BY DAN LYONS
The fifth-generation CR-V makes its debut for 2017, and Honda’s veteran compact crossover is now a little less compact. The latest edition is slightly longer, wider, and taller than the previous version, and has dropped a few pounds to boot.
Five trim levels are available: LX, EX, EX-L, EX-L w/Navi, and Touring, with prices ranging from $24,045 to $32,395. Front-wheel drive is standard on CR-V, with AWD offered for an additional $1,300 on all models. My test car was a Touring model; with AWD and a $900 destination and handling charge, it had an as-delivered price of $34,595.
Honda’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine was formerly the sole choice in CR-V. This year, the 184-horsepower, 181-lb.-ft. of torque four is still standard issue on the base level LX. But, all trims above receive a turbocharged, 1.5-liter four-cylinder instead. The turbo engine makes 190 horsepower and 179 lb.-ft. of torque, with peak power between 2,000-5,000 rpm. That compares with 3,900 rpm for the 2.4L, and unsurprisingly, the turbo-powered CR-V feels livelier off the line.
Both engines are matched with a continuously variable transmission, and the pairings work well together. The turbo figures to be more fuel-frugal choice, at least according to EPA estimates that predict an AWD equipped turbo model like my tester will return 27 mpg city, 33 highway, and 29 combined. That compares with estimates of 25/31/27 for the 2.4L with AWD. I recorded 26 miles per gallon in mostly around-town travel during my test.
Like most crossovers, CR-V isn’t envisioned as an off-road trail basher. However, the 2017 edition picked up 1.5 inches of ground clearance (now 8.2 inches on AWD models) and light off-roading is well within its capabilities. More to the point, the enhanced, four-wheel grip makes the Honda properly armed for winter roads in Snowbelt states.
Real Time AWD is an on-demand system. Power is automatically transferred from its normal, front-wheel-drive mode to the rear wheels as needed, to maintain traction. Honda says the system has been upgraded to increase the maximum amount of torque that can be delivered to the rear wheels. A redesigned suspension makes the latest CR-V a skosh more agile. Ride quality is comfortable, aside from some impact harshness; handling feels safe and stable.
In top Touring trim, the interior presents an upscale look and feel. A 7-inch touchscreen replaces a 5-inch non-touch display on EX-and-above trim levels. The screen — located high and dead center on the dashboard — is the primary portal to many onboard features and functions. It’s an improvement over the last generation display in several ways. Most notably, the former, sliding volume control has been replaced by a knob that’s infinitely quicker to use, and less distracting to the driver. Honda, however, didn’t see fit to redesign the channel selector similarly. Tuning remains a slow process and many of the virtual buttons used on the screen are slow to respond to driver input; more so to a winter-gloved hand.
The redesign brings a technology upgrade to the infotainment system: Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility allow smartphone integration with the most popular platforms.
Rear-seat headrests bow forward to help the driver’s rear visibility when no one’s on board in back. Honda has dropped the previous LaneWatch system in favor of a more conventional (and usable) mirror-light, blind spot detection approach. The former system showed a video feed of the passenger-side rear view on a display screen when the turn signal was engaged.
Interior dimensions will feel right-sized for most compact crossover shoppers. The Honda will fit four to five adults inside, along with a generous helping of their belongings. Front/rear legroom measures 41.3/40.4 inches, big enough to hold six footers in both rows. Cargo capacity ranges from 39.2 to 75.8 cubic feet (up from 37.2 to 70.9 cu.-ft. in the last generation).
Liftover height in back is low, and the load floor has two height settings, so it can be laid flush with the rear seatbacks when they’re folded forward. The Touring package includes a hands-free power liftgate that’s activated by a leg swipe; especially handy when approaching the vehicle with arms full.
Honda Sensing — a suite of safety-related technologies standard on EX levels and up — has been expanded for 2017. Road departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control have been added to the roster of equipment, joining collision mitigating braking, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist and lane departure warning.