ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology drivetrain equipment has been slowly trickling throughout the lineup. The direct-injected four-cylinder engine debuted on the current-generation Accord and is now making the leap over to the Honda CR-V compact crossover. The continuously variable transmission was also first seen on the Accord and has since migrated over to the Civic and now the CR-V. There are some small visual changes, too, like new fascias and wheel designs, while the interior gets a larger central touchscreen, center console with integrated ventilation ducts and sliding sunvisors. Honda has also added a new range-topping Touring model, which is what we have here.
But the drivetrain stuff is definitely the biggest news here for the CR-V’s mid-cycle update. The 2.4-liter direct-injected four-cylinder offers the same 185 hp figure that the outgoing non-direct-injected four-cylinder it replaces but that peak horsepower number arrives 600 rpm sooner at 6,400 rpm instead of 7,000 rpm. Torque, however, sees a nice bump from 163 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm to 181 lb-ft at 3,900 rpm for a more flexible powerband that’s appreciated around town.
How about the CVT? It’s not bad at all. We lived with a Honda CVT for a year in our long-term Accord EX-L sedan and have been satisfied with the way they perform with the mimicked gear changes and overall slick operation.
The end game for the new drivetrain is improving efficiency, which it does deliver according to EPA fuel economy ratings. The old 2.4-liter four-cylinder and five-speed automatic combo was rated at 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, while the new stuff gets a 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway rating when you compare all-wheel drive models. A 4 mpg bump in the city cycle and a 3 mpg improvement on the highway is rather good.
There’ve been suspension revisions as well with retuned springs, dampers, stiffening the trailing arms and revising of the front lower arms.
After a few days with the updated 2015 Honda CR-V, I came away impressed. Compared with our long-term Nissan Rogue, the Honda feels more refined. The new engine feels strong and is much smoother than the four-cylinder under the Rogue’s hood. For a typical customer shopping this segment, I don’t believe there will be many complaints about the lack of power. The CVT does a fine job here, too. Under normal throttle loads, most people probably won’t be able to tell that it’s not a torque converted automatic.
Being a Honda, it’s not a bad handler. Steering offers a tight feel and is responsive to inputs. The updated suspension keeps the body tidy in bends with some roll evident, but what do you expect for a family-focused crossover? Brakes are confidently strong with firm pedal feedback.
Twenty years ago, said Honda, it introduced the CR-V to a new segment.With the 2016 HR-V, it's the same thing here.Twenty years ago, come to think of it, the original CR-V was about the size of ...
On the flip side, ride quality is still fine. Unlike our Rogue which is a bit crashy over bumps, the CR-V takes on road imperfections in a more buttoned up manner. You’ll still feel the impacts from the bigger ruts you come across, but smaller stuff gets smoothed out well.
Cabin materials are also a step above the Rogue with wrapped and padded areas on major surfaces. Isolation from road and wind noise is decent, and it was easy to find a comfortable seating position. I’m still a big fan of the LaneWatch system that displays an image of your right-side blind spot when you activated the right turn signal. And while it wasn’t a knob, I was happy to at least see a real button used to adjust audio volume instead of the touchsense controls in the Civic.
All the tech features included on our Touring model like forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane-keeping assist, lane departure and adaptive cruise control didn’t see much use. The only time I even noticed them was when the collision warning system went off flashing a light and giving off an audible warning once as I approached a slowing vehicle. Keep in mind I only said once and it was during an instance where I was approaching a bit quicker. Things were totally under control, but in GM vehicles, collision warning would go off often during situations that weren’t even close to being collisions, which is annoying. So what I’m saying is, Honda has a done a good job with that forward collision warning system on the CR-V.
With the 2015 updates, the Honda CR-V is probably the strongest all-around crossover on the market in my opinion. With a strong and efficient drivetrain, tight handling, comfortable enough ride and a cushy cabin, it’s a very good package. If you want a crossover that’s a sportier drive and are willing to give up on ride comfort, then go for the Mazda CX-5. If you want more style, then maybe a Ford Escape or a Kia Sportage will be more to your liking. But if you want well-rounded, you should be looking at this Honda.
The continuously variable transmission was also first seen on the Accord and has since migrated over to the Civic and now the CR-V.PHOTO BY HONDA
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAY RAMEY: The Honda CR-V got a set of trendy new sunglasses for 2015 in the form of a revised front fascia, even though most sheetmetal continues on since the 2012 model year that saw the last major redesign. The CR-V is powered by a new 2.4-liter inline-four which makes 185 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque, and there’s a CVT channeling those horses to the front wheels or to all four wheels.
The CVT borrowed from the Honda Accord is the major new piece of equipment here, and it’s not the quietest of units. The initial response to a generous mash of the gas pedal is a steady but loud drone, creating the impression that the engine is working really hard. Acceleration is progressive and thankfully it comes without the abrupt gear changes that a conventional automatic would have likely produced.
Driving dynamics of this refreshed CR-V are a bit of a mixed bag. The suspension is fidgety over imperfections in the road surface like manhole covers, which it amplifies rather than brushes off. There is some nose diving while braking, and the CR-V also has a tendency to float a bit and shift its weight from side to side at highway speeds, which is especially noticeable when changing lanes. These qualities amount to the CR-V being not particularly receptive to being driven just barely outside of its comfort zone.
I put just around 2,000 miles on the CR-V over the course of three weeks, achieving around 29 mpg during most trips, during which time it saw plenty of congested and icy holiday traffic in addition to plenty of highway cruising at steady speeds. As a long-distance hauler the CR-V was readily able to tackle 400 miles at a time without tiring me out, but it was by no means an SUV that could really try to game the traffic by exploiting gaps.
The high mpg ratings come with a price, and overtaking was not one of its strengths, even when not running in eco mode and with a cabin devoid of any kind of weighty cargo. The CR-V is of course geared toward fuel economy rather than smoking hot hatches from red lights, but the engine requires plenty of throttle input to move around at highway speeds. Acceleration from 40 mph up to highway speeds can be a bit of long process and it really takes steady pressure on the throttle to briskly get the CR-V up to cruising speeds.
Speaking of cargo, the interior is very nicely appointed for the price, and the chassis could easily cope with hauling several hundred pounds worth of firewood. Most of the interior materials felt expensive, and there weren't really any areas of the cabin which I felt Honda skimped on designing or executing, even though some plastic surfaces were better than others. Road noise in the CR-V is minimal, and the electronic nannies, including a camera in the right side mirror that displays the lane next to you on the infotainment screen, are on the helpful side.
For me, the versatile interior made up for a lack of agility on the road, and I suspect plenty of buyers will be happy with this equation as well in a daily driver. With a starting price of $33,600, the AWD Touring model will make plenty of sense to plenty of buyers, and there are enough standard and optional features on offer to satisfy almost everyone who’s shopping in this segment.
There’ve been suspension revisions as well with retuned springs, dampers, stiffening the trailing arms and revising of the front lower arms.PHOTO BY HONDA
WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: The model I had in LA was the top-of-the-line, fully loaded, tuna boat edition of the Honda CR-V -- the Touring. It had everything Honda could cram into such a small crossover: power tilt moonroof, power tailgate, a host of connectivity features including probably everything you would ever want in that regard, as well as lane keeping assist, which, thankfully, could be turned off.
The CR-V is a good choice no matter what trim level you get, though. You can fold down the 60/40 rears and put a bicycle in there, fold them up and haul around five full-sized adults, or just drive by yourself and enjoy that connectivity. I drove it across the desert to Las Vegas and found it was refreshing to not have to worry about speeding tickets. Yes, the CR-V is not a nitro-fueled ground-pounder when it comes to speed. So what? Buyers here aren’t taking it to the Saturday Night Grudge Matches. They want efficiency from their powertrains. Toward that end the EPA says you’ll get 26 city/33 highway from the new 185-hp 2.4-liter four. I drove kind of like a maniac and got 25.6 mpg but, like I say, I was driving like a maniac, squeezing every last horsepower out of the little engine that could. I also had the CVT transmission, but it wasn’t as awful as earlier ones and almost felt like an automatic in terms of its not winding screamingly to redline when floored. With front-wheel drive instead of the all-wheel drive I had you only get another mpg so it’s hardly worth dropping all-weather capability just to get a hoped-for mile per gallon more out of each tank, especially with gas at 1980s prices.
I even stopped at Stoddard Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area in Barstow and tooled around a little. If you really wanted to go off-roading in this regularly you’d probably want to get tires more suited for the task, but with adequate-enough clearance and approach and departure angles you could go out in the desert and go hiking or camping or something with a lot more confidence than you might in a sedan. It could be fun!
While this practical, economical hauler of young families starts at an entirely reasonable 24-or-so grand, the 2015 Touring I commandeered stickered at $33,600 when all was said and done, which is a lot of coin for the intended buyer. You could also get a Toyota RAV4 Limited or a Buick Encore Premium, among others, and feel like you’d made a good choice. As with so many segments nowadays, it’s a real buyer’s market.
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