The 2015 Honda CR-V is like a gold-winning gymnast defending her title on the balance beam. She would make certain the fundamentals remained unchanged, while adding enough embellishments to impress the judges and win another gold medal.
The CR-V has been gold since its introduction in 1997. It was a new concept at the time -- a compact, car-based sport utility vehicle with front- or all-wheel-drive. Today we call that kind a vehicle a crossover utility vehicle or CUV. Honda's CR-V arrived at a time when the most popular SUV was the truck-based Ford Explorer, with rear- or four-wheel-drive.
Honda's math geeks put together numbers to testify that the CR-V has been the best-selling CUV of the last decade, garnering more than 3.3 million sales since 2004. In 2014, it is on a pace to post around 326,000 -- nearly all sales to individual buyers, as opposed to fleet buyers that drive up the sales numbers of other extremely high-volume vehicles.
CR-V has accomplished this by consistently providing compact size with four-cylinder power, good fuel economy, solid reliability and durability, low cost of ownership, and high resale value.
Not willing to rest on those laurels, Honda has done something unusual with the 2015 model, which is in the middle of the usual four to five year cycle of a given model, when manufacturers customarily do a bit of freshening to appear new.
Instead, Honda subjected the CR-V to a re-design, with a new Earth Dreams Technology iVTEC engine and transmission, revamped front and rear styling, extra safety and convenience features. Honda has also added a new trim level -- the Touring -- at the top of its five versions; others are LX, EX, EX-L, and EX-L Navi.
They all come with FWD or AWD and different levels of equipment. In Honda's typical marketing, there are no free-standing options. Each trim level comes with its own suite of features. Prices range from $23,320 for the base LX to $32,770 for the Touring AWD, the subject here.
The Touring model showcases safety technologies that are mostly found on luxury and near-luxury cars. They include forward collision warning, which does as the name describes; collision mitigation, which automatically applies the brakes before a crash; lane departure warning; lane keeping assist, which steers the CR-V back on course when it wanders, and adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set distance to the car ahead, braking and accelerating as needed.
In addition, all CR-Vs (except for the base LX) get Honda's exclusive Lane Watch system. Using the screen on the center stack, it displays a picture of the traffic to the right rear when the right turn signal is activated. A backup camera also is standard.
A major cool feature on the CR-V is the mechanism for folding the center seats to expand cargo space. A pull of a mechanical lever automatically flips the seat bottoms up, folds the headrests and drops the seatbacks flat, all in seconds. The Touring model also has a power tail gate.
Correcting a shortcoming that brought complaints from owners, the CR-V's fixed sun visors now slide on their support rods to block sun from the side.
All CR-V versions get the new 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) -- both of which were lifted from the popular midsize Accord sedan -- for improved performance and fuel economy. City/highway/combined fuel consumption is EPA rated at 27/34/29 for the front-drive versions and 26/33/28 for those with all-wheel drive.
Critics have been less than impressed by most CVTs, which operate on a system of belts and pulleys, and sometimes feel and sound as if they are slipping under hard acceleration. The Honda's version is not so encumbered. It provides a smooth surge of power throughout the engine's rev range.
On the road, the CR-V has capable handling, a supple ride, and a quiet interior. Surroundings on the Touring model -- with leather upholstery, wood grain trim, and soft surfaces -- could easily adorn a luxury or near luxury car.
Having engineered a takeover of the compact crossover SUV category, Honda undoubtedly will consolidate that position with the 2015 CR-V. It remains at the top of its class.
Copyright © 2014 Motor Matters
|Base price||$32,770 (as tested: $33,650)|
|Curb weight||3,624 lbs.|
|Engine type||16-valve iVTEC 4-cyl. w/DI|
|Epa mileage rating||26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway|
|Fuel capacity||15.3 gal.|
|Horsepower (net)||185 at 6400 rpm|
|Overall length||179.4 in.|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||181 at 3900 rpm|
|Vehicle type||5-passenger AWD CUV|
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