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Dogmobiles: Road-testing the Honda Element
Another true-life Dogmobile road test, this time for the Honda Element. I had to drive a couple hundred miles to attend the U.S. Dog Agility Association’s regional trial, and I was taking one of my dogs, not so she could compete but so she could see her littermate, whose mom is one of the top agility competitors in the world.

With just one dog and feeling lazy, I didn’t put the side-by-side wire crates in the Element. They would have fit, and the Element has well-positioned cargo tie-downs, but I would have had to completely remove the rear seats to make it work. In fact, it’s easy to remove the seats, but it’s even easier to flip them up against the walls of the Element to open up the cargo area, as shown in the picture.

So … running late and opting for easiest, I flipped up the seats, put down the old bedspreads to protect the vehicle (remember, these testers are new and not mine!) and put in a dog bed, followed by McKenzie, the day’s test dog. And off we went.

I immediately noticed a great and surely accidental dog-friendly feature on the Element: Windows that are resistant to nose prints. The windows are placed high on the vehicle — so high that you can’t comfortably rest your arm on the driver’s side window sill — and for a dog resting on the floor of the Element it’s tough to put noseprints on the window. Since I have to wash the noseprints off the windows before I give back any car, I immediate decided this was a spectacular feature. And although I didn’t get much enjoyment from it, McKenzie sure liked the removable mo0nroof over the cargo area.

The Element also has clamshell rear doors, the glass opening up for ventilation and the tailgate flipping down to make a great seat. Love it!

McKenzie (she’s on the left, with her sister Sprint on the right) and I both enjoyed the trip. The Element drives much more nimbly than its boxy lines suggest, and the dog loved having her bed and a little extra room to roam. For two dogs and a longer trip, I’d definitely pop out the rear seats entirely, not only for the extra cargo room but also because when the seats are up they block the rear windows, making changing lanes a little more challenging.

My only quibble is a minor one: The cupholders are on the floor, between the two front seats. That meant McKenzie decided to help herself to my latte when I wasn’t looking. Personally, I’d rather have cup-holders swing out from the dash, since I don’t like sharing my coffee with the four-leggers.

As I’ve mentioned before, you cannot hose out an Element. Taking the leaf-blower idea from a reader, however, I used my forced-air dog dryer to blast any dirt and dog hair from the cargo area before turning the vehicle back in. It worked great!

Honda made a big fuss last year about its prototype dog-car, with built-in crates for small dogs. I don’t know why they thought that was such a big deal, since they’ve had one of the best Dogmobiles ever in their line for years.

Bottom line: Love the look, hate the look, no matter: The Element is as good a Dogmobile as could possibly be imagined.

Filed under: animals: pets, dogmobiles — Gina Spadafori @ 10:30 am
8 Comments »
Glad you tried out the blower/force dryer. The other nice thing about the Element is that if you build a platform above the rear cargo bins, 2 regular size crates fit there. I had the side by sides and they were a bit tight for male foxhounds to turn around in. I have 2 24×36 crates plus a 200 size for a little dog in mine. That’s a lot of dog space for the size of the vehicle. My only complaints are the sunroof should be power and the clamshell doors can be difficult in tight parking spaces.

Comment by Myra — September 8, 2006 @ 2:26 pm

I would like the rear passenger windows to roll up and down (with power), too.

I think I need a tough version of Teflon for the interior. One of my dogs spits and drools in the car, and that takes soap, water, and a scrub brush to remove. The Element is certainly much easier to clean than cars with plush upholstery and carpet, though! I’ve had mine for 3 years, and the cupholders are probably my biggest complaint, too. Dog feet can go right through the lids on soft drink cups, although they only do it when the cup is mostly full.

Comment by kabbage — September 9, 2006 @ 7:26 am

I also wanted to ask how quiet the side-by-side crates are when you have had them installed. My ex-pen has latches similar to the ones pictured on the side-by-sides, and that thing drives me nuts in the car because the latches rattle.

I have a Kennel-Aire Commander crate, and it is very quiet in the car. The Y-latch really can’t rattle if it’s shut. None of the sides rattle, either. The Midwests are easier to find than the Kennel-Aires, though.

Comment by kabbage — September 9, 2006 @ 7:43 am

The Midwest side-by-side crates rattle like all get out. They are very noisy. I actually prefer crates made of high-impact plastic, but have to use wire because the dogs need all the ventilation they can get while waiting their turn to work.

I suppose you could put the crates on rubber mats, and duct-tape the edges to quiet bumping between crates. The doors don’t rattle — they’re tight — so you could probably lessen the racket with a few modifications.

Comment by Gina — September 10, 2006 @ 6:34 am
 

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Cars for dogs and Cleanability

I always buy my vehicles based on my dogs. My first SUV-- a 1993 loaded Ford Explorer Sport stick, was purchased to road trip with my 60 pound, rambunctious but beautiful Husky/Shepherd named Bo Diddley the Blues Dog. The best vehicle EVER!! Then, Bo and I got a 1999 Explorer sport (hated it!).

Bo passed away. I was dogless for one year. Then, I rescued mom and daughter shepherd mixed dogs-- 12 year old Genie and 5 year old Nickie. I couldn't keep hoisting Genie into the back of the Explorer. I had already test driven the Element twice so I knew it was the answer to saving my back. The lower level of the Element made it a breeze to put the girls in the car.

Genie (50 lbs.) and Nickie (60 lbs.) loved the car. I flipped the rear seats up, put in two doggie beds and we were good to go. Plenty of room; dogs didn't trample each other moving around. I still had room for water and other hiking and road trip supplies. I made sure that my beverage cup was a travel mug with a lid. As previously mentioned, the cup holder is easy access for the dogs. Genie frequently liked to eat or drink whatever was placed in the holder between the seats.:-(

Cleanability
Genie and Nickie shed triple time. I was spending 40-45 minutes vacuuming and cleaning out the Explorer. With the Element, I can do a thorough cleaning in less than 20 minutes and a respectable-looking clean look in under 10 minutes. The dog hair doesn't weave into fabric (there is none) and the rubberized floors are a breeze to wipe up muddy feet or vacuum up sand.

Doggy joy
When I gardened in the front yard, Genie liked to be with me but she did not like to be tethered. I would open up all the doors on the Element and she would lay in there on her doggie bed so happy. She liked to just chill and catch the breeze.

Oh, and if you need to crate a large dog, the Element accommodates a large crate quite easily.
 
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