Test Drive: 2010 Honda Element – Dog Friendly Edition

Honda comes up with a Doggone good EX model

According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Inc., 39 percent of all households own at least one dog with an estimated total U.S. dog population of 74.8 million, and in a 2008 estimate, all pet purchases and related products and services comprised an estimated total market value of more than $43 billion.

It was in light of these facts that the folks at American Honda Motor Company. Inc. decided to take action. Vicki Poponi, assistant vice president of Product Planning for American Honda pointed out that, ?The Honda Element has long been recognized as an accommodating vehicle for people with active lifestyles involving sports and hobbies. And our new Dog Friendly Element takes that concept to a whole new level with specially designed features for dogs and their owners.?

Kudos to Honda – finally, an auto manufacturer has seen the light and stepped up to the plate answering the needs of dogs and their loving owners, with an emphasis on safety. The 2010 Honda Element EX model serves as the basis for the ?Dog Friendly Package? which was engineered to integrate with factory precision into the Element EX. The Canine Friendly equipment is intended to accommodate the safe and secure transportation of a dog in the cargo area within a specially designed nylon-webbed car kennel. In daily operation the kennel helps keep the pet properly restrained and out of harm?s way. In the event of a frontal collision, the kennel is intended to help restrain the dog behind the rear seats, reducing the chance of the pet being injured ? while minimizing injury to human occupants in the event of a crash.?

In addition to safety, the Dog Friendly equipment enhances pet comfort by providing a soft floor surface for the dog?s legs and paws along with a dedicated fan and a spill resistant water source. Loading and unloading convenience is improved with an integrated ramp, easy to clean surfaces and a full complement of matching Dog Friendly accoutrements, which include: a soft-sided cargo area car kennel made from seat belt-grade netting, designed and constructed by the Takata Corporation, one of the world?s leading automotive safety systems suppliers; a cushioned pet bed in the cargo area on an elevated platform; the 12V DC rear ventilation fan; Stain and wear resistant, second-row seat covers with a dog pattern design that matches the bed fabric; an extendable ramp (which stores conveniently under the pet bed platform; all-season rubber floor mats with a toy bone pattern; the spill-resistant water bowl; and Dog Friendly?exterior emblems that appear as a Paw logo driver?s side and a rear Dog Friendly graphic on the left side rear. There?s also a bag with the Dog Friendly logo that contains a log pendant for your dog?s collar, a bone shaped container of ?doodie? bags for cleaning up after your dog?s bio-business, a logo collar and restraint straps. The Dog Friendly equipment group is priced at $995. ? ? ??? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ??

The Honda Element is people friendly too. Already having received a host of upgrades for the 2009 model year that included a freshened exterior appearance and an enhanced interior design. The Element is actually available in three trim levels ranging from the simple Element LX, to the more refined Element EX, and finally to the sporty Element SC. The Dog Friendly equipment group, however is designed exclusively for the Element EX trim level.

The Element?s urethane floor is easy-to-clean and provides an expansive, flat cargo area (up to 74.6 cu-ft. with rear seats removed), wide-opening side cargo doors, a low lift-in height, and dimensions that accommodate tall items. The interior seats four people comfortably, along with a cargo area that is readily adaptable for hauling large items with its flip-up rear seats that fold flat, up and to the side, or may be removed altogether (64-plus seating arrangements).

Power for the Honda Element comes from a 2.4-liter DOHC, 16-valve i-VTEC 4cylinder engine is positioned up front and delivers 166 horsepower along with 161 pound feet of torque. The engine mates to a five-speed automatic transmission that gears energy to either the front wheels, or all four, with the optionally available four-wheel drive version.

?Our ?Dog Friendly? Honda Element EX was in the four-wheel drive configuration and came with Honda?s GPS Navigation System. It sported a highly visible Citrus Fire metallic exterior finish with Charcoal cladding and Satin Silver trim. The interior came in a Charcoal and Gray with Silver trim. The base price was set at $25,585, which came to a final total of $27,290 after adding the Destination and Handling charge and the ?Dog Friendly? pet accommodation equipment package.

SUMMARY: ?The Honda Element Ex is a most serviceable vehicle in its own right ? it is extremely versatile, not to mention affordable in terms of the initial purchase price ? especially for what you get. Certainly, four-wheel drive isn?t a necessary option for everyone, nor is the navigation system, although the latter is a nice feature to have.

The Element performs well in any of its trim levels and either 2 or 4-wheel drive configurations, and it is capable of towing up to 1,500 pounds, when properly?equipped. The handling and ride quality both measure up to admirable levels Operational costs are reasonable too, with EPA fuel economy ratings estimated at 19 mpg in the city, and 24 mpg on the highway.

?The Dog Friendly equipment package is well thought out, with the kennel and bed platform securing to the vehicle with adjustable anchoring straps, and the soft kennel snapping to the platform ? it also fits snugly behind the rear seat and body sides with just enough space for air to circulate. A dedicated fan, operated by a simple toggle switch, is positioned to supply air into the soft kennel, which features a fixed, but removable water bowl. The folding, non-skid surface ramp stows handily beneath the bed platform. A whimsical touch is the toy dog bone pattern integrated into the full surface, rubber floor mats. Everything is easily removable when not transporting pets and when more cargo space is needed.

?Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, pointed out that ?In-vehicle pet restraints should be part of every dog owner?s safe travel practices,?? We agree whole-heartedly and one of our Bearded Collies seemed perfectly at home in the kennel once she got used to the idea of using the ramp. She didn?t seem to understand why she couldn?t just jump in as usual.?

Bottom line, the Honda Element EX Dog Friendly Edition is a doggone good idea that other vehicle manufacturers are sure to pick up on.

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