The Element followed a concept called Model X which was developed by a core group of Honda R&D engineers in 1998 and debuted at the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Model X was designed as an activity-oriented vehicle combining features of a pickup truck and a sport utility vehicle, and its styling was inspired by a lifeguard station, its roofline arched to evoke the curve of a surfboard.
Noted for its four bi-parting side doors that open to provide a clear aperature of 55.5 inches, the structure of the Element eliminates the B-pillars by reinforcing and enlarging the side sills, floor and roof cross members, and providing five bulkheads per side. The rear door structure have a reinforced vertical beam and, when closed, connect to the body side sill via a hook and catch system, effectively creating a B-pillar. The rear-hinged rear side doors can open only after the forward doors.
The production Element debuted at the 2002 New York International Auto Show with an interior featuring TPO-coated textured urethane; stain-resistant fabric; individually reclining and removeable rear seats that stow.
The 2.4 Litre K Engine, an i-VTEC four-cylinder engine produces 166 hp (124 kW) at 5500 rpm and 160 lb⋅ft (217 N⋅m) of torque at 4500 rpm. Drive is either front-wheel drive or optionally, 4 wheel drive — via a hydraulically actuated on demand system that engages with front wheel slippage, marketed as "Real Time" 4 wheel drive. The Element has a towing capacity of 680 kg, or 1500 lbs and a gross weight of 4450 lbs (2018 kg).
With projected first year sales of 50,000, the Element sold 67,478 units in 2003 in the U.S. By 2010, just over 14,000 were sold, and by December 2010, shortly before its discontinuation, production totaled approximately 325,000.
In 2007, the Element won the Dogcars.com "Dog Car of the Year" award because of its "versatile cargo space, easy-clean flooring, crate-friendly rear design and optional 4 wheel drive." and in 2010 it won the "Small SUV" category as a "Top Safety Pick" in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Annual Awards.
Model year changes
2006 Honda Element EX-P
2007–2008 Honda Element EX
2007–2008 Honda Element SC
2009–2011 Honda Element
2009 Honda Element SC
2003: The 2003 Element was launched with two trim levels — DX and EX. All-wheel drive models came with a large rear moonroof. All trim levels came with a 160hp 2.4L K24A4 engine. Production and sales began in December 2002.
2004: A mid-range LX trim level between the DX and the premium EX trim levels. Side airbags became available as an option on the EX models.
2005: The LX model featured revised front seats with a passenger seat armrest. The DX model was eliminated. XM satellite radio and MP3 capabilities were added as standard features in the audio system for the EX model. A 5 speed manual transmission was standard. The 5 speed automatic transmission was optional on the EX and LX models and standard on the SC models. The charcoal gray plastic tone was darkened and a navy blue was offered with the Satin Silver Metallic paint. Hub Caps on the LX were changed to cover the entire wheel.
Fuel economy was officially 19 miles per US gallon (12.4 l/100 km) City, 23 miles per US gallon (10.2 l/100 km) Highway; 20 miles per US gallon (11.8 l/100 km) Combined
The 2007 Element received a mild refresh, which included 6 hp increase to 166 hp, along with a 5-speed automatic transmission, and seat belts integral to the front seats allowing rear-seat occupants to exit the vehicle without a front occupant having to unbuckle. Side airbags became standard, as did electronic stability control. The plastic latticework grille was replaced by silver-colored slats. A new trim level called the SC was offered with a different front bumper and grille, lowered suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels, projector headlamps, "tribal print" seat fabric, center console, and carpeted floors in the seating areas. Unlike the other trim packages, the SC had a non-removable center console.
2008: The only change from the 2007 Element was the addition of the color Royal Blue Pearl for the SC trim.
2009: New color combinations for the dashboard became available. For 2009, the Honda Element received an optional navigation system, outside temperature display and minor exterior revisions. The hood and grill were redesigned, the front fenders were now all metal rather than painted composite material, and the wheel arches were squared off. The moon-roof was no longer available for 2009-2011.
2010: For 2010, Honda Element offered LX, EX, EX with Navigation, and SC trim levels. All trim levels featured a 5-speed automatic transmissions.
2011: For 2011, the option of a navigation system and the sporty SC trim level have been dropped. The Royal Blue Pearl color was also eliminated. Honda discontinued the Element in early 2011.
Advertising and marketing
Gil the Crab
After a summer break, Honda returned to its "Element and Friends" ad campaign, using one of its characters, the crab, given the name Gil. The most popular character from the ads with his "I Pinch!" catch phrase, Gil had a myspace page to chronicle Gil's trouble with the law. In order to tap into social networking sites, which began to play larger roles in ad campaigns in the mid-2000s, Gil was to maintain a blog and promote an online petition to save his job. and endorse Gil paraphernalia through a website. This led up to the launch of the new commercial dubbed Element TV, which premiered 28 September 2006, and rolled out with the new Honda Element SC which went on sale that same day.
Element and Friends - version 2.0
In the fall of 2006, the Element and Friends (https://web.archive.org/web/20080828161538/http://elementandfriends.com/ website, now defunct) was re-launched with the introduction of the new Element SC trim. The previous version had the driving game using the Element EX-P (now simply called the EX) in a desert, snow topped mountains, forests, and a beach. They now renamed that area "above ground". A new second option from the main page allows you to select the Element SC to go "underground" in an urbanesque environment featuring a drive-in, central park with a basketball court, a seedy mainstreet, and project housing. The six new SC friends include a rat, mole, hamster, pigeon, roach, and a dog. The drive-in serves as the venue to view the TV spots that feature only the rat, mole, pigeon, and hamster. The format remains the same with new mini-games, but both maps now include a tunnel to venture above or below the surface, through the mountain and building respectively. Changes to the above ground include the removal of the previous TV spots from the website and a link on the beach to Gil's Myspace page.
RPA, the company which created the Element and friends website, won the "Best in Show" from MIXX Awards for the microsite. They revealed that visitors average 15 minutes on the site.
In 2007, the Honda Element won the Dogcars.com's "Dog Car of the Year" award. Honda chose to follow up on that with a concept vehicle unveiled in 2009 New York Auto Show specifically designed for canine transportation. It included a pet restraint system, an extendable cargo area load-in ramp, a 12V DC rear ventilation fan, second-row seat covers with a simple beige dog-outline pattern design to match the bed cover fabric, all-season rubber floor mats with a toy bone pattern, a fan, and "Dog Friendly" exterior pawprint emblems. A spill-resistant water bowl, also included, could be placed into a nook in the corner of the pet bed.
The second row pet restraint system was a small net crate suitable for cats or small dogs, which could be belted into place. It strapped directly to the lower portion of the seat and the captive animal could not see out the windows, unlike the pet "booster seats" sold by pet-supply vendors specifically designed to allow small dogs to see through the windows and sniff the incoming airflow. The pet bed is a thick cushion for the whole of the rear cargo area. The cargo area pet restraint system consists of netting on the sides and the top of the dog bed, as well as a zip-up fourth side to be secured after the dog is loaded.
The package was dealer-installed and retailed for $1,000.
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