A sleek new look and slew of driver's aids make the new CR-V the king of crossovers.
Instead of joining pals on an impromptu trip to Mexico to watch the Baja 1000 after the Los Angeles Auto Show, I was sick, cruising in the 2017 Honda CR-V to the only place I knew would make me feel better: Mom's house.
If you've ever tried to negotiate traffic while sick, you'll understand my pain. The miles tend to creep by ever so slowly as you gingerly move from gas to brake and back again. But I had a secret weapon this time. This new CR-V arrived with low-speed adaptive cruise control. I just let the car do the work while I concentrated on not throwing up, looking forward to Mom taking care of me in the comfort of my childhood bedroom.
This is what driver-assistance technology is made for.
The CR-V has been one of America's best-selling SUVs for the past twenty years. Look around, and you're sure to see more than one of the four-million units sold since its debut in 1997.
Now in its fifth generation, Honda has given us a brand-new CR-V, and none too soon, as the previous model was looking, well, a bit long in the tooth.
Just looking at the 2017 CR-V, with its distinctive new rear fascia, sharply flared fenders and a sculpted hood, is a delight. The fifth generation gets available LED lights all around, a longer wheelbase and larger wheels. Design is subjective, but the new additions add up to a much sleeker and more sophisticated design than the outgoing generation.
A crossover is only as good as its cargo area, and here Honda introduces a nifty new feature. A kick-operated power tailgate is available, and it has a user-defined height feature, so if you're vertically challenged or maybe your garage has a low ceiling, you can program the tailgate to open at lower than maximum height.
Inside, the CR-V goes beyond boasting legroom for rear passengers -- it has a whopping 10 inches of additional linear cargo space with the rear seats folded down. Total cargo is up to 75.8 cubic feet, an increase from 70.9 in the 2016 model. That beats the pants off the current Mazda CX-5 and just edges out the Toyota RAV4.
Up front, the center console can be customized three ways, with a removable tray that can keep smaller items within reach or be put away completely, and there's plenty of storage in the doors for water bottles, iPads and even maps. Remember maps? Well, there's room in the doors for them.
Drivers get more help behind the wheel in this new Honda, too. Blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert saved me from a parking-lot fender-bender. The CR-V's lane-keeping technology does a fairly good job at keeping the vehicle centered, but remember, it's an assist, not an autonomous-drive system. Keep those hands on the wheel, folks. Both technologies are standard on all but the LX.
A seven-inch touchscreen is standard on all but the LX trim too -- see a pattern here? Navigation, powered by Garmin, proved simple to use but lacks one-box destination entry. You may find yourself bypassing the in-car navigation entirely, as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard. And while this may seem like an odd feature to be celebrating, Honda has nixed the outgoing model's touchscreen-based slider volume control for a simpler old-school control knob. Analog FTW!
Under the hood, Honda sticks with its 2.4-liter engine in the base LX trim, it's good for 184 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. I didn't get a chance to sample this powertrain on my automaker-sponsored drive, however. Instead, I spent time with the snappy new 1.5-liter turbo, also used in the new Honda Civic. It's an engine that shows up in the CR-V EX trim line and above.
Knocking out 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet of torque, this is the engine to get. It's mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that sends the power either to the front wheels, or to an available all-wheel-drive system. AWD models like my tester get an EPA fuel economy rating of 27 miles per gallon city and 33 mpg highway. That's about the same as the Subaru Forester, but much better than the Toyota RAV4 and Jeep Cherokee. Expect a slight uptick in fuel economy for the front-wheel-drive version. My time in the CR-V included a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles and a week of city driving in the City of Angels, resulting in a solid combined 29.3 miles per gallon.
Honda has been on a mission to improve their CVTs, and it shows. The rubber-band feeling of previous generations is gone, replaced by revs that shoot up high when needed and return quickly to a more efficient -- and less noisy -- level when not. Acceleration is smooth, and while it's not the quickest thing on four wheels, the CR-V has enough juice to get you on the freeway and cruise happily at -- ahem -- slightly illegal speeds.
Your experience behind the wheel will be one of competence. The seats are very comfortable, the low-speed-follow feature noted above can be a life-saver, and the CR-V soaks up bumps and provides a smooth ride over most types of pavement. The steering offers quicker inputs than previous generations and it's quite precise, even at lower speeds. However, if you're looking for a fun and emotional drive, you're still better off trying the Mazda CX-5 or Ford Escape.
Today's small SUV segment is very competitive, with each manufacturer offering their own version of what they think America wants. The 2017 Honda CR-V promises to be quite successful. It's received a huge upgrade in the looks department and it offers an all-around excellent package, with noticeable increases in advanced safety equipment and added verve from its turbocharged engine.
Honda's newest CR-V goes on sale December 21. The base LX starts at $24,045, while the top-of-the-line Touring trim starts at $32,395.