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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First off, let me recommend to the moderators that we need a clear place to put 'trip reports'. My best suggestion would be to change the 'test drivin'' forum to a "Element Travels" or something similar. Test-drives would fit in there still. But anyways. I'm posting it here 'cause it adds to the whole exterior-scratches thing, but it's also about performance. If the mods feel this should be in another forum, by all means, move it! No worries.

This saturday I took a daytrip from San Jose to Yosemite, using as many wiggly backroads as I could. Being an avid motorcylist, I've got quite a list of 'em. I took along the roomie, sister, and bro-in-law. We packed as if staying two days, plus extra in case we got snowbound (it can happen out there), making for a surprisingly full Element.

First observation: It's hard to put in a good sized cooler and still have it reachable while on the road when you're really loaded up. Even so, the ample legroom and headroom meant that even with a fully stuffed E all four could get in and out quite nicely; no worries.

Second observation: Trash management is SO much easier with the flat floors and lack of little areas for stuff to fall in. :)

On the way out I used the pre-planned GPS route (StreetPilot 3) to find some of the dirt roads winding from Modesto up into the "north gate" of Yosemite off the 120. I miscalculated a little and we ended up not just on dirt roads, but on 'not maintained during these months' roads. Even full up, the E did a scarily good job of four-wheelin'. I never expected this little 'burb-box (I grew up on a farm with real 4WD trucks, locking hubs and all, so to me all these SUV/CUV things are just burb-boxes with aspirations) to perform so well. It had a clearance issue, sure, but otherwise it really bit in and took us places I never thought it would.

Finally having enough after an hour of rutty dirt, we saw via the GPS that we were only .6mi from a main road, but it meant going down a goat-trail of a path that was heavily tree covered and rutted. It downsloped nearly 30deg for most of it! What the heck, thought I... we were equipped to camp out if we got stuck, and I had the globalstar phone (a great survival tool for an adventure-motorcyclist. It's saved my butt in some very faraway places). So, down the steep path we went. It was slow, careful going.

The last part of the downhill had a few 1-2' deep ruts cutting crisscross, so my bro-in-law got out with the handheld radio and did spotting for me. For those of you who don't do this kind of driving, 'spotting' is where someone outside the vehicle walks the path ahead, squats down and watches the tires of the car... guiding the driver over ruts and obstacles, making sure each tire has somewhere to be so you won't high-center the vehicle. The driver listens to the spotter and turns the wheel as asked, concentrating instead on brake/engine management, body tilt and other more immediate concerns. I've got some video of this and when I can get it .mpg'd for the web I'll put a weblink up. The E performed wonderfully, save for having a damnably small ride-height. It's not meant for this kind of work, though, so it's quite forgiveable.

Anways, this brings us to the subject of the post: Due to wanting to get out of that area, we concentrated on the road, not the car's finish. That little goat-trail had huge trees leaned into the path. We cleared a few by hand, but many of them still skreeeEeeEape!d along the bodywork. The painted areas fared wonderfully! The plastic, however... hmm. I have a few uglies here and there. Not screamingly ugly, but noticable. When I do the .mpg video stuff I'll also take still photos of the finish to let you guys see what I mean. I like the look and utility of the plastic panels, but for actual road-debris they kind of suck. Not just the tree-branches, but kicked up gravel from other cars (on the more-stable dirt roads before this) made little chippy marks. Ahwell. Hopefully there'll be some happy-chemical I can use to buff some of it out by softening up the plastic.

The rest of the day was spent on-road, doing the Yosemite Tourist thing. I have a few pics up on my imageserver, though stupidly none of them have my Element in the shot. Yeah, I'm the huge guy looking evil with the pegasus shirt. This leads to the additonal note: The E is an excellent car for the tall (I'm 6'5") and oversized (I won't give my weight, but the pics should make it obvious). I also got great gas milage: 24 on one fillup (mostly uphill) and 28.1 on another (the downhill towards home). We stopped at a picnic area in the Yosemite valley floor to cook up lunch. With the tailgates open the E made an excellent 'sit in the shade' comfy spot. Now I'm tempted to get the 'seat back' accessory!

Overall? The GPS tells me we spent 9h:20 minutes actually in-motion. I'm very happy with my vehicle choice. I could have never done these things in the custom van I had prior and I would have never been as comfortable or gas-efficient were I in one of the 4x4 trucks from my youth. My passengers said they had a great time, though all of us were getting a little bit of flat-butt syndrome in the slightly-over-firm E seats by the day's end.

Cleanup of the vehicle afterwards only required a quick hose-down and blowing out the inside. My only cleaning complaint: Dirt/road-grit gets into the area behind the hinges of the rear-swinging doors due to poor sealing. You have to open the doors and clean that out by hand. Annoying, but not problematic.

I'll be back on the bikes for most of my daytrips like this (I ride a GS-ADV and a GoldWing), but now I know I have a reliable, comfortable and capable car for when I want to take friends along for the adventure. The Element rocks. :D

--Tug
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
(here's the 2nd half)

... Hopefully there'll be some happy-chemical I can use to buff some of it out by softening up the plastic.

The rest of the day was spent on-road, doing the Yosemite Tourist thing. I have a few pics up on my imageserver, though stupidly none of them have my Element in the shot. Yeah, I'm the huge guy looking evil with the pegasus shirt. This leads to the additonal note: The E is an excellent car for the tall (I'm 6'5") and oversized (I won't give my weight, but the pics should make it obvious). I also got great gas milage: 24 on one fillup (mostly uphill) and 28.1 on another (the downhill towards home). We stopped at a picnic area in the Yosemite valley floor to cook up lunch. With the tailgates open the E made an excellent 'sit in the shade' comfy spot. Now I'm tempted to get the 'seat back' accessory!

Overall? The GPS tells me we spent 9h:20 minutes actually in-motion. I'm very happy with my vehicle choice. I could have never done these things in the custom van I had prior and I would have never been as comfortable or gas-efficient were I in one of the 4x4 trucks from my youth. My passengers said they had a great time, though all of us were getting a little bit of flat-butt syndrome in the slightly-over-firm E seats by the day's end.

Cleanup of the vehicle afterwards only required a quick hose-down and blowing out the inside. My only cleaning complaint: Dirt/road-grit gets into the area behind the hinges of the rear-swinging doors due to poor sealing. You have to open the doors and clean that out by hand. Annoying, but not problematic.

I'll be back on the bikes for most of my daytrips like this (I ride a GS-ADV and a GoldWing), but now I know I have a reliable, comfortable and capable car for when I want to take friends along for the adventure. The Element rocks. :D

--Tug
 

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Great tale Mr. Tug! Thanks for sharing. I felt like I was there, and look forward to pics, and your next trip.
47Ag107 8)
 

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An encouraging message, thanks! I just took my 4x4 Ranger out for its last desert trip, and it made me wonder if I should keep it. But I think the Element will suit most of my needs, and you have helped to confirm that. I won't be driving over any boulders, but I've only once been "rock climbing" with the truck anyways. I was in only one location this past weekend that I'm not sure the Element could handle--soft deep sand on a 30 or 40 degree incline.
 

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Mr Tug,
You be pullin at me heart strings with those fab pictures. Amazed to see that the element could haul over the terrain you describe so well and given the four of you and the gear.

Great narration and photos to boot.
Thanks for sharing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Just as an update to the post: I washed it good and waxed it up... but I can notice a tiiiiny bit of a scratch in the left hand side paint. It'll buff out, with some effort. The scratches in the left rear plastic panel sure won't, though. :cry:

Still, even with the scratch, it's all A-OK. In fact, after straining it a bit out there it's since gotten better gas milage. I don't know if it's the same for cars as it is for motorcycles, but on my GS bike if you flog it a little after a proper break-in period it behaves much better -- and the E is doing the same. It's a little more engine-responsive and about 2mpg better than before (I'm up to 23 average now). 4WD-auto.

I'm really learning to love this thing on dirt backroads up in the hills behind my house and when commuting in the rain. It feels nice and sure-footed, which still surprises me from such a little burb-box of a vehicle. :)

My tags finally showed up, and my custom TUGRIK plate is on it now as a result. I've gotten the XM satellite mounted permanently now (bolted in place instead of that darn stick-um stuff that comes off in the heat) and soon will run a permanent power-wire for both the GPS and the radar detector. This summer will be a fun one of backroads tours and campings-out in my Eternal Blue four-wheeled toy!
 
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