DETROIT, Michigan – Honda’s future bestseller, the Civic-based fifth-generation CR-V is slightly bigger and slightly more premium with a new Touring top-trim level. The 2017 Honda CR-V EX, EX-L, and Touring also comes with the latest Civic’s 1.5-liter turbocharged direct-injection I-4. The engine produces 190 hp and 179 lb-ft of torque in the new CUV, which goes on sale in December.
More important than any of that is the CR-V’s audio system volume control, which once again takes the form of an old-fashioned plastic knob, positioned on the lower left corner of the redesigned flat screen. The 2017 CR-V is the first Honda to regain these useful knobs — the rest of the lineup will as well when each model is updated. If only had Honda doubled our pleasure by doing the same for the audio system’s channel control, we wouldn’t have to move our eyes away from the road just to change radio stations. But at least we’ll be able to safely turn the volume up or down.
For such a thorough redesign, the 2017 Honda CR-V looks very familiar, as you’d expect from a company that spent decades updating and upgrading Accords and Civics without alienating loyal customers. Beside its most excellent radio volume control knob, which we’ll mention early and often in order to drive the point home to competing automakers unwilling to concede how bad an idea a touch-screen control is (even with redundant controls in the steering wheel, which still often require the driver to look away from the road), the Generation V CR-V gains two inches of rear legroom thanks to the latest Civic platform.
Its cargo capacity is up nearly 10 inches from the back of the front seats to the tailgate with the back seat down, because Honda has re-engineered the second row to fold flat without having to flip up and forward the rear seat cushion.
Honda benchmarked the BMW X3 for dynamics, says Jeff Conrad, the Honda brand’s senior vice president and general manager in North America. What that means, product planner Alice Lee says, is that performance in the snow and other harsh weather conditions is improved and the steering has a more linear feel.
Front and rear track are wider which, with the 1.6-inch longer wheelbase, gives the CR-V a bigger “footprint,” giving it a leg up on future corporate average fuel economy standards), and wheels are now either 17 inches (LX) or 18 inches (EX, EX-L, Touring) in diameter. With the CR-V now using Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) construction, designers were able to thin out the a-pillars for better visibility without sacrificing rollover protection.
It comes with an expanded version of the company’s stepping-stones to autonomy, called Honda Sensing. Other standard features include remote engine start, heated mirrors, and on the top-trim Touring model, hands-free, kick-under-the-rear-bumper tailgate opener. The daytime running lamps are now LED, with the Touring also receiving LED headlamps and taillamps.
Oh, and don’t forget that radio volume control knob.
The rear doors now open much wider, to nearly 90 degrees. The CR-V is first in its class, in top trim levels, to come with a four-way power front passenger seat, Honda says, and the seat heaters are improved. You can adjust the driver’s power seat 12 ways (up from 10) with your left hand, then grab the wheel with that hand and use your right hand to adjust the radio volume with a real knob.
Though Honda’s first press drive of the 2017 CR-V is weeks away, we can attest to a capacious five-passenger interior that offers ample rear-seat legroom and plentiful headroom without the need for a reclining rear seat. The interior materials are premium in a modern, commodity brand way, which means decent perforated leathers in the Touring, and quality plastics with typically excellent Honda fit and finish, albeit with obviously fake wood trim and enough luxury margin for a better Acura RDX interior.
Product planner Lee describes the new Honda CR-V’s sheetmetal as having a “bold, aggressive look.” There are bulges in the fenders and hood that make it look more substantial, if not necessarily more truck-like, than the previous four generations of the bestselling compact sport/utility in the U.S. The front fascia, hood, and bumper are more integrated than before, and the rear quarter windows are reshaped for a more pleasing, less stodgy appearance.
The CR-V has outsold the Honda Accord and Civic in several recent months. The trend is for the compact SUV segment to dominate, as Americans move on up (in vehicle height) and gain interior space and utility while giving up a few inches in overall length. Fad or not, the CR-V will soon overtake the Accord and Civic in annual sales, at least until those sedans get their own audio volume control knobs.
2017 Honda CR-V SPECIFICATIONS
|On Sale:||December 2016|
|Price:||$25,000 – $31,000 (est)|
|Engine:||2.4L 16-valve I-4, 184 hp @ 6400 rpm, 180 lb-ft. @ 3900 rpm (LX); 1.5L turbocharged 16-valve I-4, 190 hp @ 5600 rpm, 179 lb-ft. @ 2000-5000 rpm (EX, EX-L, Touring)|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD/AWD SUV|
|L x W x H:||180.6 x 73.0 x 66.1-66.5 inches|