By on November 21, 2011

“Hey Brendan,” runs the e-mail from our illustrious ed., Ed, “I was wondering if you wanted to take on the most challenging story I’m currently facing: making the new Honda CR-V interesting.”

Fat chance.

“Don’t get taken in by the free bacon!”

Wait, what now? Free bacon? I’M THERE.

Next thing you know, I’m ensconced in the driver’s seat of Honda’s latest mild tweak total redesign, the 2012 Honda CR-V, rolling through the bleached-out stubble of the South Cali countryside, mentally projecting the headlines from our beloved colleagues, co-bloggists and fellow car-writey-types.

“The New CR-V: Has Honda Lost Its Mojo?”

“2012 CR-V: Honda’s Mojo, Has It Been Lost?”

“Totally Redesigned 2012 CR-V Casts Doubt on Whereabouts of Honda’s Mojo.”

“The Top 10 Cars Owned By Playboy Playmates! Also, CR-V something-something Mojo.”

Here’s the thing: there has been far too much ballyhoo, fooferaw, bluster and blather about Honda’s seeming design slump. It’s not a slump, it’s a strategy. The question is: does it work for the CR-V where it failed with the Civic?

Like the critically-unacclaimed Honda Civic, nearly every piece of sheetmetal on the new CR-V is completely different – but not such that you’d notice. In fact, as our convoy snakes its way through the bleached-out California landscape, I do a double-take as somebody triple-lane-changes out of our line and dives for the off-ramp. Did I miss a turn? Wait, no: it’s just some lunatic in a last-gen CR-V.

On the other hand, the conservatism works. Gone is the slightly frumpy melting ice-cube of the previous gen, which if you squinted a little, looked a bit like the ’11 cute-ute had muffin-top. The strong three-bar corporate grille gives the new CR-V some presence, the faux skid-plate treatment butches things up a bit, and from there on back think current Tribeca. There’s little to inspire, but also little to offend.

Inside, the cockpit should be familiar to anyone who’s sat in an Accord recently. Hard plastic surfaces abound, about which much hay will be made in various publications. However it’s perfectly acceptable, and should wear well except for the occasional bits of silver-painted trim. The between-seat storage bin, captain’s chairs and dash-mounted shifter maintain the modicum of mini-van present in the earlier model but overall, it’s a bit less utilitarian and more car-like.

A multi-angle backup camera is standard across the range, as well as an eco-coaching instrument cluster that goes green around the gills when you drive gently. Also standard: Bluetooth handfree and a USB connector for your audio. If you’ve an iPhone, you can run Pandora through the stereo, if you’ve a Blackberry, the car can read you your SMS messages. There’s now an optional DVD player to soothe rear-seat savages. Just enough tech to stay current.

Product specialists were quick to point out how clever the rear seats were, capable of damped flat-folding action with a single pull from either side, or via levers in the cargo bay. Don’t expect the Hogwarts-grade magic of the Fit’s rear seats, but again: easy-to-use, works well, doesn’t feel like it’s going to break. Honda has also bunged out the old cargo tray in favour of a more standard layout. Dog-owners take note: the cargo floor is very low at 23.6”, perfect for older pooches. The rear doors open a full ninety degrees for maximum kid-wrangling.

I mildly alarm my co-pilot for the launch, internationally acclaimed rockstar and noted loud-walker Blake Z. Rong – Cato to my Clouseau, Turner to my Hooch – as we enter a corner too hot and all-season tires howl in aggrieved indignation. Understeer? Oh sure. There’s less roll than you might expect, and the CR-V is perfectly capable of hustling along these winding country roads, but is there joy to be found in doing so? Not much.

Besides which, flinging the offspring around the cabin with lateral-g is a sure-fire way to end up cleaning vomit out of the headliner. Forget the hooning, focus instead on the comfortable ride (10% more damper stroke) and in-cabin noise levels which are decent until you start requesting revs.

This new CR-V still has a 5-speed transmission, albeit a revised one, and to hear the clucks of disapproval, you might think that’s a mis-step. Why? Because six is one more, innit? Despite the fact that every other manufacturer seems to be suffering from Nigel Tufnel Syndrome, the five-speed box in the CR-V puts out perfectly decent fuel-economy (22/30mpg claimed) and will doubtless give years of trouble-free operation because it doesn’t have a V6 attached to it.

Mind you, show the ’12 CR-V a steep hill and the 2.4L four-cylinder – with all of 5 more horsepower this year – can struggle a bit. Engaging Eco mode feels like you’re suddenly trying to tow the Sea Shepherd around. Twice I noticed a reluctance to kick down even with the accelerator fully depressed, and with gearing taller across the board things can get a bit leisurely.

The 2012 CR-V is pitched as a safe choice. An easy choice. A choice you might make based on sensible price, reasonable fuel economy, a legacy of decent reliability, strong resale value and low operating costs. This new Honda presents all the same arguments that you’d traditionally expect from a Toyota product, and it’s 5-10% better than the best-selling out-going model in every empirically measurable field.

But as I sit in the morning product presentation, listening as the PR folks flesh out the target buyer to the point where we could positively identify her in a police lineup (30s, female, “cool mom”, active lifestyle, enjoys Pina Coladas, getting caught in the rain, etc.) I can’t help but start contrasting this spit-and-polish with Mazda’s recent SKYACTIV show-and-tell. Mazda’s gambling, taking a moon-shot with high-compression engines and a dedication to driving pleasure. Honda’s reacting to current economic instabilities and the public’s cooling ardour for the automobile by circling the wagons. Except they don’t make wagons anymore, so they’re circling the crossovers.

The Q&A was even more telling. Why only five gears in the transmission? A: Our research told us that people weren’t asking for more gears, just better fuel economy. Why those hard plastics? A: Our research showed that people didn’t have a problem with the old interior. What about small-displacement turbocharged engines? A: Our research showed us that people weren’t asking for that.

You know what though? Survey every single ’80s Legend buyer, and nobody’s going to tell you to build an NSX. Survey every DC-chassis Integra owner and nobody’s going to tell you to build the S2000. Survey every ’90s Accord wagon owner, and nobody would tell you to build a small, flexible, Civic-based SUV.

This new CR-V is a fine, sensible appliance; they’re going to sell boatloads of them. Forgive me if I was hoping for something with a little more innovation, a little more invention, a little more cutting-edge.

A little more Honda.

Honda flew us all the way to sunny San Diego, put us up in a fancy hotel, crammed us full of rich food, provided current and previous models of the CR-V and even threw in a free Camelbak. We were also ferried to and from the airport in a high-mile Town Car.

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113 Comments on “Review: 2012 Honda CR-V EX-L...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Survey every single ’80s Legend buyer, and nobody’s going to tell you to build an NSX. Survey every DC-chassis Integra owner and nobody’s going to tell you to build the S2000. Survey every ’90s Accord wagon owner, and nobody would tell you to build a small, flexible, Civic-based SUV.

    Yeah, but hardly anyone bought either of those cars, possibly excepting the Integra, and that was because it was “the cheap Acura”, so what “they didn’t say” is irrelevant. What people do buy, by the boatloads, are Civic, Accords, CR-Vs and, to a lesser degree, TLs (except the current one) and Oddy’s.

    Honda is right on this. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t have a small-displacement turbo and/or direct injection, as (in the Civic) it gets better mileage than cars that do (the Elantra, the Cruze). It doesn’t matter that Accord wagon buyers didn’t ask for this car: hardly anyone bought Accord wagons, while hundreds of thousands bought CR-Vs.

    Honda has made mistakes (the Crosstour, which is like a CR-V, oly less functional), the new Civic, TL and TSX—which took the good bits of their predecessors and removed them, while retaining their problems—and the ZDX, which is the stupidest car in history.

    But the CR-V isn’t really a problem. It’s a very good little trucklet. It’s more like the Accord: it just doesn’t fit with preconceptions auto enthusiasts have about Honda, ignoring that this isn’t 1985 any more and, if Honda tried to make 1985-style Hondas, they’d be where Suzuki is today because those aren’t the kinds of cars people in North America want to buy. They might be forced to buy them by circumstance, and that allowed Honda a foot in the door, but it’s not what people in North America normally buy, and you can’t fault Honda for chasing the fat part of the market.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Honda has made mistakes…

      Don’t forget the Insight and CR-Z.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Neither of which are ‘bad’ in any way tbh… They just don’t meet the expectations of people who have forgotten what Honda was all about…

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        They just don’t meet the expectations of people who have forgotten what Honda was all about…

        On second thought, you’re right, playing constant second fiddle to Toyota is what Honda has always been about.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Toyota is to boring to bother kicking anyone’s teeth in. You’re talking aobut the company that killed off the Celica, MR2 and Supra and needed Subaru to help them build a new sportscar… The CR-V is probably the first and only, car Honda has built that is/was more practical than it’s Toyota rival.
        The Rav4 possibly also marked the first and only time Toyota has ever come up with something ‘new’ (as if the Explorer, S10 and Cherokee didn’t exist before it…)

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        And Crosstour!

        Oh, wait.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        The Insight isn’t bad in any way? Slow, cramped, cheap, loud, and harsh, yet less fuel efficient than the Prius. Poor handling despite harsh ride. Lousy interior and unrefined drivetrain despite the Honda badge on the front. I guess the front seats are decent, though.

        The Insight truly is a failure and an example of what happens when a formerly innovative automaker does a half-assed mimic of its competition.

        At least the CR-V was a decent formula to begin with.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        The main thing that makes the Insight ‘bad’ is that one of the largest car makers in the world (twice as big as Honda) happens to make a car that is better. It’s still the second best car in it’s segment :) And unlike Toyota it’s not their main pet project.
        Let me know when Toyota is the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, or when they get the deal to make ALL the Indycar engines…

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I dunno, much of the criticism of the Insight seems to be valid without any qualifiers attached. But yes, it is the second best in its segment, much as the Prius is the second worst. I’m just not accustomed to seeing Honda botch a car so badly; it seems like they used to pick their fights carefully.

        BTW, I don’t even want to know what a Toyota motorcycle would be like…

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Actually I’ll have to give up the Insight, I can’t find any really positive reviews on it, and I haven’t tried one. But they look better from the front than the Prius :P Unsurprisingly Honda has promised to at least tweak it a bit for the 2012 model…

    • 0 avatar

      What I was intimating with 90s accord reference was to indicate that the original CRV was, like the halo cars mentioned, a bit forward thinking. Again, thus is a solid bread-winner for Honda. But hopefully the mid-gen refresh adds one “wow” factor.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        But hopefully the mid-gen refresh adds one “wow” factor

        I’m not sure this is a “wow” segment. “Wow” tends to get punished in the mainstream.

        I think Honda is being reasonably smart. We could be looking at western, if not global, lost decade. Decontented, meagre and reliable cars could be the new black.

      • 0 avatar
        L'avventura

        The original CRV was a product of circumstance, not ‘forward thinking’. It was an SUV that was derived from their Civic platform. While the Fords of the world were making SUVs using their ladder frame platforms in a world where gas was below a $1 a gallon, Honda built the CRV to compete against the Corolla-based RAV4 that was released a year before. Only as the car has grown larger and fuel has become more expensive has the CRV becoming a sales success.

        This entire ‘review’- if it can be called that- is just vapid. There is no substance here. What is this ‘innovation’ you speak of.

        You mention the Skyactiv CX5. I absolutely love the Skyactiv technologies, but their CX5 is expected to get 31-33mpg with fancy 14:1 compression ratio engines and a DSG 6-speed style with a dedicated torque-converter for low revs. Making it only a couple miles better in mileage terms for a car that will worlds less reliable as the famously rock-solid CRV.

        Honda also did add a fancy direct-injection and even a variable-geometry turbo (VGT) on the CRV, in the form of the RDX. Honda in fact got a gasoline VGT to market before Porsche in 2006 with the 997 911 Turbo. Nobody called it innovative or forward thinking.

        The CRV, like most vehicles these days, follows the 3-series school of evolutionary automobiles. Fancy parts and technology negatively impact reliability. New components get added slowly and incrementally rather than all at once. There is a reason why there are still so many first-gen CRVs still on the road.

        And when Honda, or any other company, tries to be innovative and do something different they ultimately get shat on by the media and sell poorly in general; Element, CR-Z, Ridgeline, etc etc etc.

      • 0 avatar
        DannyZRC

        L’avventura, the RDX isn’t direct injected.

        the skyactiv automatic isn’t a DSG of any form, it’s a conventional planetary automatic with a much smaller torque converter and greatly enlarged lockup clutch.

        Also, the RDX’s variable flow exhaust turbine is a much simpler mechanism than what most people think of when you mention Variable Geometry Turbines(as in the 911 turbo you referenced).

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        @psar: “I’m not sure this is a “wow” segment. “Wow” tends to get punished in the mainstream.”

        Technical excellence and commercial success are not necessarily mutually exclusive – consider the 1992 Accord EX-R for example. Leading edge technology, plenty of “Wow Factor” and they sold plenty of them as well.

      • 0 avatar
        L'avventura

        @DannyZRC

        First, the RDX is direct-injected:

        http://reviews.carreview.com/2010-acura-rdx-fwd-review-a-cure-for-the-common-crossover
        http://www.caranddriver.com/photos-09q3/294680/2010-acura-rdx-turbocharged-and-direct-injected-23-liter-vtec-inline-4-engine-photo-294725

        Secondly, the Skyactiv Drive transmission uses a torque converter for low speeds (less than 5 mph), where DSG performs poorly, and a DSG-style multiplate clutch for the rest (Hate quoting AB but…):

        ” Frustrated with the inefficiency of a traditional torque converter at high speeds, and unwilling to accept the jerkiness of a dual-clutch system at lower speeds, Mazda designed what it feels is the best of both worlds. Its new Skyactiv-Drive automatic uses a torque converter below five mph for a smooth launch, However, at higher speeds the transmission uses a wet, multi-plate clutch just like a dual-clutch transmission does.”

        http://www.autoblog.com/2011/10/20/2012-mazda3-skyactiv-first-drive-review/

        Thirdly, there is no great difference between the underlining technology of the VGT in the RDX and the 997 turbo. Obviously, each are made to different application specifications, and one is made by Garret-Honeywell and the other by Borg-Warner, but VGT technology has been used in diesel engines for quite some time.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        @L’avventura

        So what you’re saying is that you already know how the reliability of a new, unproven power-train line will be versus a vehicle you feel is reliable based on information you derived from 10 years ago?

        Hondayota are in the mess they’re in now partially because of the boring, ugly, ricer-mobile inspired vehicles they’ve created (more-so Honda than Toyota RE: the ricer) and partially because the entire world feels they are somehow superior to everything else. Sorry, a car you liked in 1995 has literally NOTHING to do with the company that made a car you might want in 2011-12.

      • 0 avatar
        L'avventura

        First, the RDX is direct-injected:

        http://reviews.carreview.com/2010-acura-rdx-fwd-review-a-cure-for-the-common-crossover
        http://www.caranddriver.com/photos-09q3/294680/2010-acura-rdx-turbocharged-and-direct-injected-23-liter-vtec-inline-4-engine-photo-294725

        Secondly, the Skyactiv Drive transmission uses a torque converter for low speeds (less than 5 mph), where DSG performs poorly, and a DSG-style multiplate clutch for the rest (Hate quoting AB but…):

        ” Frustrated with the inefficiency of a traditional torque converter at high speeds, and unwilling to accept the jerkiness of a dual-clutch system at lower speeds, Mazda designed what it feels is the best of both worlds. Its new Skyactiv-Drive automatic uses a torque converter below five mph for a smooth launch, However, at higher speeds the transmission uses a wet, multi-plate clutch just like a dual-clutch transmission does.”

        http://www.autoblog.com/2011/10/20/2012-mazda3-skyactiv-first-drive-review/

        Thirdly, there is no great difference between the underlining technology of the VGT in the RDX and the 997 turbo. Obviously, each are made to different application specifications, and one is made by Garret-Honeywell and the other by Borg-Warner, but VGT technology has been used in diesel engines for quite some time.

      • 0 avatar
        L'avventura

        @DannyZRC.

        I replied in length with citations to your response but its still ‘awaiting moderation’ for over a day now (probably because all the links). But the RDX is in fact direct injected, the Skyactiv Drive has both a torque converter below 5mph, and also has a DSG-style multiplate clutch above 5 mph. And the RDX does use an advanced VGT turbo from Garret.

        @Tuffjuff

        Micheal Karesh has exhaustive data on the CRV and he’s also commented here on the CRV’s sterling reliability. As I’ve said above, new technologies will have its teething period. Which is why car makers these days to incremental introductions of new technologies into cars to have predictable reliability.

        As far as your ‘ricer’ comment, its not worth discussion.

      • 0 avatar
        DannyZRC

        L’avventura, your citations for the RDX being direct injected are are errors, the RDX is not direct injected. Due to the popularity of Direct Injection, honda has taken to calling coil on plug “Direct Ignition”, This is probably the source of the confusion for those articles you linked (and poor proofreading). Honda only has a brief experience with a small DI engine, the RDX isn’t it.

        In regards to the Skyactiv transmission, automatic transmissions already contain MANY wet multiplate clutches, which are similar to the 2 wet multiplate clutches used to connect and disconnect the 2 parallel input shafts in a double clutch transmission. One of these many is the torque converter lockup clutch, which in the Mazda application is larger than usual to provide for it being used more often to improve power and efficiency.

        A double clutch transmission has 2 clutches, an automatic transmission has more than 2 clutches. What defines a DCT is that it has 2 parallel gear reduction systems (usually layshaft, similar to a manual) which are selectively engaged. A planetary automatic has a single power path, through a sequence of planetary gear reductions, whose overall ratio is controlled by selective braking of various planetary elements.

        Third, a variable geometry turbine is usually made up of a variable geometry stator array consisting of many blades which affects the cross section of the exhaust system entering the turbine housing, as well as the angle at which it impacts the exhaust turbine’s blades. Honda’s variable flow turbine contains a single large flap in the turbo’s scroll which mostly just affects the cross section of the exhaust into the turbine housing. It’s a good system, I appreciate it’s combination of effectiveness and simple durability, but it’s not the same thing.

        VFT : http://mob59.photobucket.com/albums/g292/nickjt/variableflowturbocharger.jpg?t=1291870609

        VGT : http://www.fastmotoring.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/VNT-Turbo.jpg (called VNT here)

        Not trying to pick on you, but you are really not doing a good job of evaluating your sources or understanding the systems you’re arguing about on a technical level.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      So what you’re doing is basically encouraging Honda to continue to lie about lazily in their castle of perceived quality, continuing to reap the rewards while providing no measurable progress in their vehicles.

      You’re basically saying “everybody else in the world is continuing on with more efficient engines, better transmissions and nicer interiors but hey, do what you’re doing Honda!”

      lol.

    • 0 avatar

      “the new Civic, TL and TSX—which took the good bits of their predecessors and removed them, while retaining their problems”

      I don’t think that is quite fair. People complained about the hard ride in the Civic, so they made it softer. “Problem” fixed. Almost every reviewer complained about the TL’s torque steer. They did a smart job of fixing that. The also made the TL handle as well as the previous generation but ride much better, the refinement and interior noise was improved…in fact the only thing that wasn’t improved was the looks (arguably) and the steering. Let’s not get caught up in hyperbole.

      Still, I see the rest of your point. The only truly annoying thing about the Civic is the interior quality, otherwise I have no issue with the fact that they used basic, reliable technology to get results that are just as good (or better)than everybody else.

  • avatar
    Guzzi

    Yes once again Honda locks up the single woman with dog demographic. Is there a cutesy acronym for that demo that I’m unaware of? Surely there is one…

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      I’m definitely okay with that demographic. Better chance than a Forester.

      Anyways, the new CRV (like the last one) is nice but I wouldn’t replace my Outback with it.
      Otherwise, always been my favorite small-ute. Every time I go to purchase a vehicle, the CRV has been a top 3 choice but never took one home (last time it was lack of ground clearance and MT).

      • 0 avatar

        Why is it I’m having trouble finding any car I would replace my Outback with? Right now its:

        1. Another one of the same generation.
        2. An XC70 when I can afford it (and a T6 when I can afford to run it).

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        EChid:

        I feel the same about both of my vehicles. I know that the 3.2TL will need to be replaced at some point and since it’s mainly a commuter, I’ve put the Focus and Impreza high on my list. I drove both recently, got back in my 13 year old/138k mile car and enjoyed the comfort, visibility, and torquey engine. They are well-built and well-packaged vehicles, very refined, and the Impreza reminded me of my 1991 Integra in some ways.

        But I just can’t see myself owning one long-term and I think I’d rather keep what I have and put a grand or two in over time.

        The Outback is easier to replace though, but not with a newer model. My wife likes the new Outback, I’m not a big fan. I’d consider replacing ours with a more premium model, maybe even give up on the manual and get an automatic with the 3.0 H6. Plus she would like the big sunroof and the leather (the Acura is my first car with leather and it has held up very well).

        At the other end of the spectrum is my (somewhat realistic) dream replacement for either one, even given the car’s quibbles, would be a CTS-4 sedan or wagon. Especially considering their depreciation, it’s my favorite American car.

    • 0 avatar
      rodface

      This sounds your average cardiobunny at the gym.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      I call her Julie. Only it’s a kid instead of a dog. She one of my cycling partners on Sunday. Bought the CR-V because it was cute (major consideration), could deal with a child seat, and has a bicycle roof rack for her bright pink Waterford with Campagnolo Record 11.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Backup camera standard on all trim levels? Nice. Good mileage for the RT-AWD version, too.

  • avatar
    OhioPilot09

    I think this is exactly what Honda wanted and needs. They didn’t screw it up like the Civic, the styling won’t offend anyone (and really that IS Honda’s design philosophy) and everything is bulletproof. I think other companies are trying to shoot for the moon with 18 gears and super-turbo-0.5L engines but people look at MPG, reliability and resale which this car excedes in all of those, no matter the technology.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      I think other companies are trying to shoot for the moon with 18 gears and super-turbo-0.5L engines

      Honestly, that sounds like something a 1980′s GM executive would say.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Except 1980′s GM product drove like crap and died prematurely. Honda’s 2.4L/5 speed combo is well behaved and rock solid. CR-V buyers don’t care about cutting edge, they want reasonable, trouble-free performance.

      • 0 avatar
        GarbageMotorsCo.

        But GM wasn’t dealing with an economy that is putting the squeeze on them.

        Remember, the “former” General was still the largest auto company in the world, putting out crap and not innovating was due to their extreme arrogance and cockiness. They could’ve cared less, really.

        Honda has a lot more to loose, and with the rising yen (and recent stumbles already noted above), they are playing it safe.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Decent write up. I do wish you had expanded more on the capacity and roominess compared to last gen and competition. Not really my cup of tea. Prefer CX7, or the like. It looks roomy. Interior looks cheap in pics maybe not that way in person.

  • avatar
    86er

    On the other hand, the conservatism works. Gone is the slightly frumpy melting ice-cube of the previous gen, which if you squinted a little, looked a bit like the ’11 cute-ute had muffin-top.

    It really does cater to its intended market, then.

    I can’t recall the year, but I believe it was the mid 60s. The Oldsmobile 88 was all-new, meaning all-new sheet metal. You couldn’t tell it from the previous year’s model if you parked them side-by-each and examined them with a magnifying glass.

    I drive by my Chevrolet dealer. It used to sell Oldsmobiles.

    Conservatism* works, for a while. I see this as I gaze out the window of my shack in rural Saskatchewan. You can freeze-frame the past and it’ll stay there, suspended, for a while. But much like the melting ice cube from which the CR-V takes its inspiration, exert enough external pressure and it will disappear.

    *I most certainly was not referring to conservatism in the political sense. Psar, keep your pants on.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      What, you think I’ll drop to my knees for anyone sufficiently Liberal? Or New Democratic? Give me a little (social) credit!

      Just because I’m a pinko doesn’t mean, ah, well, I’ll stop now…

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      So is the CR-V the communist dream car (extremely practical, can do everything, but make you ‘want’ it) or is it part of the consumer driven CUV fad, constructed only so that people can buy a (designe to look) safe, big car that looks like an Offroader for suburban housewifes who can’t afford to run an Escalade?

  • avatar
    ajla

    Forgive me if I was hoping for something with a little more innovation, a little more invention, a little more cutting-edge.

    There is always the RDX.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      And there’s the problem: there’s your semi-premium turbo-charged trucklet that rides like a sportcar that no one is buying.

      Or there’s the Crosstour, which is pretty avant-garde and barely sells any.

      Or the ZDX, which is so avant-garde, it’s useless and doesn’t sell at all.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        As someone who considered buying said “trucklet” I have to express some frustration with Honda (and I bought my first Honda in 1978, so I figure I’m entitled! ;-))

        I actually liked everything about my brief encounter with the RDX except for two very big things:

        1. A surging turbo that made gentle launches from a dead stop impossible. C’mon guys, if my 9- year old Saab turbo automatic can launch gently from a stop, why can’t the RDX? This reminded me of nothing so much as my experience driving an early Volvo turbo (1986) up a moderate grade at 60 mph: it was impossible to hold a constant speed as the engine would bog down, then more throttle would bring on some boost, which would produce too much speed. Even the cruise control couldn’t do it.

        2. Fuel economy that is apparently not significantly better than my much larger Honda Pilot, with an engine of the same (or a little higher) output, albeit a V-6.

        My experience is not unusual. As far as the much-hyped variable geometry turbo is concerned . . . I could see no advantage to it as compared to the turbo on my ’02 Saab.

        Others have complained about the stiff ride. I did not find it unbearable, and I accept the fact that the car’s handling prowess is the benefit.

        But, with today’s drive-by-wire technology, why can’t they get the turbo right?

      • 0 avatar

        DC Bruce: The RDX is an annoying vehicle for me. Theoretically, its pretty ideal. Small, turbo, luxury, sporty, more refined and elite than CR-V, yet still does everything.

        But then, fuel economy is poor, the engine doesn’t make up for it, it’s not that pretty (although not that ugly) and, worst of all, its a tall vehicle with a harsh ride. The on redeeming trait of many Crossovers is that they at least give you a cushy ride. Not so here.

        But the tug of Honda reliability/resale, sportiness, functionality and SH-AWD certainly make a good case for one.

      • 0 avatar
        GarbageMotorsCo.

        To be fair, the RDX is going on 6 years old now and when it arrived in 2006, it was a new approach to power for Honda with the T-4 and was generally praised for it’s abilities.

        Then the gas crunch of 2008 killed it’s momentum. Premium fuel in a small vehicle that gets 20MPG doesn’t make a good case for itself nowadays. And to be fair (again) the same thing has happened to the Mazda CX-7.

        Hopefully, the CR-V will be just the beginning of “good things” which will lead us to a very improved new generation RDX.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    So Honda wants us to drop another $35,000 on a vehicle that is pretty much the same thing they made four years ago, but different in a lot of minor ways. Why? Because they are Honda and you are a lemming, silly.

    Look, it is The Hangover 2, as a feminized CUV.

  • avatar
    Prado

    “listening as the PR folks flesh out the target buyer to the point where we could positively identify her in a police lineup (30s, female, “cool mom”, active lifestyle, enjoys Pina Coladas, getting caught in the rain, etc.)”

    Sound like the same demographic for new the Ford Escape … and they even got the right name to match the song.

  • avatar

    I struggled with whether to attend this event. A big seller, but the changes appeared minimal and my October was very, very full. Seems I made the right call. This piece certainly does the event justice. Thanks, Brendan.

    One definite strength of the CR-V: it has consistently been among the most reliable models in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey. Super low repair frequency. With few major changes, the 2012 should be similar.

    We’ll have initial results for the 2012 Civic later this week. The same for the CR-V once enough owners get involved.

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

    • 0 avatar
      changsta

      I was really looking forward to reading your impressions on the 2012 CR-V Michael. I find that your reviews are pretty much in line with my own perceptions of most vehicles.

      I really liked the current Gen CR-V, but found it a little gutless, and the ride a little harsh. Looks like they fixed the ride, but did nothing about the power, and in the process, according to reports, the steering is less precise and numb. The previous gen CR-V was almost perfect to me as an everyday/road trip vehicle, so this is a little disappointing. I’ll have to take one for a spin. I hope that Honda has lowered the price on the CR-V as they did with the latest Civic, especially in light of the cheaper interior materials. If they have managed to lower the price, I think this CR-V will be a runaway success.

      • 0 avatar

        Let me second the call for a Karesh Take Two on this – in the real world. I don’t mention it, but the drive on this car wasn’t over-long, and of course we didn’t have a chance to accurately gauge real-world fuel economy, and I wouldn’t mind seeing how it handled in the rain and snow.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Ok, so it might be boring, it may not have much of that ‘new car’ fell to it. And it looks just like the previous model, without sharing one sheet-metal (or plastic) piece? I think that is quite an achievement. I noticed the same with the previous CR-V’s. From a distance, and especially in the dark, my 2nd gen looks just like a 1st gen. And the same for the 3rd compared to mine. Honda has discovered something the Europeans have known about for ages, it’s called brand identification. (As much as a car enthusiast I am I can’t tell which one of the last three generations of Audi A6 is the current one, or in which order they were built, same goes for old Mercedes’s) They actually build a car that many people need, not necessarily dream of owning, And that many people are going to be very happy with. And it’s still not as bland as a Toyota, even if they seem to have surpassed Toyota when it comes to reliability. The one thing I don’t like though, is the slightly condescending nature of Honda, as they only give you what you ‘need’, not what you ‘want’. But it’s hardly a new thing… (supercar with an economic reliable v6 ,anyone?)

  • avatar
    MarkP

    I hope it’s reliable. Our 2005 wasn’t as reliable as my 2001 VW Golf tdi. But it was damned competent. We once pulled out a big, old Dodge 3500 sideways when it was hung up on center in a muddy area. If the current one can do that, I have to give it props. Props, but no sale. We traded ours for another VW.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      Statistically you must have been extremely lucky with your Golf, or extremely unlucky with your CR-V. Unless pulling a Dodge 3500 sideways counts as abuse towards the wimpy drivetrain on the CR-V, which it was honestly never designed to do, and that caused the problems you had later. ( I will not argue that the sound insulation and material quality is worse in the Honda though…)

      • 0 avatar
        MarkP

        I have commented previously about reliability with respect to our VW. As I said then, reliability is based on statistics. Anyone can get a lemon of a “reliable” car, and even the least reliable car types include many, many examples that never have a single problem.

        I don’t know whether pulling our truck out of a jam harmed the car. I suspect not, but who knows. I do know that at least one part of the reliability issue involved a $1200 starter replacement, and that was definitely not caused by one towing incident.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Thats why I added the word ‘statistically’ in the first place. I even know people who have owned older BMW’s with little or no expensive repairs for more than two years, and people who’ve had Toyotas that were not completely near problem free. (Ok, the Toyota in question was a minivan, and the Bimmer a base model, but still.)

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Brendan….Where’s the bacon?

  • avatar

    Sounds like the ride to/from the airport was the most interesting part of the junket. Sweet.

  • avatar
    th009

    So is there anything substantial new mechanically? Or is it really just an extensive facelift?

  • avatar
    Eddie_515

    The Crosstour nose works better here.

    (Somebody had to bring up the similarity.)

  • avatar
    jmo

    The Q&A was even more telling. Why only five gears in the transmission? A: Our research told us that people weren’t asking for more gears, just better fuel economy. Why those hard plastics? A: Our research showed that people didn’t have a problem with the old interior. What about small-displacement turbocharged engines? A: Our research showed us that people weren’t asking for that.

    Shortly before the iPad tablet went on sale last year, Steven P. Jobs showed off Apple’s latest creation to a small group of journalists. One asked what consumer and market research Apple had done to guide the development of the new product.

    “None,” Mr. Jobs replied. “It isn’t the consumers’ job to know what they want.”

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Jobs has said that before, and he’s largely right. Consumers don’t often know what they want, so you have to show a little vision.

      The other side of his point is that you can’t do is show so much vision that it gets in the way of your making a useful product. Apple’s best-selling stuff might be answering questions no one knew to ask, but it’s also mercilessly refined.

      No one could say that, eg, the Aztek or ZDX were refined to the point of usable perfection. I don’t have a lot of experience with the Aztek, but I personally question if anyone actually tried to step in the ZDX, let alone drove it, before it was inflicted on the public.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      In his lifetime, Jobs did some great things. But he had some pretty damn big failures, too.

      Maybe if Jobs had done a little consumer and market research, he wouldn’t have pushed into production such boners like the Apple III, the Macintosh (1st gen), the Cube, Apple TV, ‘Pages’ word processor, and what may rank as one of the greatest computer flops ever, the Lisa.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Which only goes to show: To come up with brilliance, you have to be willing to risk failure. I’d like to see a lot more of that attitude in all the car companies. And Hollywood production companies.

        Yeah, right. On both.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      The Q&A make it sound like the GM beancounters that Lutz was complaining about in his recent book found jobs with Honda.

      As someone who first read this on my iPad 2 and is now typing up a reply on my MacBook Pro, Steve Jobs’ approach works at least some of the time for me.

      I don’t think it is appropriate to completely ignore focus groups – but the focus group data shouldn’t be taken as gospel. It is better to connect the dots and figure out how to give the customers something that meets their requirements, rather than just implementing what they are asking for. A good automotive example of this is Chrysler’s 1983 introduction of the modern minivan.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Look at the CRV in profile. Note how the window seems to taper the roofile. It actually doesn’t.

    Those CUVs like the Tucson and Rogue end up with smaller cargo areas because the roofline tapers. But the CRV and RAV4 only hint at a taper while preserving the van roofline.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    In football, when you are ahead, you play conservatively. Run the ball between the tackles, keep the lead safe. Don’t risk a turnover. No need for the deep post pattern.

    Car making is like that, too.

    Which begat GM, then begat Toyota. Now it appears to begatting Honda.

    No crime. It just makes one sigh over what such talented engineers could do if turned loose to pursue what formerly was known as Honda’s corporate muse…..

  • avatar
    slance66

    Since the introduction of aerodynamics as a mainstream design requirement, and cars like the Taurus that were bold at the time, how far can they really go? Look at the new 3 series, it looks like the old one. Seriously, what can they change about the old CR-V in any “dramatic” way that wouldn’t screw it up? It was popular and good looking, so you don’t go crazy on the styling, you already botched that with the TL. I’d still like to see a 6sp auto, but most people don’t know or care how many speeds are in their ATs. Hard plastics in places you don’t touch keep prices down.

    Look at the new Carmy. Just subtle visual changes, but I like it better. But the reality is that design is constrained by aerodynamics, EURO pedestrian crash requirements and basic functional requirements. I think we will see much less innovation in design in the coming years, as there isn’t much more they can do while retaining functionality.

  • avatar
    imag

    Nice review.

    And while the overall shape is the same as the old one, it doesn’t have those creased bulges that just looked gross to me somehow.

    I wish they had something like the original CRV. And Toyota the original RAV4.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      ‘I wish they had something like the original CRV. And Toyota the original RAV4.’
      With the production numbers of said cars + the reliability they are both known for, I don’t think it would be hard to find a good one. Henry Ford tried to build the same car for 20 years, improving it bit by bit, and making it cheaper and more reliable at every step.
      You can blame Edsel Ford and the model A for needless evolution in cars just for the sake of selling a ‘new’ car every year. Just imagine how reliable and efficient (and hysterically cheap) the T could have been had he continued until today. Well, he wouldn’t have been able to sell any model T’s after 1930 because it was outdated, but just imagine it :P

      • 0 avatar
        imag

        This.

        My wife’s car is a 2-door RAV4. It’s FWD with the bombproof 90′s-era Toyota switchgear. It gets 30 mpg on the highway, can handle enough dirt roads to get us to some reasonably remote locations, and can tow our jet ski or hold a rack of skis.

        The car looks like a clown shoe, but it’s a hoot to drive. If they made the exact same vehicle today, I would absolutely buy another one.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        I’m sorry if I’m wrong, as the Element isn’t sold in Norway I have no first hand knowledge on it, but it sounds right for your needs? It’s possible that it’s not ‘rugged’ enough.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    Apparently the base LX still doesn’t come with tinted glass or variable intermittent wipers. That variable knob costs, what, 50 cents? That’s got to be the cheapest decontenting stunt any automaker currently pulls, and Honda’s been doing it for years now.

    At least a modern stereo is standard across the board now. The one touch folding seats are a nice feature (at the expense of the old model’s cargo shelf and sliding seats). Other than that, it’s pretty much the old model with different styling and ride comfort/efficiency refinements. However, in this economy, that’s probably the smart move on Honda’s part; the flashy redesigns and gee-whiz features that many automakers are banking on right now may not pay off they way they’re hoping.

    My folks bought a new ’11 CR-V SE about a year ago, in part because they feared the new model would continue Honda’s recent trend of ever-increasing hideousness. The new CR-V isn’t bad-looking, but I don’t think my parents missed out on anything, either.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      IIRC, the Civic is the same way on the variable intermittent wipers. You can buy a new stalk ($$) and add them to the lower models.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I don’t get it either. I was browsing an Element forum recently and one guy had a write up on swapping a variable-speed wiper control out of a Pilot. Direct from Honda, the Pilot’s variable-speed stalk costs LESS than the Element’s single-speed. That’s some crazy bean counting.

  • avatar
    jandrews

    “Honda’s reacting to current economic instabilities and the public’s cooling ardour for the automobile by circling the wagons. Except they don’t make wagons anymore, so they’re circling the crossovers.”

    This is the kind of writing TTAC used to have a little more of.

    a) Well done.
    b) They need to give you more reviews.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The first thing I noticed when I saw the top photo is how the side glass line gives the vehicle a sort of “roachback”© look.

    I suppose it’s O.K. for what it is, a no-nonsense all-around grocery-getter and family dog(s) transport, which was one of the major reasons my wife wanted our 2002 CR-V.

    Yeah, all the hard plastic – my wife doesn’t mind. Me? I don’t care. The soft-touch areas are what I hate, as they scuff so easily and look horrid after a very short time. Oh, well, we aren’t buying one anytime soon, but it looks like an improvement over ours. We’ll check one out at next February’s Cincinnati Auto Show.

    Nice review.

    ©Zackman. On advice of Geozinger

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    That shifter is so stupid. I don’t understand why Honda doesn’t just put the Column shifter in from the Ridgeline. There is a manual option, so there is no point in a “sporty” auto.

  • avatar
    smokingclutch

    No one who drives this is a “cool mom.” They just aren’t.

    The cool moms (read: Young MILFs) these days are driving ironically-cool woody wagons and Volkswagens.

  • avatar
    orick

    Is the visibility any better? Last gen had blind spots due to the stupid rear window / c pillar design. This one looks like it might have similar issues.

    I am hating all the latest trend of tight windows- Tucson, sportage, crv, 2013 escape…. May just have to get a rav4 or a rondo to be practical.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Given they’ve enlarged the C-D pillar window, I’d say that visibility should be better. Definitely better than the new Tucson and Sportage. The Sportage, in particular, is as easy to see out of as a mailbox.

      I love the fact that they’ve kept the great cargo space and have run with it… with the more squared-out back end, I imagine second row seating is much better, too.

  • avatar

    For Honda to have the “single woman with dog demographic” in the bag, none of the CR-V drivers I know are single, female, or own a dog.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I don’t know who buys it in the US, but here in Norway it seems to be driven by couples in the 40′s and up, often with dogs and/or grandchildren…
      I’m one of the youngest people I have seen driving one (I’m almost 33, and mine is 8 years old) But I don’t think many of the other buyers own an early 80′s rwd streetracer/sleeper project either…

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    My wife was one who HATED the interior of the 2011 CR-V. She was Honda’s buyer to lose when we drove in. They lost her.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    So, I understand what the survey’s said, customers not asking for turbo’s, more gears, and a better interior. But then, what were they asking for? The same vehicle, only slightly different?

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I’m afraid they only found customers who were quite happy with their cars, and know little or nothing about cars, who were willing to buy the same car again. off course they wouldn’t buy it if it didn’t look different, then they could have just kept the one they had…

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      That’s exactly what they were asking for. The CR-V was the best selling CUV in the US from 2007-2010 and through the first 4 months of 2011 until the tsunami slowed production.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Marginal improvements on one of the least interesting vehicles in an uninteresting segment. Yet this thing outsells all competitors. And as bland and derivative as this segment is, they are remarkably useful vehicles and I wouldn’t shy away from owning one. So Honda made a smart business decision here, just not an interesting one.

    I never really warmed to the last CR-V and this isn’t changing my mind. Still probably go for a RAV4 over this refreshed Honda; similar utility, similar quality, better powertrains.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    My wife had a co-worker that researched the Element to death via the internet. When she and her husband went for the test drive, she brought it back and in a state of shock, quietly told the salesman that they didn’t like it at all. The salesman smiled and suggested the CRV = they drove, they bought it that day. As far as I know it’s been relieable except for an AC issue. Me? I looked at them for my daughter’s first car but then she decided that it just wasn’t for her, and she was probably right. SUV’s even little ones tend to be a little harder to handle than a regular car. If I was in the market, I’d skip the new CRV since they still short changed it (IMHO) on horsepower.

  • avatar

    One detail jumps to me in particular: how the old sloping nose was replaced with the raised one, which is _remarkably_ similar to that of RAV4 (when looking from the side, the profile is exactly the same). But if you look under the hood, you find a significant gap between the old upper cross-member that was retained in previous position, and the grille that is now far away from it, and the amazingly long supporting members. I am wondering now if it is some kind of pedestrian-collision law at work.

  • avatar
    John R

    “30s, female, “cool mom”, active lifestyle, enjoys Pina Coladas, getting caught in the rain, etc.”

    Interesting. When I waited tables in college (at a Don Pablo’s no less) those women, specifically those who ordered the Pinas and looked liked the wanted to get caught in the rain, tended to drive new or pre-owned Muranos, sometimes Edges.

    The women who drove CR-Vs? They crossed shopped it with Subarus, if you know what I mean. And I’m not talking about WRXs or Legacy SEDANS.

    If that’s who Honda wants then they have got to put a better effort into spicing things up a bit. I see a lot young mommies rock the new Sportages.

  • avatar
    brettc

    A co-worker bought a 2011 CR-V. She’s a married mother with one kid (boy) and I think she just turned 40. She’s not Stifler’s mom, but she’s also not horrible looking. She has said that she liked her previous vehicle (a Chevy Blazer) better than the CR-V. But the Blazer was getting expensive to keep running so she bought the CR-V.

    My male boss also drives one, either a 2010 or 2011. He’s married with 2 young kids as well. So it seems to be a fairly popular vehicle for transporting families around. I guess it does what people expect it to do economically without offending anyone, which is all anyone could ask for.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    “Hey Brendan,” runs the e-mail from our illustrious ed., Ed, “I was wondering if you wanted to take on the most challenging story I’m currently facing: making the new Honda CR-V interesting.”

    Brendan, your review on what should be the most boring update, on the most boring car, has gotten more than 100 comments.
    Mission successful :)

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I love our CRV — its a second-gen model, back when it was styled to look like a real SUV and not a sporty “crossover”. Its practical, simple, and ultra-reliable. It is at 194k+ and drives like new still.

    Back then, the CRV was better than the RAV4, no doubt. The new one? No way, my nod goes to the RAV4: its a better driver, has a higher quality feel, styling is much less awkward but still sporty looking, and it gets either better gas mileage (4-cyl), or is MUCH more powerful (6-cyl)– I remember reading that at least in a recent year, the 6-cyl RAV4 was the fastest vehicle Toyota was producing at the time.

    This new one looks dorky, and isnt any more practical, more powerful, or more efficient than the last 2 generations. I am sure it’s a fine car, it will be ultra reliable, and I am also sure they will sell boatloads of them. Everywhere we go we see tons of CRVs, they seem to be very very popular. I just think the RAV4 is better. Also, I really doubt the fuel economy claims, our CRV was rated at around the same this new one is, and it struggles to get anywhere near the rated mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The RAV4 is a great vehicle. I fear what will happen during the redesign.

      Not only does the 4-cylinder in the RAV4 have decent mileage, reviews I’ve read suggest it has better low-end power than the Honda despite similar on-paper numbers. It certainly pulls strongly and behaves well for a 4-cyl 4-spd auto. The one shortcoming I think the RAV4 has vs. the CR-V is the front seats. Toyota still can’t make a front seat that provides adequate thigh support for someone around 6′ tall.

      • 0 avatar

        Are you talking about 2.4L or 2.5L? RAV4 had an entirely new 4-cyl transplanted in 2010. The new one is supposed to be better than the old one in every respect. I had the old one and it worked okay.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve B

        Toyota and Honda both have trouble with that… short seats and limited rearward seat travel seem to be their forte lately. I would love having the extending seat-bottom like BMW has in some of its cars.

        The Accord has reasonably good seats, as does the Scion tC (long-leg friendliness was one of its biggest selling points for my 35″ inseam).

        I have yet to sit in a modern car with seats worse than the current generation Honda Fit. I bought one in late ’09, when gas prices were down in a trough, and I could get a decent deal on a high-efficiency car (expecting prices to rocket back as soon as the economy got back on track). I tried all kinds of padding, modifications, etc., and could not make the seats bearable for more than 45 minutes at a time. I ended up with sciatic nerve pain from the seat frame jabbing my thigh through the thin, unsupportive padding. I finally bit the bullet and lost a nice chunk of change getting out of that torture cell and buying a ’11 tC, but that’s a decision I don’t regret one bit. I just drove a 920 mile, 15 hour day and got out of the tC with not a bit of stiffness or soreness. Best seats I’ve ever had in a car!

        Mom has a same-year Fit. At 5’6 and a bit more ‘padded,’ she finds it to be a perfect, uh, Fit.

  • avatar
    jreacher

    Way too much road noise. Cut it out, and they’d sell twice as much.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    My only critiques are that this move to one large dial is annoying, and I wish it had HIDs available.

    But in my top 3 for my new car next year – as mentioned above the new racy CUVs have an abhorrent lack of rear carry space.

    /Not a MILF.


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