2012 Honda CRV AWD: Unafraid of Dirt
October 16, 2012
Recent rains made the going easy in this part of Nevada, on account of a near total absence of dust and excellent grip. Resident mountain biking ace Josh Jacquot calls this sort of just-right damp soil by the name of Duncan Hines brownie mix, though the sandier patches out here trend slighty towards oatmeal cookies. Whatever, our 2012 Honda CR-V ate it up, which is a good thing since we covered all of 150 miles on dirt today, maybe more.
Mostly, the roads were kind of straight, but a good number of high- and medium-speed corners and more than a few crests and dips were sprinkled along the route to keep things interesting. The low places almost always presented us with an inviting mud puddle, and there were a few places where stones had been washed into the road.
Considering our load of 4 adults, their luggage, and two loaded coolers, I expected I'd have to rein myself in and tiptoe through the dips to keep out of the rear bump stops.
This was not the case. The Honda's suspension does not go all soggy when you add weight, instead it seems to come into its own, as if this was the situation it was built to serve. And so I was able to maintain a high pace -- upwards of 60 mph, in places -- and through it all the steering was direct and sure, the springs and dampers felt like they were right in their sweet spot, and the rear suspension still had travel enough to roll through the low places at barely-diminished speed, soaking up the compression without coming close to bottoming.
Note to self: remember to close the sunroof as you approach a mud puddle in this situation, otherwise your backseat passengers will be wearing tiny flecks of it. Sorry Linda and Rodger.
Of course the spur roads were narrower and more primitive than these, with steep gradients, rocky washouts and plants growing up through the middle and along the sides. Here we did have to back off as we negotiated around and over stones and straddled brush that rubbed harmlessly along the underside of the car. The CR-V's AWD system proved quite capable through a couple of three-wheel teeter sections, and the Honda's oddly slanted and somewhat unattractive nose provided decent approach angle clearance through a section of those huge desert whoop-de-doos that ATV's and dirt bikes leave behind.
Still, the 2012 CR-V doesn't have anything close to Jeep levels of ground clearance, so good line choice and a healthy respect for rocks is essential. We never had to get out and move any, though.
Could a passenger car have come this way? Yes, on 85 percent of these roads, but at nowhere near the pace we were able to comfortably maintain -- especially in the low, rocky and muddy places. As for the other 15 percent, the chances that a sedan would get stuck or damaged without copious on-the-spot trail grooming were pretty high.
All-in-all, the CR-V AWD is proving to be quite a capable soft-roader. It likes it out here.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 9,254 miles