The Truth About Cars » CR-V http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:58:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » CR-V http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Chart Of The Day: Will The CR-V Eventually Be Honda’s Accord? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/chart-day-will-cr-v-eventually-hondas-accord/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/chart-day-will-cr-v-eventually-hondas-accord/#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 13:15:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=893858 In a manner of speaking, this chart is nothing more than anecdotal evidence. But it’s also evidence that’s been collected nationwide over the span of  a decade from one of America’s largest auto sellers. Proof that America is gradually moving away from traditional passenger cars to “crossovers” is better seen in a glance of the […]

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Accord CR-V sales chartIn a manner of speaking, this chart is nothing more than anecdotal evidence. But it’s also evidence that’s been collected nationwide over the span of  a decade from one of America’s largest auto sellers.

Proof that America is gradually moving away from traditional passenger cars to “crossovers” is better seen in a glance of the complete numbers for all vehicles. But the CR-V/Accord relationship is a useful one for telling a story.

As recently as 2006, American Honda sold more than two Accords for every CR-V. The CR-V’s reign as America’s favourite utility vehicle, suspended only briefly in 2011, began in 2007, a year in which Honda sold 1.8 Accords per CR-V. Fast forward to the first seven months of 2014 and Honda sells 1.2 copies of the Accord, America’s second-best-selling car, for every CR-V.

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Piston Slap: In Praise of the 2005 Honda CR-V http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/piston-slap-in-praise-of-the-2005-honda-cr-v/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/piston-slap-in-praise-of-the-2005-honda-cr-v/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 16:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=752977 Chris writes: Dear Sajeev, Back in 2005 I purchased a new Honda CR-V. It recently rolled over 200,000 miles. It has never given me any trouble or needed anything but normally scheduled service and the usual wear items (tires, brakes, battery). It has survived the New England winters rust free. Most importantly, it’s paid for. […]

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Chris writes:

Dear Sajeev,

Back in 2005 I purchased a new Honda CR-V. It recently rolled over 200,000 miles. It has never given me any trouble or needed anything but normally scheduled service and the usual wear items (tires, brakes, battery). It has survived the New England winters rust free. Most importantly, it’s paid for.

Is there anything proactive I should do to keep it on the road, maybe even for another 100K? I don’t mind investing now if it will save me major repairs later. As trouble-free as it’s been I can’t see replacing it (nor am I in a position to right now), but given the mileage I feel like I should be waiting for that other shoe to drop!

Sajeev answers:

Wow…recanting Monday’s Piston Slap kinda sounds like a good idea now. The CR-V laughs at our Rust Belt Woes!

Probably the best things you can do (outside of regular servicing) is keeping your ride as pretty (wax/detail at the minimum) and as nice to drive (new shocks/springs) as possible.

The former is obvious: you want a vehicle with decent curb appeal, otherwise you’re driving a mere winter beater year ’round.  Even if that doesn’t bother you, why let it get worse when you don’t have to? Pride in your Ride…Son!

The latter can keep the suspension at its ideal geometry, preventing excess wear as its bones get older.  And new shocks make sure those old bones don’t cycle up/down unnecessarily, in theory.  Plus, it’ll ride and handle like new again. Which is the textbook definition of an “added perk.”  So what else is left that you may never notice until it’s too late?

  • Replace all rubber hoses at your next coolant flush. (even the ones to the heater!)
  • Replace engine serpentine belt.
  • Inspect all vacuum lines for cracks/brittleness/gooey-ness.
  • Upgrade your speakers (with the cheaper side of the aftermarket) so you can hear what you’ve missed, or shall miss.
  • Replace headlight bulbs, odds are the filaments are far from their original efficiency.
  • Lubricate weatherstripping with silicone spray lubricant, slick up door hinges/latches with something the factory recommends.
  • Shampoo carpets.

I’ve probably left plenty on the table for the Best and Brightest…so off we go!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Review: 2014 Toyota RAV4 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-toyota-rav4-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-toyota-rav4-with-video/#comments Fri, 20 Sep 2013 12:58:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=520441   When the RAV4 landed, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. In a world of unified corporate identity the RAv4 goes off script with a look all to its own. While the old RAV sold on mini-truck looks, the new one is undisguised crossover. The new nose has grown on me slightly since […]

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2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When the RAV4 landed, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. In a world of unified corporate identity the RAv4 goes off script with a look all to its own. While the old RAV sold on mini-truck looks, the new one is undisguised crossover. The new nose has grown on me slightly since I recorded the video above, but I still find the look a little awkward. Since I was scolded for wearing striped pants with a striped shirt the week I tested the RAV4, feel free take my style opinion with a grain of salt as you click through the jump.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior
The big change for 2014 out back. It’s not what you see, it’s what you don’t. The spare tire that clung to the back of the 2013 model like an octogenarian clinging to the past is gone. The removal of the tire makes completes the RAV4’s exterior transformation from Toyota Trucklet to crossover. By going hatch-mainstream, practicality is greatly improved allowing easier access when parallel parked or parked on a hill. Because of the RAV’s increased dimensions and the new hatch, it is possible to fit 4×8 sheets inside if you leave the hatch cracked.

The RAV4’s cargo hold has one of the lowest lift-over heights for loading in the compact crossover segment. While this makes loading easier, it means the hatch is closer to the ground and makes opening it more awkward. I thought I was alone, but some of our Facebook friends commented that the hatch hit them in the abdomen if they didn’t take a large step backwards when opening it.

2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

The RAV4’s interior is a sea of shapes, not all of which jive with one another. It’s as if the engineers couldn’t decide which styling direction to take, so they gave the interior a bit of everything. On the flip side, the majority of the cabin materials are above the likes of the Kia Sportage. The stitched pleather pieces of the dash help bring the cabin up-market but the urethane steering wheel lets the cabin back down. The carbon-fiber looking plastic trim seems to scratch easily as well and it’s located in high-traffic areas like the cupholder surround and by the window switches. This dichotomy is unique to the RAV4 with rest of the competition being uniform in terms of style, quality and feel. On average the RAV4 is in the upper-middle of the pack, but this double personality leads people to see what they want to see in the interior.

Front seat comfort is merely average in the RAV4 thanks to seats that lack adjustable lumbar support or a power adjustment mechanism. Continuing Toyota’s move away from leather, the Limited model gets SofTex faux-moo instead. Out back, the big change is the lack of a third row option for 2014. Toyota tells us that the take rate was low with most 7-seat shoppers opting to step up to the Highlander. The loss of the extra seats should have given Toyota a bit of room to expand the second row but it has actually shrunk for 2014 by one inch and the rear seats have lost their ability to slide forward/backward. Cargo room slots in at a massive 38.4 cubic feet jumping to 73.4 if you fold the rear seats flat, well above the competition.

2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment
2013 brought Toyota’s refreshed 6.1-inch Entune system standard on all models, and starting in a few months will receive another update to their latest software debuting in the Corolla. I should note now that Toyota has not said if the system can be upgraded to the new software, so if you like what you hear in the upcoming Corolla review you may want to wait.

The current touchscreen unit includes standard Bluetooth and a backup camera in addition to the usual combination of AM/FM and a single slot CD player. The standard 6-speaker audio system is moderately well balanced for a compact crossover. The system is easy to use and offers full voice command of your USB/iDevice media library. Optional on the XLE and Limited models is Entune smartphone app integration and flash-disk based navigation. The nav system is intuitive and easy to use but the system’s screen is easily washed out in strong daylight. Although the system is intuitive and highly functional, Entune is outclassed by the larger touchscreen products in the Ford Escape, GMC Terrain, Kia Sportage and the new Jeep Cherokee to name a few.

2014 Toyota RAV4 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain
Toyota decided to kill off optional V6 for 2014, leaving the 2.5L four-cylinder the only powerplant. While the switch is likely to offend a few, the vast majority of RAV4 sales were four-cylinder anyway. Toyota’s logic was this: the prime competitor is the CR-V and it’s four-cylinder only. The 2.5L engine is good for 176 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of twist placing it in the thick of the competition. Since the 2.5L is no longer the base engine Toyota fitted it with their 6-speed automatic transaxle to improve performance and fuel economy. MPGs rise to 24 City and 31 Highway in FWD trim which is above the CR-V and GM crossovers but well below the Mazda CX-5’s impressive 26/35 score (2.0L engine and manual transmission.)

For $1,400 Toyota will toss in their full-time AWD system on any trim level. The RAV4’s AWD system follows the same formula as the rest with a multi-plate coupling acting as a quasi center differential. This system is somewhat unusual however because the driver can lock the coupling on demand via a button in the dash. Although the lock will self-disengage over 25MPH, only the Jeep crossovers offer a similar touch. Engaging the car’s “sport” mode alters the throttle mapping, transmission shift points and encourages the coupling to lock more frequently to try and limit the FWD nature of the RAV.

2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The loss of the V6 is a big blow to the RAV4. In our tests, the RAV4 ran from 0-60 in 8.64 seconds in AWD trim, faster than the CR-V but slightly slower than the 2.5L CX-5. If you want anything other than middling performance, you’ll need to drop by the Chevy or GMC dealer for a 301HP Terrain or Equinox.

When the going got twisty, the FWD RAV4 we borrowed from a dealer proved to be competent but not exceptional. Like most crossovers the RAV is softly sprung and exhibits plenty of body roll, tip and dive but it never felt sloppy. Toyota’s structural improvements are noticeable with the rear hatch no longer creaking on uneven driveways. Adding AWD improved the RAV4’s dynamics thanks to software that is programmed to send power to the rear wheels when driving aggressively or when in Sport mode. The system not only prevents the few hints of torque steer the FWD model exhibits, but it also makes the RAV4 more dynamic on the road. Regardless of the model, the steering lacks the precision of the Mazda or Ford, possibly due to the RAV’s higher profile tires but it does rank above the CR-V. If handling is important to you, the Mazda CX-5 is quite simply the best small crossover on the market right now.

2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Toyota has a history of playing to the “meat” of every segment. Rarely does Toyota build anything extreme, be it the cheapest car in its class, the most expensive, fastest, slowest, etc. That describes the RAV4 to a tee. After a week with the RAV4 I wasn’t offended but neither was I enraptured. Toyota’s trucklet is reasonably priced ranging from $23,300-$28,410 and in most trims represents a decent (but not extreme) value compared to the competition. Yes, the CX-5 is more exciting, but like the more luxurious and gadget-rich Escape, it’ll cost you more. The CR-V is quieter but it’s also a few bucks more expensive. The Cherokee is more off-road capable but Chrysler’s reliability reputation isn’t exactly stellar. The Forester is the better choice for wagon lovers and the Sportage and Escape have powerful turbo options that speak to my heart. The GMC Terrain and Chevy Equinox have been refreshed and feature 301 horsepower mills for those that like to count ponies and an infotainment system that’s more attractive than Entune.

The new RAV is, without a doubt, a better 2-row crossover than the model it replaces. It’s also a very pragmatic choice delivering a blend of good fuel economy, large cargo hold, an AWD system that’s more capable than most in the segment and, being a Toyota, it’s likely to have a good reliability record as well. The 2014 RAV4 is a solid crossover and you can’t go wrong by putting one in your driveway. If however you want my advice, and since you’re reading this I assume you do, check out the CX-5 and Escape before you sign on the dotted line.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

 

Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.17 Seconds

0-60: 8.64 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.88 Seconds @ 82 MPH

Sound Level at 50 MPH: 68db

Average Fuel Economy: 25 MPG over 483 Miles

2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-012 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-007 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-002 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-010 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-004 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-009 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-005 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-001 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-011 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-005 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-006 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-012 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-004 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-009 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-003 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-008 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-011 2014 Toyota RAV4 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy pf Alex L Dykes

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Crossover Sales Soar http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/crossover-sales-soar/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/crossover-sales-soar/#comments Mon, 09 Sep 2013 19:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=513585 If you want to know why Jaguar and Lexus are introducing compact crossover concepts at the Frankfurt Auto Show this week, all you have to do is check the sales data. Crossover sales are soaring, particularly compacts. Last month, Toyota’s RAV4 was up 50% year to year, and the CR-V at Honda had its best […]

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USA_small-suv-sales-chart-july-2013

If you want to know why Jaguar and Lexus are introducing compact crossover concepts at the Frankfurt Auto Show this week, all you have to do is check the sales data. Crossover sales are soaring, particularly compacts. Last month, Toyota’s RAV4 was up 50% year to year, and the CR-V at Honda had its best sales month yet. Car sales in general are good in the United States right now, with overall August sales up 17%, but sales of smaller crossovers have doubled that and then some at 36%. Crossovers have gained market share for 10 straight months and now take just over a quarter of the total market, on a pace to sell about 4 million units this year. Overall crossover sales are up about 2% from last year, with compacts making most of that difference. As recently as 2007, crossovers only made up 15% of U.S. light vehicle sales. Pickup trucks are usually seen as America’s favorite vehicles, but in August crossovers outsold pickups by almost a 2 to 1 margin.

Ford and Honda hope to sell as many as 300,000 Escapes and CR-Vs and Toyota is looking at selling more than 200,000 RAV4s this year, which would be a record for that model. Escape sales were down 5% in August, which Ford attributed to short supplies.

USA_luxury-suv-crossover-sales-figures-july-2013-ytd

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Review: 2012 Honda CR-V EX-L http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/review-2012-honda-cr-v-ex-l/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/review-2012-honda-cr-v-ex-l/#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2011 20:14:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419493 “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 […]

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“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.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail IMG_5215 IMG_5214 IMG_5208 IMG_5203 IMG_5201 IMG_5185 IMG_5178 crv-thumb Craving a Crossover?

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Piston Slap: Zip Ties and the Love Of Leather? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/piston-slap-zip-ties-and-the-love-of-leather/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/piston-slap-zip-ties-and-the-love-of-leather/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2011 17:42:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=408251     TTAC commentator mistercopacetic writes: Dear Mr. Mehta, Big fan of TTAC and Piston Slap. I have a 2001 Honda CR-V with a cloth interior which I would like to switch out for a leather interior. I am doing this mostly because I am too cheap to buy a new car, but want to […]

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Cut from a different cloth?

 

TTAC commentator mistercopacetic writes:

Dear Mr. Mehta,

Big fan of TTAC and Piston Slap. I have a 2001 Honda CR-V with a cloth interior which I would like to switch out for a leather interior. I am doing this mostly because I am too cheap to buy a new car, but want to feel like I am driving a new car with leather seats. I found a store online selling a Roadwire leather seat kit for $595, on sale until June 15 from $962 list. It looks like this is a replacement interior, not just seat covers, so I will be pulling out the old seats, removing the cloth from the seat frame, and installing the leather. My question: is this something I can do myself, or is it better to get a professional installer? I would like to save some cash, but if it is a job that requires expertise I would rather pay someone who knows what they are doing. I’ve searched some forums online and my impression is that an aftermarket leather interior can either look terrible or meet or exceed a factory leather interior in look and quality, depending on the skill of the installer.


Sajeev answers:

You are right on all points, though I’m not touching that “too cheap to buy a new car” comment. Since you’ve done a fantastic job assessing the situation, I’ll tell you my experiences with seat material swaps. If you can dig it, give it a shot. If not, well…

So I’m with pre-LeMons fame Troy Hogan’s driveway with his a 1996 Ford F350 Crew Cab XL. It has a gray interior and those somewhat terrible XL seats. I only say “somewhat” because today’s benches in comparable trucks are just as terrible, even the King Ranches! So anyway, Troy shows me his junkyard score:  a pair of XLT benches finished in dark blue and another pair of XLT benches in the correct matching gray. The blue XLT’s had an intact seat frame and the gray ones had the right material, but were completely unusable because the donor truck was T-boned. Do you see where I’m going with this? Troy and I spent the better part of a day removing gray seat fabric (via snipping off thick metal hog rings), fiddling with seat foam to have the ideal bits on a single pair of benches, washing off gallons of milky-looking water from the gojo hand cleaner used on the dirty junkyard fabric and then, finally, we went through the pain of attaching the XLT material on various seating components (two bucket seats, one center seat, two arm rests, one rear bench) using…wait for it…zip ties!

Honestly, the zip ties worked like a charm, and have done so for the past 5+ years. While easier than the metal hog rings because it allows a loose fit before completely crimping them down, it was still a time consuming, nightmare of a project. One that is somewhat similar to your fabric dilemma. And now my advice: give it a shot, at least remove the seats/hog rings so you can save the labor at the trim shop. You can start attaching it with zip ties, carefully looking at the contours to make sure it’s fitting correctly.

If any part of this Piston Slap is making you the least bit excited, you have your answer: DO IT.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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