2011 Honda CR-V EX-L review: 2011 Honda CR-V EX-L

Additionally, the Bluetooth Handsfree Link system is an entirely separate system from the aforementioned navigation voice command, featuring its own steering-wheel buttons and commands. We were able to pair our phone using a series of voice commands (with no onscreen prompts) using a four-digit PIN. The Handsfree Link system allowed us to sync the address book of our Motorola Droid phone, but oddly stored those numbers in the navigation system's address book (the voice command system has a phone book of its own) yet didn't automatically generate voice tags for the stored addresses. Our options for initiating a hands-free call included using the touch screen to find a contact and initiate the call there, use voice command to dial by number (for example, "Dial 555-1234"), or take the time to manually create voice tags for the numbers that we most often called by manually adding them via voice command system one at a time. Either way you slice it, there's either going to be a lot of time spent upfront setting up the system or a lot of day-to-day time spent slogging through it.

Teaching an old car new tricks
Although the CR-V's displacement remains at 2.4 liters for 2011, Honda has managed to boost output by about 20 horsepower. The crossover now spins its flywheel to the tune of 180 ponies and 161 pound-feet of torque. From behind the wheel, however, you'd be hard pressed to notice. In fact, we didn't notice until we'd checked the specs.

The CR-V's 2.4-liter engine still has what it takes to match power and fuel economy of most of the competition.

But that doesn't mean that the CR-V performs poorly. Whether you notice the power boost or not, the CR-V does seem rather confident and very sure-footed in day-to-day driving. At many times during our week-long test, we found ourselves remarking that--at least from behind the wheel--the CR-V could easily be mistaken for the Honda Civic on which it is based. The crossover easily masks its bulk through off-ramps and emergency lane changes. As long as you don't go trying to channel the tossability of the Civic Si, we're sure that most drivers will be satisfied with the CR-V's performance.

However, one place that the CR-V no longer excels is at the pump. On paper, its EPA estimated 21 city and 27 highway mpg seem to be on par with the likes of the heavier Toyota RAV-4 and even better than the Volkswagen Tiguan, but that wasn't born out in our test. Our observed 21.3 mpg combined paled in comparison to the 26.4 mpg we logged with the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

For all of our complaints about the laggy nature of the Mitsubishi's CVT, it's light years ahead of the Honda's five-speed automatic transmission as far as efficiency is concerned and allows the Mitsubishi to take advantage of a smaller displacement engine, thanks to its more optimal gearing. Stepping up to a six-speed automatic transmission for the next iteration of the CR-V could work wonders for the crossover's fuel economy. While we're at it, we'd like to see more current-gen tech find its way into the CR-V's engine, as well. With the next-generation of the Honda Civic just around the corner, we're sure that it won't be long before the CR-V benefits from trickle-down features with a major refresh within the next model year or two.

In sum
Though we wouldn't go so far as to say that it's already out-classed, the 2011 Honda CR-V is not the hippest car. Its cabin tech package checks a lot of the right boxes, but pales in comparison to what we're seeing from upstarts Hyundai and Kia. For the most part, these cabin tech options are bundled in with the top-of-the-line EX-L trim level, leaving potential buyers stuck with a high cost of entry for what's essentially outdated tech.

The CR-V's biggest drawbacks are its outdated cabin tech package and its all-or-nothing options structure.

However, the CR-V's still got moves for an old girl, with performance that matches or beats many of its competitors. The same can be said about its fuel economy, which matches the likes of the Toyota RAV-4 and the newer Kia Sportage. However, smaller and nimbler crossovers like the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport will eat the Honda's lunch at the pump.

The Honda's taken some blows in the cabin tech department and scored some minor victories in the performance department, so it comes down to sticker price. The 2011 Honda CR-V starts at $21,695 at the LX trim level, but because Honda ties its options into the trim levels, you'll get next-to-no tech at that point. If you want Bluetooth hands-free calling, navigation, a rearview camera, premium audio, or even a USB port, it's all or nothing for the EX-L with Navigation model, which rolls all of that in with heated leather front seats for $28,645. Adding all-wheel drive bumps the damage up to $29,895. There are no more options beyond this point, so add in a $780 destination charge for an as-tested price of $30,675.

At that price, the CR-V loses a bit of its luster, particularly when we again compare it to the likes of the Mitsubishi Outlander and Kia Sportage, two models that offer arguably superior cabin technology and equal performance for thousands of dollars less.

Tech specs
Model 2011 Honda CR-Z
Trim EX-L with Navigation
Power train 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder, 4WD
EPA fuel economy 21 city/27 highway
Observed fuel economy 21.3 mpg
Navigation DVD-based, no traffic
Bluetooth phone support yes
Disc player Single-disc CD/MP3, six-disc cartridge-fed CD changer
MP3 player support USB port, iPod, analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, PC card slot
Other digital audio XM Satellite Radio
Audio system 270-watt, seven-speaker premium audio
Driver aids Backup camera, cruise control
Base price $21,695
Price as tested $30,675

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

2011 Honda CR-V EX-L

Part Number: 101358306

MSRP: $26,645.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Trim levels EX-L
  • Body style SUV
  • Available Engine Gas