There's no manual gearbox offered, but the five-speed automatic transmission works well with this flexible four. The combination gives the Element sprightly acceleration around town, though on the highway it can become noisy and needs a little more planning. The transmission is smooth and decisive around town, but a little rougher at speed.
The Element gets better fuel economy if you simply stick with front-wheel drive, and it does just fine that way; we'd recommend all-wheel drive only for those who get heavy snowfall.
Those who expect the 2011 Honda Element to drive like a truck will be surprised; with a car-based chassis that has struts up front and Honda's famed double-wishbone rear suspension, the Element possesses responsive handling and decent stability. Soft tires make for somewhat lazy steering response but contribute to a smooth ride. Braking is strong and easy to modulate; four-wheel discs with ABS are standard.