It seems that novelist, poet and playwright Oscar Wilde wouldn’t like the Honda CR-V much. This is the guy that wrote “everything popular is wrong”. Honda moved 357,335 copies in 2016, making it the most wrong five-passenger crossover sold in America.
And yet, for so many families it’s perfect.
Hulking three-row machines are a chore to maneuver in the city and most of them drink to excess (like Mr. Wilde come to think of it). Since it appeared on U.S. turf in 1997, the CR-V has remained remarkably true to its modest size, making it perfect for slipping through dense urban traffic and skipping gas stations. It has always seemed larger inside than out.
Now rolling into showrooms, the 5th generation CR-V is no warmed-over mid-cycle refresh. The chassis, shared with Civic, is new. Wisely, Honda kept the sheet metal familiar. 2017’s are most easily spotted by elegant sculpted tail lamps and less graceful orthodontia up front.
As a whole, CR-V’s look is high-society in the middle-class segment that includes Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4. FYI, a refreshed Mazda CX-5 is dropping soon. Same with the all-new Chevy Equinox that looks spendy inside and out.
Length, width, height, and wheelbase are all bumped up by about an inch and a half or so. That expands the interior by 1.8 cubic feet to discourage current owners from moving up to bigger sport utes. A family of four and their all their gear should be happy here.
All but the base LX model run with a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 190 horsepower and 179 pound feet of torque. The phrase “nothing succeeds like excess” doesn’t apply here but CR-V moves out smartly with little throttle lag. 0-60 happens in just under 8 seconds.
Honda’s continuously variable transmission has a sport mode but no ability to shift manually. It feels much like a standard geared transmission but mash the throttle and the typical elastic CVT quality rears its rubbery head. Moving from front to all-wheel drive is a $1,300 option box click. The new system can send 40 percent of torque to the back tires.
Prices start at $24,985 for an LX model with the base 184-horse 2.4-liter engine. For $2,650 more, the EX adds the turbo motor, a better sound system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay plus- and here’s the important part- safety technology suite dubbed Honda Sensing. This includes auto braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with low speed follow, lane departure mitigation and blind spot warning. A single use of just one of these electronic nannies could easily pay for itself when avoiding fender bender (or far worse). Penny pinchers, heed Wilde’s words- When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.
For a cute ute, the CR-V steers well with a balanced heft to the tiller. There’s noticeably less road noise too. A 375-mile round trip trek to Portland, Ore left me fresh both days. A freak storm blanketed P-Town’s roads in snow and ice. Thanks to AWD, CR-V scampered up moderately steep hills without drama.
Rolling down bare highways I saw 28 miles to the gallon on specified standard grade gas at a fairly constant 75 mile-per-hour. Compare that to the E.P.A. estimate of 27 city, 33 highway. The 2.4-liter’s m.p.g. rating drops by 2.
While Oscar felt “nothing is so aggravating than calmness”, harried parents will appreciate the serene suburban quality of CR-Vs cabin. Yes, the instrument panel’s “wood” and “stitching” are faux but Gen 5’s ambience is visibly improved right down to heated leather chairs with a creative needlework jog. Sure wish Honda would discover the panoramic glass roof.
A smallish 7-inch touchscreen interface has snappy response but the menu isn’t always fall-on-your-face easy. Phones sometime connect leisurely to the Touring’s decent 328-watt 7 speaker sound system that finally gets (hallelujah!) a volume knob.
Child car seats easily pass in and out of the rear door openings for those in that stage of life. With five adults on board not a single one complained on a short trip (though the rear center position’s seatbelt is awkwardly mounted on the celling). Politics aside, move to Canada if you need a CR-V with heated rear seats. The option isn’t available in the U.S. Two USB ports in back offer a way to charge electronics.
The cargo hold expands by 2 cubic feet with the 60/40 split seat backs up, 4.9 with them down. One easy latch pull drops them flat. Touring models get a handy kick-to-open motorized tailgate but the original CR-Vs load floor that turned into a picnic table is long gone.
At $34,595 as tested, the AWD Touring model with LED lighting is a good value but too rich for many budgets. For those who can resist that temptation, the sweet spot is the AWD EX model for $28,935 that includes the highly advised Sensing safety features. The CR-V is highly mainstream and a fierce competitor. Oscar Wilde would disapprove.
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