2007 Honda CR-V EX-L review:

2007 Honda CR-V EX-L

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In contrast to the slick voice-command interface, the maps in the CR-V's navigation system are coarser than on higher-end systems such as that in the 2007 Acura TL Type-S. While streets are perfectly visible, the rendering is not great, leading to a blocky visual schematic. When giving turn-by-turn directions, the CR-V's navigation system reads out road names--a feature that we particularly like, as it enables drivers to get directions without taking their eyes from the road.

The audio system in the nav-equipped CR-V leaves something to be desired. It can be loaded up with up to seven CDs, but to do so requires both hands and a good deal of patience. This is because the audio system is spread out between the head-unit stack--where a single can be inserted behind the roll-down LCD screen--and the central console between the driver and rear passenger--where there lies buried a six-disc cartridge. To load CDs into the cartridge requires holding open a spring-loaded cover, pressing the Eject button, physically removing the cartridge, slotting CDs into the individual trays, and replacing the cartridge. Not exactly state-of-the-art.

Inserting discs in the center-mounted cartridge is a pain.

To compound the plight of the digital audiophile, the six-disc changer cannot be used to play homemade discs in the MP3 and WMA codecs. Those wishing to play 21st century music formats have to roll down the navigation screen using the Open button on the faceplate (as this happens, the screen displays a reminder that, despite appearances, this is not a drinks tray). With the screen down, drivers are greeted with a single MP3- and WMA-friendly disc slot, and a slot for a digital audio card reader, which can be used to play MP3 and WMA files from Compact Flash and similar media via a PC card adapter.

XM Satellite radio and a generic auxiliary-input jack in the cavernous center console--enabling connection of iPods and other portable music players--complete the CR-V's audio infrastructure. Audio sources can be controlled using multiple interfaces: remote buttons on the steering wheel for track selection and volume control; touch screen controls; hard buttons on the head-unit face plate; and of course the wonderful voice recognition system.

When playing MP3 and WMA discs, the CR-V's screen shows full ID3 tag information for folder, album, and artist. A nice feature when playing digital audio is the CR-V's Track List button, which provides a list of all the tracks on a particular disc by name. With a large number of files on an audio disc, the Track List function can take a minute or so to index them all, but once it has digested all the information, it provides a very useful dashboard for navigating a media library. Its one-touch scroll capability is particularly useful. One other noteworthy feature of the LCD screen in audio mode is the Background option that lets users choose one of three graphical backgrounds when playing music. Options include a plain white background, an EQ-curve animation showing random levels of output; and a ripple-effect animation. In daytime mode, these background graphics are very subtle, but in night mode, they are conspicuously visible.

The standard 270-watt six-speaker audio system on the 2007 Honda CR-V is pretty--well--standard in its quality of acoustic output. While it does have the admirable feature of a programmable subwoofer, output is muddy with little midrange refinement. One reason for this may be the ankle-level placement of the front door-mounted speakers, which have a lot of work to do to fill the CR-V's sizable cabin with immersive sound. Two tweeters at the foot of the A-pillars give some high-end clarity, but the overall acoustic experience is bass-heavy.

Under the hood
The 2007 Honda CR-V comes with one engine choice in the form of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder plant, making 166 horsepower. Like most new models in Honda's lineup, the CR-V features the iVTEC variable valve timing, which serves to adjust valve timing according to engine demand. It also comes with drive-by-wire throttle controls and Grade Logic Control, which is designed to adjust the shift points of the five-speed automatic transmission according to whether the car is on flat ground or going up or down hills.

The CR-V's 4-cylinder iVTEC engine is economical, but can feel underpowered.

For having such a small, low-powered engine relative to its size, the CR-V moves around with adequate thrust (even when loaded to capacity with dogs), although don't expect to be performing any whirlwind passing maneuvers in it. The CR-V's unit body feels generally solid and well balanced thanks to its MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension, which is tuned to deliver a surprisingly responsive ride.

In our time with the car, we observed an average fuel economy of 19.8 miles per gallon in around 200 miles of mixed freeway and city driving.

In sum
The 2007 Honda CR-V is a reenergized version of Honda's urban SUV, and its range of trim levels will appeal to a wide variety of drivers. Our navigation-equipped EX-L came with leather seats, heated front seats, voice-activated GPS navigation, a backup camera, and XM Satellite Radio all as standard equipment. The EX-L with navigation comes with a base price of $26,800, making it extremely competitive with the likes of the 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid and the Mazda CX 7

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