Visualize the alternative: reduce the fender flare’s width, fatten the mud flap and make the swage line “bend” at the deepest part of the negative area (i.e. the top row of slots) and bingo: a cleaner implementation.


Speaking of, make the fake slots go away!  Banish them to the land of silver painted interior trim and faux fender vents! And, by the way, thank you for not putting fender vents on this beast. 

Unlike the Pontiac Aztek’s profile, the Crosstour isn’t wholly hideous.  There’s a bit of five-door hatch, a smidgen of AMC Eagle wagon, and the sky high beltline of a modern vehicle. Which definitely makes the Crosstour something unique, if not outstanding.

While this Evox image is too perfectly manicured, the Crosstour’s front-to-back flow works well.  There’s a smart up kick around the rear door handle, a tough shoulder line (that shadow) above the taillight, a fast D-pillar, and a strong static line at the base of the doors that elengantly merges with the rear wheel’s arch. It all flows nicely without being too bubbly or too square.

And no DLO fail to speak of. Woot!


Not so pretty in the flesh, eh?  First, the matte black C-pillar needs to be shinier to go with the chrome trimming. Second, the door cut line crashes through the fender flare, instead of following/dancing with that arch. More to the point, integrate the door cut line into the lowest point of the fender flare’s negative area. Sure, this exposes more rocker paneling, but draping door sheetmetal over everything looks decidedly…cheap.

Lastly, the swage line (what’s left of it) slams through the door handle’s negative area instead of flowing over: not elegant.


In case you missed it, here’s how the swage line intersects with the door handle’s negative area.  The line should be further north to avoid this mess. And while you don’t see the BIG problem yet, the body’s increasing height and bulk is becoming a problem.



That’s not to say the rear isn’t without charm: the fast D-pillar, tapered greenhouse (i.e. gets slightly smaller past the rear door) and slight tumblehome looks elegant and somewhat muscular. No other CUV can pull this off…hell, even the Porsche Panamera looks flabbier from this angle.


And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for…drum roll please…the moment when the Crosstour goes from quirky and interesting to just plain offensive.

Because of the increasing height, the hatchback needs glass between the taillights and below the integral spoiler. (to improve visibility?) While that spoiler adds excitement, highlighting the acres of glass with a bubble dome hatchback like the Fox Body Mercury Capri woulda been so much sweeter.

Well, not sweet enough.  The Crosstour’s rounded bottom tries too hard to be a sporty 5-door hatchback. At this (ahem) elevation, that dog won’t hunt.  Instead of soaring upwards (at the side windows) the body’s belt line should remain static, emulating the height of the front door.  Combine that with a flatter/boxier butt (keeping the bubble dome hatchback idea) and there’d be a quirky cool version of the AMC Eagle instead.


The glass has interesting touches, like the floating Honda emblem. The defroster/defogger lines delightfully contour around said emblem and the integral washer nozzle at the top (not pictured, my bad) are also a minimalist’s treat.  In a world of afterthought CUV emblems, oversized and haphazardly slapped on a tailgate’s limited real estate, the Crosstour did a good job right here.



Too bad the wiper arm can’t hide under that spoiler!  While the Crosstour’s strong haunches (above the taillights) and tumblehome are both sporty and elegant, everything goes horribly wrong south of the license plate. No more tall buffalo butts, please!

While the taillights start at the “end point” of the spoiler, they aren’t flush with the hatchback.  The lense’s silver insert has no logical reason for its location: moving lower, where the hatch bends at the base of the glass would help integrate the form and reduce unnecessary “lines” on the body. (i.e. start the silver where that indoor light’s hard reflection is on the hatchback.)


What a mess! These hard lines make no sense with the upper half’s round glass and muscular haunches in the quarter panels. They are too harsh for too “long” of a form on this body.  Unrefined!

Either the northern hemisphere needs some hard bends or this area needs softening up.  Much like how the rear doors blanket over the natural location of the rocker panels, the tail lights shouldn’t be exposed in this bumper fold.  The lights should be smaller to let the painted bumper flow naturally from the bottom of the tailgate to the base of the roof: one simple, logical sweep of painted body. Too bad about that!


Once more: too many harsh lines, accentuated by rounded and beveled tailpipes.  Combined with the softer stuff up top and the excessive height brought about from the rear doors, the Crosstour’s butt steals defeat from the hands of victory.**

**provided you believe that a quirky alternative to a CUV is a good thing!2013_redesignAnd yes, a quirky alternative to a CUV is a worthy endeavor for any designer.  And any would-be CUV buyer, at least in theory.

While the 2013 model looks a bit more interesting (especially in brown, ‘natch) the Crosstour doesn’t fit the CUV bill. When you combine CUV, hatchback and station wagon in this manner, you insult all three automotive genres in one vellum rendering. Too bad about that, because this idea has potential. And possibly merit.

Thanks for reading, have a great week.

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61 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 2012 Honda Crosstour...”

  • avatar

    Ugh…. i had to look at that thing again…? On a more serious note, i would imagine if instead of this monstr(curi)osity we got a reasonable, wagon version of the Accord, they would sell a whole lot more of them. There are a lot of people that would love to own Japanese wagon (i’m a current happy Volvo wagon owner, but i can see how some might be unhappy with their euro wagon ownership) but are basically stuck where they are.

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar

      Same boat for me. I reluctantly stick with European marques because of wagon availability. I’m neutral on most Japanese and American cars — all great, but lacking what I want. And Subaru has just gotten too weird.

      Cars I’d like to see in wagon form in the US (and yes, I’d strongly consider buying one of them):
      Lexus GS
      Infiniti G
      Ford Mondeo
      Honda Accord
      Chevy Malibu or Impala
      Passat (current US market version)

      I’m sure the list goes on and on. To me, a wagon increases the car’s appeal 2x-3x over the sedan version, which immediately makes most of those vehicles into class-leaders in my book. I have a sedan right now and I still consider it a very weak compromise of everything. If sedans are so great, then SUVs would be three-box designs instead of two. Imagine how goofy that would look. Almost as bad as a Crosstour…

    • 0 avatar

      I always liked the concept of the off road wagon. I cant help but wonder every time I see a Crosstour that it would have been way better with an Acura badge and SH-AWD.

      They should have given Honda the accord wagon and this with Acura tweaks should have been the ZDX.

    • 0 avatar

      TSX wagon isn’t selling well, but I attribute that to there being no manual tranny (joke).
      The only thing the Crosstour has going for it is the available 4 cyl, but then one may as well buy a CRV. No HID headlights forces you into an Acura…
      Sajeev: The word is “lens.”

  • avatar

    You get all the styling handicaps inherent to a station wagon (and this is coming from somebody that loves his B5.5 Passat Wagon) with aboslutely zero of the practical advantages.

    If Honda wants to make a wagon, they should make and sell a wagon. I cannot imagine this sells better than an actual wagon would have.

    • 0 avatar

      I love the design of my wife’s B5.5 wagon more and more as it ages. It’s an everyday classic. And with proper AWD, it’s almost like a mini SUV. Or at least I like to tell myself that as I get 24mpg on the highway :D

    • 0 avatar

      Personally, I see this sort of design from the other way around. I get some of the practicality of a hatchback (the large opening for one), while not having to look like a station wagon. If you can’t tell, I love lift backs.

      I do admit that this design does look a world better on a 2-door car like my little Acura RSX than on a giant 4-door.

    • 0 avatar

      Honda does sell an actual wagon, it’s called the TSX and Honda has sold 7.4 Crosstours for every one of them this year.

  • avatar

    I appreciate the “Vellum Venom” series and enjoy the way Sajeev takes a car apart.

    However, in this case, while I can’t disagree with most of the points Sajeev raises, the whole seems greater than the sum of the parts. I walk past a white one almost every day and, taken as a whole, it’s a pretty good looking car. It makes a Venza look pretty dumpy (perhaps that’s damning with faint praise).

  • avatar

    And you can have brown with your quirky. Enough said.

    Hardly any of the cousin’s ZDX sales support their existense.

  • avatar

    This must have been the inspiration for the likes of Accord Crosstour, Audi A7, BMW 5-series GT, etc.

  • avatar

    Looked at in that manner, the Crosstour seems to be the Outback of the Honda family. But it just doesn’t work as well. Especially when the CR-V does a better job of being a tall wagon, and looking not at all unattractive (though it has the same grille issues).

    I actually like the slotted texture on the undercladding. It’s an interesting design element that at least doesn’t pretend to be anything functional.

  • avatar

    Was VERY interested in one of these when shopping for the wife’s new car last year, then saw the price. WOW.

  • avatar

    My neighbour across the street has one of these. At least it’s in that ruddy colour, but it’s still incredibly painful to look at for more than a second. I think his son must be a Honda salesman.

    These things remind me of a recent IMAX movie where the flying dinosaurs are in that transition phase from flying reptiles to growing feathers and becoming more graceful and being able to walk at a reasonable clip.

  • avatar

    I’m just gonna throw this out there:

    The competitor — Toyota Venza — is one of the best designs of any mainstream manufacturer at the moment. Considering the proportions, they did a great job with it. Honda, not so much.

    • 0 avatar

      LOLZ WHAT.

      • 0 avatar

        I like the Venza, too.

        Its an honest to goodness Camry wagon.

        I would have bought one instead of the Escape that I owned in a heartbeat, if they’d been affordable on the used market. Given what my wife didn’t like about the Escape, I’d probably still be driving a Venza (if we had bought one).

        But the cars in my driveway are a Prius and a Sienna, so you may take my comments with a grain of salt, if you wish.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. Venza is quite sharp looking.

    • 0 avatar

      Ok fine, the exterior isn’t bad. But when you consider the INTERIOR of the thing, as well as the mpg, it all falls apart.

      Never seen so many mismatched/misaligned styles and trim panels in my life.

      • 0 avatar
        This Is Dawg

        EXACTLY. I actually like most of the Venza’s outside but the only time I’ve driven one I felt like I was being kidnapped while on drugs. Everything was armrest height, and I was literally too tall to see the top of the top screen. I felt like I was in a submarine that flooded with liquid plastic that hardened all around me and I couldn’t move my arms in any direction.

  • avatar

    I was excited to see the Crosstour in this series. My gut reaction seeing one in the wild was always “yuk”. After weighing some of the details featured, I’ve gained some appreciation. I think it does a good job of growing to CUV proportions without going full-bland. I mean, it’s bland fundamentally, but it’s at least distinct.

  • avatar

    Whenever I see these I can only ask why someone at Honda felt that the Dodge Caliber needed to be revived, or the Chevy Citation for that matter.

    Fake vents, unpainted plastic inserts, huge over styled front ends, these are all modern styling cues that should vanish come 2020, for me they just scream “cheap compromises” made to get some pretentious group of stylists dream car out.

    • 0 avatar

      “Fake vents, unpainted plastic inserts, huge over styled front ends…”

      Don’t forget that HUGE rear end that only Kim Kardashian could love and appreciate.

      • 0 avatar

        Well that too, honestly why is it that some modern cars have huge behinds but don’t actually have usable space in them?

        Its like Detroit yachts of the 70’s, over-sized and much style but with too little space in comparison.

  • avatar

    I may be overly picky here, but one styling cue that annoys me is a rear wiper that is in the vertical position while off, such as this one. Why can’t they have it just sit against the base of the window when off? To me takes away from the style of the rear of the car. I think the worst offender is the Toyota Prius. It has this fat, curvy wiper blade that looks like it stopped working mid cycle.

    Is anyone else annoyed by this, or is it just me?

    • 0 avatar

      I am more used to it. I have a preference to buy Japanese sports cars and they all seem to leave the rear wiper in the up potion when not used whenever it’s a fast back. My ’86 RX-7 does that, and my ’06 RSX does that. I suspect the answer to “why” is buried in a few months of wind tunnel testing.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, I’ve always chalked it up to aerodynamics. With vertical rear glass, like wagons and SUVs, the wiper can sit anywhere because it’s a low-pressure area of burbling air (and gets really fricking filthy because of this).

      But the boattail/fastback designs like Crosstour or Prius have a lot less airflow detachment at the rear, so a horizontal wiper would be more like a spoiler or airbrake. A small one, but every little bit helps.

      The Prius’s coefficient of drag really isn’t all that great, considering the design compromises they had to make. But overall, that’s the style that most cars are moving towards because you can’t argue with the aero.

      • 0 avatar

        Building on this idea I think another reason might be visibility due to the angle of the rear glass. The more upright the glass the easier it is to see around a single, small horizontal element, but as the glass becomes more angled/slopped the wiper’s profile (while still very small) starts becoming a problem. Example: my 350Z’s rear wiper is parked vertical while on the wife’s Volvo C30 its horizontal. The Z has a much bigger rear glass area, but the long slope means the view out is that of a mail-slot. Anything horizontal back there blocks your view. The upright C30 on the other hand is like looking out a normal window, thus the horizontal blade is well hidden.

        As for the CrossTour – its a mess and on my list of current ugliest vehicles, along with the horrible Puke… I mean Juke. It is a shame since I LOVE hatchbacks, but the choices available today are all downright ugly (except the Golf).

        • 0 avatar

          Golf is very timeless and tasteful. What do you make of the TSX wagon? I really like its overall shape, but it is sabotaged by all the fussy techy details inside and out…

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with your aerodynamic argument.

        As a Prius owner, though, I need to point out that an additional reason the wiper needs to be vertical is visibility out the back. The Prius already has that spoiler (I’d say its a faux spoiler, but it does serve an aerodynamic function in the kammback shape), which makes the visibility out the back a bit funky. Adding a horizontal wiper on top would rob quite a bit of visibility.

        The Prius really is a funky little car. But it is amazingly well thought out with respect to what its engineers and designers set out to achieve.

  • avatar

    That’s not a Custom Cruiser you linked to; it’s a Vista Cruiser. The Custom Cruiser was Olds’ full-size wagon.

  • avatar

    The best (i.e. most flattering) photography of the Crosstour I’ve seen were the shots taken by William C Montgomery in his January 2010 review right here on TTAC:

    They’re a little washed-out, but camera angles work wonders, making this look like an elegant, classy hatchback.

    But the Crosstour is only attractive in a very limited handful of angles and light. These photos write checks the car can’t cash when in the flesh, when the angle and light is always changing and noticing the details are unavoidable.

    • 0 avatar
      This Is Dawg

      I was sold up until the open hatchback. Why the haaaeell does the floor bottleneck into the seats like that? Are there Mach 5 stretch wheel struts in there? Broadside cannons? Are the doors 2 feet thick or something? That’s ridiculous.

      That being said, the top photo on this article makes the car look like a stretched Aston Martin in the same way a strategic selfie makes a chubby chick’s pictures decieve all but the best eye.

    • 0 avatar

      The Crosstour caught my eye – in a good way. I like the look. Up close and personal – the lines work. Smooth ride, comfort, cargo convenience and flexibility. The vehicle serves us well. It’s a handy crossover. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

      Crosstour Gallery …

  • avatar
    thats one fast cat

    I think your analysis of the style missed a key point — it is like a reverse Tardis; big on the outside so that when you get in it you wonder where all of that space went.

    Agree, needs to go back to the drawing board.

  • avatar

    Honda Crosstour is selling just OK in the US. Peaked at 29k units for calendar 2010. Has trended down since. 20k in 2012. On pace for (with luck) about the same for 2013.

    Its MSRP is bonkers, but, as usual, discounts are available right off the top even with no haggling. Currently, the main one is 0.9% financing for 60 months. Cash price for a well equipped V-6 should be in the upper $20’s.

    Will it hold a 4×8 sheet of plywood?

  • avatar

    I see these some, and I just can’t ever get over the VOLUME of metal in the rear 40% of the car. It’s just too much. I will point them out to random passengers with me, without any tone, “Hey what do you think of that car?”

    It’s always an “Ew” or “That’s ugly” type response.

  • avatar

    …And people here call the Aztek ugly!

    I never understood the Crosstour, especially when Honda makes the Pilot and CR-V. Clearly it appears to be an answer to a question nobody asked.

    It’ll be just fine, though, just as soon as some hapless buyer sticks some Auto-Zone cheap, tacky portholes on it!

    FWIW, We really liked the Aztek… Pontiac must have done something right, as I still see lots of them on the road.

    • 0 avatar

      (I’m playing devil’s advocate.) The ‘question nobody asked’ came from within Honda: “How do we make another Accord wagon variant that looks totally different from an Odyssey, TSX wagon, or Pilot?”

    • 0 avatar

      Even though I’m not the biggest fan of the Aztek I argue that they were ahead of their time as far as styling goes, they were also somewhat roomy too!

    • 0 avatar

      To me Crosstour looks like a vehicle that Honda intended to sell to people who live in a city and want SUV utility for weekend fun without driving a vehicle that actually looks like an SUV. It didn’t sell well. What a surprise! Most SUV buyers buy SUVs not for the utility but for the sense of more upscale comfort and a false sense of safety conveyed by the SUV body lines as they drive to the neighborhood grocery store.

  • avatar

    “We really liked the Aztek”

    Finally, somebody else says this. We’ve had three in the family and they drove like a car, worked like a van and had only minor problems like headlight condensation in one of them.

    And they were owned by the one son I’ve never been able to convince that routine maintenance is a good thing. Luckily they live close by and I’ve done or insisted on a lot of it.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Is Honda still certifying these as “trucks” for CAFE purposes?

  • avatar

    just hear me out ob this…
    doesn’t the newest yet to come Mazda3 look like it did pull off this look?
    It has a more rounded roof/hatch read and very nicely seems to have pulled off what the Honda, X6 and such tried.

    Not haveing seen the newest 3, I think it looks good.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’m really not much of a fan of wagons, but the Crosstour would look so much better as one…

  • avatar

    Nice article, way better than anything Sanjeev could come up with…

  • avatar

    It has some areas I’d delete, or at least try to cover over, but I really like the package as a whole. But then again I like the Juke, and would have a Citron Pallas in the garage if I could. So my views on what is a good looking car might be questionable.

  • avatar

    The Crosstour is just the grandchild of the Honda Legend/Austin Rover 827SLI. I’m surprised no one has mentioned it yet.

    I have an 1989 827 SLI and other than the electrics and interior which live up to all of their Britishness the car is actually very nice. And much better looking than the Crosstour.

  • avatar

    I like the Crosstour except for the way it sits. Looks weird with any wheel tire combination. Q5 for example has a nice stance.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Egads. It should be beaten with an 8 pound sledge hammer and then doused on fire. Down on the Honda lot, some pleated shorts and short sleeve button down shirt wearing dude will be bragging about the deal he got. All this from a company that used to make sensible Preludes.

  • avatar

    Lipstick on a pig. The answer to a question no one asked. So much for the forces of the marketplace.

  • avatar

    I like that the ’13 cleaned up the busy nose and the half hearted attempt at tough SUV cladding that simply ended up looking like cheesy 70s side pipe imitations. The new lower body trim does a decent job at camouflaging the tall body sides and actually gives the car a tougher look.

    Too bad they didn’t take some mass out of the rear, but I guess that’s a bit more work. Frankly, a reshaped more bumper & tail lights that didn’t try to blend from the hatch down to the ground in one sweep might have helped. Or it may have made things even busier out back.

    The other thing that bothers me is the awkward way the side groove goes from a negative feature to a positive line at the rear door handle. You touched on that area, but not the odd negative to positive transition. The shape of the front end of that groove seems to be handled rather sloppily as well.

    The idea of a fastback 5 door Accord is a great one, it’s just too bad it was executed so sloppily.

  • avatar

    Car industry is already full of copycats. Is it really hard to copy the shape of a Subaru Outback?

  • avatar

    The crosstour and its Acura cousin, can be best described as like a kardashian…terrible form the front, but even worse from behind.

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