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The 2007 Honda CR-V will never inflame the sort of passion that sends you out to the driveway in your pajamas at 2 a.m. just for a gawk or a little g-sampling blast up and down a desolate two-laner. It just wasn't built for that. It's not part of the portfolio.
An indication of the small SUV's intended place in the universe can be decoded from the first paragraph of its press kit. It's full of the kind of language easily understood by safety moms and solid if somewhat uninspired middle managers — "highly-versatile," "roomy," "sedanlike" and "highest levels of standard safety features in its segment." These aren't fighting words. This is the lexicon of rock-ribbed domestic values and a sober character. These are the "I think we should pass on the giant screen TV and get Junior some math tutoring instead" values.
An ACE up its sleeve
To begin with, the unibody CR-V is equipped with Honda's ACE (Advanced Compatibility Engineering) body structure. The primary goal of ACE is to protect the occupants by channeling and dissipating front and rear impact energy to prevent cabin deformation in a collision. Compared to the previous CR-V, this one's bending rigidity is increased by 84 percent, and 58 percent of the black metal is high-grade, high-strength steel. Even pedestrians are factored into the safety equation. The hood is made to deform if contact is made with an adult or child pedestrian and the windshield wiper pivots are designed to deform to reduce injury.
There are a total of six airbags — two dual-stage, dual-threshold frontal airbags for the front occupants, two additional side airbags tucked into the seatbacks for the front occupants and two side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor for the front and rear occupants that deploy from modules in the roof for additional head protection.
In typical Honda thoroughness, the rollover and G sensor actually determine what kind of rollover the CR-V is experiencing. The deployment algorithms figure out if the vehicle is in a "curb trip rollover," a "soil trip rollover" or a "screw rollover," which is exactly what it sounds like and exactly what you are if you ever find yourself in that scenario. Additional passive safety features include seatbelt pre-tensioners with load limiters. To keep your head on your shoulders in a rear collision, the CR-V has active front-seat head restraints. In a rear collision, the head restraints move up and forward to equalize the g-loads acting on your head and back. Nice touch.
Just enough, but not too much power
Motivation is provided by Honda's 2.4-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder. It's the same engine Honda used in the CR-V last year, but its power ratings are 10 horsepower and 1 pound-foot of torque higher thanks to a slightly higher-compression ratio, higher-flow intake and exhaust systems, and revised variable valve timing. With 166 hp and 161 lb-ft of torque, its numbers are on par with the four-cylinder Toyota RAV4 (166 hp, 165 lb-ft) and Jeep Compass (172 hp, 165 lb-ft).
Our tester managed 9.8 seconds to 60 mph and a leisurely 17.5-second quarter-mile with a 78.6-mph velocity at the gate. So it's no speed machine, but in and around town it never feels sluggish. It's even quick enough to make highway merging stress-free; just don't pick any fights with a V6 RAV4.
The only available transmission is a five-speed automatic equipped with what Honda calls the Grade Logic Control system. A set of algorithms in the transmission control module prevent gear hunting while traveling on hilly terrain. The standard drive-by-wire system keeps jerky throttle responses and clunky gearshifts under control.
AWD for safety, not Baja
To handle conditions that might otherwise cause the driver to break a sweat or appear in less than total control, the CR-V offers an available Real Time 4WD system. Honda's intentions for this system are solidly pavement-oriented and not meant for heavy-duty off-road excursions.
Instead it's a safety system designed to maintain traction in wet, slippery or snowy conditions. Using a multiplate clutch and two hydraulic pumps, Real Time 4WD only kicks power to the rear wheels if the system senses a difference in rotational speed between the front and rear. Hydraulic fluid is pumped to the rear in proportion to the amount of slippage. Compared to the previous CR-V model, the new-for-2007 version boosts the amount of torque transfer to the rear wheels by 20 percent.
Stability to spare
A huge aid in helping to maintain that sense of stability and control is an all-independent suspension system with MacPherson struts up front and a multilink arrangement at the rear. The essentially precise nature of this system is augmented by standard ABS and Honda's Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system.
In the slalom the CR-V exhibited brilliant steering response and surprising stability. Unlike some SUVs in its class, it feels confident during transitions and not the slightest bit tippy. Credit for the CR-V's stability and tossability has to go to the VSA system that applies brake pressure to the wheel that slips and redirects driving force to the wheel with more traction. Using seven sensors, VSA applies braking to the outside front and rear wheels during impending oversteer. On impending understeer, it applies braking force to the inside front and rear wheels.
If you don't want the assistance of several million dollars' worth of research and rely instead on your superior driving skills, you can push the VSA button to the left of the steering wheel and go solo. Top speed through the slalom was 63.4 mph, impressive for a small SUV.
Thanks to the brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution systems, the CR-V also comes to a stop from 60 mph in a very short 131 feet. Brake feel is also consistent, with no fade or pedal softness.
All that suspension technology, however, couldn't put the CR-V higher on the lateral acceleration scale than 0.77g. However, there's good news there. The CR-V is fun to toss around, rotating with throttle lift. Its limits are low, but it has excellent balance for a small SUV. In other words, it's controllable and no surprises are lurking under the surface.
Same size as before
Interior volume is within fractions of a percent of the previous model, but it's completely redesigned to create a more refined environment. Our tester was a fully maxed out, top-of-the-heap EX-L with heated leather-trimmed seats, power moonroof, XM radio and the available navigation system. The nav system is actually a package that includes voice recognition, a rearview camera that activates when you shift to reverse, a center-console-mounted six-disc CD player (the standard audio system has the six-disc changer in the dash) and a digital audio card reader.
The cargo area behind the front seats is typically minimal for a small ute but if somebody wanted a big cargo area, they wouldn't be looking at this class. The rear seats easily flip over and down if you really need the extra space, but realistically the CR-V isn't intended to be the family hauler or furniture fetcher. We're looking at this mini as the perfect all-around vehicle for a downsized family — the empty nesters or a hip urban couple with no kids — or an affluent single who has moved beyond the outdoorsy, hose-out-the-interior functionality of the Element. Available 4WD notwithstanding, the CR-V is just a little too classy for Spandex shorts, elbow pads and branches in the grille.
Can't beat the price
Maybe the best news of all is the CR-V's asking price. An entry-level 2WD CR-V LX is offered at a mere $20,600, and our AWD tester, which had leather, moonroof and a navigation system, clocked in at just $28,595 with destination. It's a lot of vehicle for the price, any way you slice it.
If your priorities are a great ride, D-lux interior and a lot of amenities for little scratch, this is your crossover.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
System Score: 9.0
Components: Every new Honda CR-V comes with a 160-watt stereo and includes an auxiliary jack for connecting handheld MP3 players. The system comes with four or six speakers, depending on trim level. Our test car was an EX-L with navigation, which bumps the audio system up significantly. The most noticeable upgrade is the addition of a subwoofer that is adjustable from the central touchscreen. Output jumps to 270 watts and only the EX-L with navigation has a compact flash card slot. Total speaker count is seven. With the addition of the navigation system, all major audio adjustments move to the touchscreen.
The addition of a nav system forces the CD changer to move to the center console, but you still get a six-disc changer. There's a single CD slot in the dash but that's for the navigation disc. Oddly, the six-disc CD changer has a note on it saying it cannot play MP3s, CD-Rs or CD-RWs but our CD-Rs and -RWs (burned from iTunes, no less) played just fine. If you have a bunch of MP3-coded CDs, you'll have to play them through the single-slot CD in the dash, which means no navigation.
Performance: This upgraded audio system sounds very good but we gave it a high score mainly because of its flexibility and ability to play music from many different types of media. It can handle MP3s, WMAs, PC card and traditional CDs, and it has an aux jack for portable MP3 players, as well as XM radio capability. You can't ask for more than that.
The sound quality overall is better than average and the addition of a subwoofer really gives the sound a nice, full quality and the bass it delivers is not prone to a lot of distortion. Occasionally, bass can get boomy but it's well controlled for the most part. The highs aren't always well defined but are crisp enough to add a little detail to most tracks. Midrange, which usually means vocals, is especially clear. Separation is also good.
Operation of the sound system is easy and intuitive for the most part, but there is one drawback to opting for the nav system. As we said earlier, the navigation screen forces the CD changer to move to the center console and Honda chose to use a magazine-type changer. To load a CD you have to eject the cartridge, slide little drawers out, put the CD in, then slide it back in and reinsert the cartridge. It's not the end of the world, but multi-CD changers from Audi and VW accomplish the same task without making you fumble with a magazine. However, to Honda's credit, the changer doesn't seem to excessively infringe on storage space.
Also, we like that the center-mounted touchscreen houses most of the audio functions, but that screen contains a lot of information and can occasionally be confusing.
Best Feature: Able to play music from many different types of media.
Worst feature: Six-CD changer moves from the dash to the center console when opting for navigation.
Conclusion: With excellent flexibility and great sound, CR-V owners who opt for the EX-L will be pleasantly surprised at what a premium sound system they're getting. — Brian Moody
Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh says:
If you've eaten Ben & Jerry's ice cream, you've seen the bizarre combinations those wacky ex-hippies come up with. Peanut butter-filled pretzels and banana-flavored ice cream? Creative concoctions are necessary to strike gold among virtually any audience. Likewise, in the SUV market, the introduction of the CR-V means there's an SUV flavor for everyone.
Honda's recipe for a mini-SUV sundae mixes a tastefully appointed if not coo-inducing interior with a hushed calm, and liberally sprinkles it with a plush ride. Steering and brake feel of the CR-V is intuitive, as is typical among Hondas. With its anonymous styling and rather tepid acceleration, though, the CR-V isn't likely to resonate with the single crowd. Where it will capture interest, I wager, is among wagon-wary couples of all ages seeking solid, flash-free daily transport. It packs a lot of goodness into one pint-sized container, but it lacks the punch and dynamic prowess of, say, a Mazda CX-7.
The cherry on top is the CR-V's price tag. It may not set your heart aflutter like its flashier rivals, but the CR-V is a pleasingly rich and creamy flavor of vanilla that won't break the bank. And Honda is banking on the fact that vanilla is the most popular flavor of all.
Inside Line Executive Editor Scott Oldham says:
In our recent First Drive report on the 2007 Honda CR-V, author Erin Riches quoted Christina Ra, a Honda product planner, who said, "The CR-V is for women in their early 30s who either have a child under 2 or are about to have their first child."
Well, I'm not female. I'm a dude and I've got the hair on my back to prove it. I'm also beyond my early 30s and I have two kids under the age of 4. And yet, I find the new CR-V to be a supremely well-thought-out and well-executed little SUV. From its featherweight tailgate to its two-tier cargo area, to its tight dynamics, Honda really sweated the details on this one. No, it doesn't have the might of a V6 RAV4, but slow it isn't, and its design smokes the Toyota's inside and out. Especially in, where the Honda just looks, feels and functions like an SUV costing much, much more.
Men and women, smart ones anyway, are sure to reap the CR-V's virtues. Honda has just reinvented the class. Again.
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