Some Elemental Details

Sorry it’s been a while. I’ve been recuperating and taking tests and resting…a lot.

One question that has entered my mind is “Do I name my new ride?” I’ve heard people talking about it and I’m on the fence. That fence is between dorky and cool; dorky to name a vehicle and “humanize” it and cool to name a vehicle and “humanize” it. I have decided that if I do name the Element, it will be Ely, not because that’s the stock symbol for Callaway Golf, but because it’s short for Element.

As this is a long-term test, if you will, I’ve decided to shake things up a bit and break up the way I will review Ely. (Now I’m on a roll and think this name thing will stick…)

FOG-LIGHTS_midWhenever one looks at purchasing a new vehicle, or most anything else for that matter, price is always a huge concern. This holds true even for those who seemingly can afford whatever they choose.

Without going into deep financial detail, the Wife and I feel great about our lease and are excited to see how it works out in the end, especially considering the option to buy at the end for a decent price…much less than I would have imagined for a Honda, much less one that seems so loved by all walks.

In keeping with standard review practice, let’s just talk about the sticker as it stands, knowing that most people never pay full sticker price.

So I have an all-wheel-drive EX in Polished Metal Metallic that has a suggested retail price of $24,185 and a destination fee of $780…it’s costly to get a vehicle from Ohio to Missouri these days! Pretty simple when you think about some manufacturer’s options lists!

Since the Element is more of a special purpose vehicle than run-of-the-mill SUV (it has a rubber floor fer cryin’ out loud) that really isn’t much in the way of factory options. There are two trim levels, LX and EX, one engine choice, two transmission and drivetrain choices and some color configurations.CARGO-MAT_mid

If you go to the Element website and”build your own” you will see a tab for adding accessories but what they don’t tell you is that all are dealer-installed and you can find them for much cheaper online at sites like

If I had my druthers, I would like to have seen a few of the “accessories” as standard items…like the rear cargo cover and some sort of floor mats (I’m thinking the carpeted ones would add some panache) as it’s easier to pull out mats and spray them off than it is to hose out your vehicle.

As it stands now, those are on my “want to purchase” list, along with splash guards and the carpeted cargo mat. And, if I do decide to keep Ely, I may spring for the driving lights as well (which should be a factory installed addition to the EX line, but now I’m being demanding).

FLOOR-MATS-CARPET_midThe best part is that the sticker price includes everything: 166 horsepower inline four cylinder engine, five-speed automatic transmission with grade logic control (which really works!!), “real time” all-wheel-drive, disc brakes at each wheel, variable-assist steering, at least six airbags including side curtain (should cut down on concussions…), ABS and stability control, tire pressure monitoring, 270 watt seven-speaker radio with subwoofer and XM, steering wheel radio controls, water resistant fabric on seats, removable cooler in center console, 16-inch wheels with P215/70 R16 all-season tires, and power windows and mirrors among other niceties.

So basically, I have a very useful vehicle for a great price. I can also say that you can pretty easily fit a Chinese-made moped in the back as the roof raises a bit once you clear the rear opening. And the tie-downs provided are in the perfect places!

For today’s Retro Review I thought I’d throw in another people/cargo hauler…

2005 Buick Terraza


No Longer Mini, But Not Really Sporty Either

by James E. Bryson

In our ever-changing world of catchy names and categories for categories, General Motors has struck again, killing off the minivan name in place of the crossover sport van: basically a minivan with an elongated snout with an "SUV appearance". These vans, The Chevrolet Uplander (nee Venture), Saturn Relay, Pontiac Montana SV6 (nee Montana) and Buick Terraza make up the small van/crossover fleet for GM, adding two models (Terraza and Relay) while taking away one (Olds Silhouette); not the best way to save money for a cash-strapped company, but what do we know about running a business?

We were sent a front-wheel-drive Terraza CXL with a 3.5-liter OHV V6 with four-speed automatic transmission. The 3.5 makes 200 horsepower and 220 lb.-ft. of torque and propels the van with authority in most situations, as long as there is only one or two people and not much cargo. Once you start piling the people and cargo in the Terraza it starts getting sluggish in the acceleration department but doesn’t loose much handling composure…unless you’re trying to win the Parking Spot 500.

The Terraza’s styling leaves a bit to be desired. From the front quarter it looks like some sort of SUV-thing. But after the A pillar it looks like the old GM minivan, sort of a form follows function approach.

With that said, we did like the overall approach that Buick has taken with the van. The chrome wheels gave it a classy look and the paint was stellar, with a deep, rich look that belied the luxurious nature of our tester.

The first time we sat in the Terraza we were quite surprised to find that we could not see where the hood ended, but we got used to that fairly quickly and found that it was not much of a hindrance on our daily commute or for parking either.

And, while we’re talking about sitting in the Terraza, this is one sharp vehicle. The layout and look of the interior is top notch, from the contrasting white seams on the black leather door panels to the black piping on the gray leather seats and controls that feel naturally placed. Our only real gripe is the wood veneer trim that looks totally fake and not hardly worth the effort.

Another item of note whilst driving is the multitude of blind spots. We found that lowering the rear seat headrests helped, but to lower them you actually have to lower the seats; not too convenient when you have to switch between hauling cargo and hauling people.

Safety is on everyone’s minds these days and the Terraza is no slouch in that category, with dual-stage front and (optional) side airbags, four-wheel ABS, StabiliTrak (GM’s stability control system) and OnStar. Talk about a virtual safety-fest…it’s a safety-palooza, to coin a phrase.

Pricing on the Terraza wasn’t too bad considering the amount of features and appointments that were included.

Our tester started at $31,170, which included traction control, Stabilitrak (GM’s stability enhancement program), automatic leveling, rear parking assist, four-wheel disc brakes, DVD entertainment system, leather seats and steering wheel, power sliding doors, luggage rails up top and a 115 volt power outlet.

There were only a few options, and for once they didn’t raise the vehicle price too much: 17-inch aluminum wheels ($650), XM ($325), MP3/six-disc changer radio ($295) and remote vehicle starter ($175). All that plus a destination charge of $715 added up to an as-tested price of $33,330.

We never really cared for owning minivans, but can’t argue with their ultimate versatility and ease of use in most situations. With that said, next to a Mazda MPV, the Terraza gets our vote for the Mini…er…Crossover Sport Van we’d actually consider purchasing.


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James E. Bryson

Cars make the world go 'round!

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