Honda Middle East chose the sylvan surroundings of the Waldorf Astoria to introduce the 2017 Honda CR-V to the region’s journalists.
Honda has decided that the little crossover that defined a segment for so many years should now grow up. It isn’t as if the 2017 Honda CR-V has grown bigger by a large measure. But the fifth generation of the crossover is now in the sweetest spot yet when seen from the brand’s perspective.
The CR-V has undergone a significant styling overhaul that incorporates the new muscular styling of Honda along with the large bar across the grille. In addition most external panels have been worked over to make them look beefier. Beginning from the hood with its deep central indentation flanked by ridged shutlines with the fenders and the fenders themselves that seem to bulge out from the prominent bumper treatment, the fascia is a good, solid move to a macho look. The profile of the CR-V does carry on the outgoing vehicle’s looks but adds a new almost Pilot like styling tweak along the glass area. The wheelbase has increased by 40mm and this is matched by the provision of larger wheels as standard, with 18” alloys on offer at the top of the line.
Of course the new generation also gets the full benefit of LED treatment for the headlights and taillights, to the extent that full-LEDs are also available.
The interiors are significantly changed. Honda seems to have done away with its two-panel approach to the centre display stack, instead placing the central louver at the head of the stack, with the not quite rectangular tab display below that. This time around they have also deviated from the Android display unit with the dedicated home and volume touch surfaces on the left. Instead, there is a volume knob sitting closest to the driver, while the menu controls are now part of the touch key stack. This definitely makes it easier to access the audio control when driving, without having to take one’s eyes off the road. Additional features now available on the CR-V include far-side blind spot assist and the provision of AirPlay and Android Auto.
The centre console also factors in a proper twin knob air-conditioner panel with soft-touch keys and the inclined gearshift controller gets the electronic parking brake control along with an auto brake hold function button. On the other side of the gearshift is the ECO button.
The next big change for the fifth generation has been in the adoption of a fully digital display panel for the IP, allowing the panel to mimic the analogue feel of a tachometer, while displaying the speed in digits. This is flanked by similar analogue treatment of the fuel and temperature.
Under the skin, the platform has undergone major changes, with a much greater use of ultra high strength steel replacing even the advanced high strength steel used before. This has resulted in a huge improvement in the rigidity and aids in lowering the weight of the structure.
Other changes have been brought about in the aerodynamics of the car. The most obvious move has been to incorporate an active grille shutter that tries to reduce the drag from unwanted airflow through the engine bay. It adapts to the needs of the cooling system to keep airflow at optimum levels and even offers a bypass path that stays open always.
Cabin design has been optimised to offer class-leading comforts to potential buyers. The redesigned seating includes options with heating and ventilation and a unique one-touch feature to fold-down at the second row for accommodating larger cargo. The rear tailgate also gets the option of hands-free opening that brings the SUV on par with many competitors.
There has been only a marginal change in the transmission with the 2.4-litre engine getting a little more output in the form of 184hp and torque of 244Nm. This is partnered with the CVT transmission that has undergone a sea change in its software programming, allowing it to offer both pre-designated ratios as well as to offer a means of holding those ratios in Sport mode so that the engine in effect offers engine braking. This is highlighted as the G-design shift feature, with the stated aim of making the CVT feel more like our natural driving done with automatics.
In addition to that the AWD system has also been refined to deliver a real-time torque transfer. The hardware has been improved, with a beefed up hydraulic pump driving the multi-plate clutch resulting in more than 50% extra torque available to the rear. The pump is driven by an electric motor; meaning that response to changed driving conditions is almost instantaneous. To be really effective the system takes input from wheel sensors to judge the sort of terrain, like snow or sand, as well as to judge inclines and turns. In specific cases, the drive will begin with a greater torque delivery to the rear wheels to avoid spin.
We took the cars out on loop around Ras Al Khaimah that focussed on highway driving. There is nothing to fault the CR-V on, it definitely presents itself as an improvement on the outgoing model, including in in better NVH, more direct steering wheel response, better cushioned ride and in the way the CVT behaves. We did push the car into sport mode just to get the CVT into the lower ratios and the engine responds almost immediately. In fact, when you try that on sandy roads you can even feel the power kick in on the rear wheels.
As long as the company can continue to keep its price point while offering all these extra features, while avoiding the temptation to move into a higher band like it has historically done in previous model generation migrations, the CR-V will be a hit. In this challenged market, it may be difficult to justify a price hike despite the much better package.
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