Many new vehicles are released with more fanfare than a political convention.
|Engine: 2.4-liter Earth Dreams four-cylinder with 185 hp and 181 lb-ft
Transmission: Continuously variable
Fuel Economy: Up to 27 MPG city, 34 highway and 29 combined with front-wheel drive.
Price: An entry-level LX model can be had for just $24,150 including $830 in destination and delivery charges.
But instead of balloons, confetti and propaganda-laced speeches their arrival at dealers is heralded with teaser photos, lengthy press releases and agitprop-rich advertising. Anyone that uses the Internet, reads newspapers or watches TV will be aware of whatever car or truck is going on sale.
The goal of all this is to grab the public’s attention, to strike while the proverbial ferrous metal is glowing brightly, while your product has a competitive advantage over rival vehicles. But bucking standard operating procedure, Honda has released its 2015 CR-V compact crossover with practically no extravagant hoopla. In fact the vehicle just went on sale and we only drove it late last week.
At the local media event they hosted, Honda officials trumpeted the 2015 CR-V as a major update to an already fresh product. They claimed the changes this vehicle received are much more significant than what most cars and trucks get during mid-cycle updates.
Almost every area of the vehicle was touched from the usual suspects including the exterior and cabin to the body structure, chassis and even powertrain. These enhancements were meant to take an already competitive product and propel it to the top of its segment.
The new CR-V may benefit from a comprehensive list of upgrades, but many customers will probably be hard pressed to notice them, from the outside at least. Sure, this crossover wears a new grille, updated headlamps with available LED daytime running lights and a revised rear fascia, but it still looks pretty much like the outgoing model. Squint a little and it’s even harder to tell them apart.
Adding a little wasabi to this otherwise straightforward sushi roll, Honda is offering several new wheel designs. Customers can opt for rims that span up to 18 inches.
Making it a little easier to load items in its cargo hold the CR-V can now be fitted with a power tailgate. It’s activated by pushing a button on the dashboard or using the key fob. No fancy foot-activation is available.
Behind the second-row seats this spacious crossover offers more than 35 cubic feet of storage space. With the rear bench folded flat that number increases to nearly 71. These figures exceed what’s offered by rivals including the Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Rogue.
Not to be out done, the CR-V’s cabin has been totally revamped as well, from the cup holders to its front sliding armrest. Yes, about the only noteworthy upgrade inside is a completely redesigned center console. The storage cubbies have been rearranged and it gains some electrical ports for charging smartphones, tablets or other small electronics. Additionally the console has gained a pair of air vents, which should be a real boon to rear-seat passengers.
A power driver’s seat and heated front buckets are standard on EX models and above, as is keyless entry with push-button start. Benefiting taller folks that ride up front, the CR-V’s sun visors now slide to help block more of the side glass and keep glare to a minimum.
Simple analog gauges give the driver all of the important information he or she needs at a glance. The cluster is dominated by a very large, centrally mounted speedometer. And right in the middle of this gauge is a digital readout for things like the odometer and outside temperature. Unfortunately this screen looks extremely chintzy; it’s little better than a 15-year-old graphing calculator. It sticks out like a frost-bitten finger in otherwise nicely thought-out interior.
Regrettably it’s the same story with the CR-V’s available navigation system. The interface is somewhat unintuitive but beyond that they’ve graced it with a series of physical buttons to the left of the screen.Normally this sounds like a good idea but the switches are tiny and therefore difficult to push while the vehicle is in motion. Exacerbating this problem, radio volume is controlled by a rocker switch as well!
Fortunately this vehicle’s interior is extremely well built with zero obvious fit-and-finish foibles. Additionally there are plenty of soft plastics on the armrests and lower portions of the dashboard. Sections that are made from hard polymers have a rich-looking, low-sheen finish to them that is surprisingly upscale.
Three different interior colors are available in the CR-V. Drivers can choose from a palate that includes black, gray and beige. The touring model I evaluated had a black interior and it was overwhelmingly gloomy, an issue that was exacerbated by dreary fall weather. The glove box should have come with some Prozac because the cabin was darker than an underground tunnel on the moon’s far side.
For the most part the 2015 CR-V is pretty similar to today’s model, especially from a design standpoint. Fortunately engineers put a little more effort into this vehicle than their colleagues did. It’s actually received a number of worthwhile mechanical updates.
The vehicle’s overall architecture has been enhanced. Its so-called ACE body structure – Honda shorthand for Advanced Compatibility Engineering – is designed to provide maximum protection in crashes. Accordingly it’s more rigid than before. Engineers anticipate the vehicle will earn Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for highway Safety, their best rating.
The 2015 CR-V can also boast of having a new front sub-frame and redesigned engine mounts, changes that help improve both its driving dynamics and refinement. The steering ratio has been quickened as well.
Like its competition, the capital H is pushing advanced driver-assistance technology. Their Honda Sensing suite of features includes things like collision-mitigation braking, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control and much more.
One of the coolest features is called LaneWatch. Basically it puts a small wide-angle camera underneath the passenger-side exterior mirror. When the driver uses the right turn signal to change lanes or make a maneuver the camera displays a video feed on the car’s navigation screen. This addition makes it super easy to see if anyone is in your blind spot. You can also turn it on manually via a button on the end of the signal stalk.
But more importantly than all of these changes are what engineers put ahead of the vehicle’s firewall. The new CR-V gains Honda’s 2.4-liter Earth Dreams four-cylinder engine. Thanks to direct fuel injection and other advanced features it pumps out 185 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque, 11 percent more twist than its identically sized predecessor (to save you from doing unnecessary math it used to make 163 lb-ft).
This smooth-running engine is matched to a continuously variable transmission; Honda’s long-in-the-gear-tooth five-speed automatic has been retired. This new powertrain combination delivers impressive fuel economy. Front-wheel-drive models should return 27 MPG in urban motoring, 34 on the highway and 29 combined.
All-wheel drive CR-Vs are ever-so-slightly less thrifty. They rate at 28 MPG combined. Interestingly between 60 and 65 percent of all CR-Vs are sold with this traction-enhancing addition.
All the improvements Honda has made both major and minor, enhance this vehicle’s on-road performance. In normal driving the new CR-V never seems to get flustered and thanks to its sturdy structure it feels more rigid than Lincoln’s cheekbones on Mount Rushmore.
The ride is nicely damped with a firm overall feel though it’s not harsh. Body control is impressive yet the suspenders can still absorb large impacts without disturbing occupants. Small imperfections and surface grain are also attenuated quite nicely.
The 2015 CR-V steers well; there’s nothing to complain about here. The tiller provides decent feedback and a sturdy feel with no unwanted vibration or kickback, even while traversing devastated pavement. Additionally braking performance has supposedly been improved by six percent, although the outgoing model was hardly weak in the stopping department.
Acceleration is as you would expect from a modern four-banger; it’s totally fine, though the CR-V is hardly fast. Luckily even when it’s singing at redline the company’s Earth Dreams engine is smooth, quiet and nicely isolated. Surprisingly, its CVT partner works well, too. Honda’s version of this transmission is one of the best on the market today.
After evaluating the 2015 CR-V for a few hours we came away quite impressed with this vehicle. It may not look all that exciting but it’s more practical than flat-packed Ikea furniture.
It offers a high-quality and very spacious interior, it drives well and should have enough advanced electronics to keep most technology enthusiasts sated. It’s fuel efficient, quiet and even attractively priced. An entry-level LX model can be driven off a dealer’s lot for just $24,150 including $830 in destination and delivery charges. A range-topping Touring-trim CR-V can be yours for as little as $32,350, again including delivery fees.
There’s absolutely no compelling reason NOT to buy a new CR-V, which is probably why Honda’s sold some 2.3 million of them over the past 10 years. The 2015 model promises to continue this decade-long winning streak.