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2015 Honda CR-V AWD Touring review: Modest improvements keep the CR-V relevant, but not dominant

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Typical Price: $27,990.00
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The Good The new 2.4-liter engine and continuously variable transmission combine and blend good around-town power with reasonable EPA efficiency. Honda's LaneWatch camera is useful for safe merging and parallel parking.

The Bad I wasn't able to meet the EPA's mpg estimates. Despite its updates, HondaLink infotainment and navigation still feels slow to respond to inputs and queries.

The Bottom Line The 2015 Honda CR-V makes modest improvements to efficiency, safety and tech across the board, but faces very stiff competition from younger challengers.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.3 Overall
  • Performance 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Design 8.0
  • Media & Connectivity 7.0

Review Sections

This week, the 2015 Honda CR-V arrived in the Car Tech garage. The fourth-generation CR-V dates back to 2012, but the compact SUV received a facelift for the 2015 model year and an "Earth Dreams" powertrain makeover.

Around town, the CR-V proved to be modestly zippy, but its performance is focused on comfort and efficiency. Under the hood is a 2.4-liter "Earth Dreams" four-cylinder engine good for 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. Earth Dreams Technology is Honda marketing-speak for a suite of fuel efficiency boosting technologies, including low-friction internals, revised i-VTEC variable valve timing, and direct injection.

Along with the Earth Dreams engine comes a new continuously variable transmission (CVT), now the only gearbox available on the 2015 CR-V. Enthusiasts tend to think of CVT as a four-letter word (figuratively speaking), but the CR-V's transmission works well in tandem with its four-cylinder engine. Together they are quiet and don't draw attention to themselves when driven at moderate speeds. Really mash the right pedal and the power delivery is good, but accompanied by the characteristic CVT drone at full throttle.

Together, the new engine and transmission combo net the CR-V an mpg gain of about 3 to 4 mpg across the board. In all-wheel drive trim, it's estimated to do 28 mpg combined -- or 26 city and 33 highway mpg. The front-wheel drive model gets an extra 1 mpg in each category. Tapping the ECON on the dashboard button puts the CR-V into its most efficient operating mode and gives drivers their best shot at the EPA's estimates. In this mode, the throttle response and the CVT's programming are adjusted for more mpgs.

Our Touring model arrived fully loaded with all-wheel drive, navigation, and all available creature comforts. During my testing, I was only able to average 20.1 mpg.

Let's talk about that navigation system for a moment. The Honda infotainment system is a bit convoluted. It features a two-tier dashboard display centered around a 7-inch color touchscreen and a smaller i-MID information display at the top of the dash. The 2015 CR-V swaps its "Honda Satellite Linked Navigation" system for a new 7-inch "HondaLink" setup, which boasts improvements in functionality that bring it into parity with the new HR-V and Fit models. For some reason, though, the system still manages to feel dated.

The new HondaLink navigation system still manages to feel dated and slow to respond. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

I liked that the home screen uses large icons that are easy to tap and read when the vehicle is in motion, but I didn't like that I had to return to the home screen whenever I wanted to change the displayed function. If I was navigating and wanted to quickly change my radio station, I'd have to pop out to the home screen, then drill into the audio menu. This wouldn't be so annoying if the HondaLink system weren't so slow about everything. There's about a 1-second delay between tapping a button and seeing the desired response, so that trip to the homescreen and back takes about 3 to 5 seconds. Faster response and physical shortcut buttons on the dashboard would be massive improvements.

The HondaLink system does feature an HDMI input and MirrorLink compatibility, so if you have a smartphone that supports that functionality, you can use its navigation on the touchscreen instead. There are also two USB ports for connecting digital media sources and charging mobile devices.

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