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Don Adair: Made-over Honda CR-V so good it feels inevitable

In 1995, Honda’s CR-V pioneered the compact crossover segment and, since, nearly four million copies have been sold in the US alone. (Honda)

A whiff of inevitability attends today’s column.

There is for starters the inevitability — or at least the ubiquity — of its subject. In 1995, Honda’s CR-V pioneered the compact crossover segment and, since, nearly four million copies have been sold in the US alone.

Also inevitable, perhaps, is CR-V’s ($24,985, including transportation) long reign at the top of the sales charts. Honda is nothing if not tenacious and vigorously protects its franchise. Though last year’s CR-V sold at a record clip, Honda turns up the wattage this year with a stem-to-stern makeover.

That makeover introduces its own set of inevitabilities: a new platform that improves ride and handling; a cabin that’s more spacious, comfortable and better equipped; a handsome new exterior; a wider array of safety and driver-assist features.

Honda even added an extra 1.5 inches of ground clearance. Not inevitable, perhaps, but certainly welcome.

There’s a definite inevitability in the CR-V’s new up-level powerplant. Supplementing the 184-horsepower four-cylinder base engine, the turbocharged 1.5-liter four makes 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft of torque. 
 
It’s not only more powerful than the base engine but also more efficient. The EPA rates AWD trims at 29 mpg combined/27 city/33 highway, numbers that trounce the competition — and not by tenths of a mile, as might be expected, but by miles.

Finally, it was probably inevitable that this writer’s resistance to the continuously variable transmission (CVT) would one day fade. CVTs are, in fact, inevitable. They’re more efficient than the traditional options — and, as is the way with all new tech, their performance improves over time.

The CR-V is available only with a CVT. Fortunately, Honda’s convincingly simulates the shift pattern of an automatic, minimizing the elastic feel and soaring engine note common to the breed. That the engine makes most of its power at lower RPMs makes it a good match for the CVT.

Acceleration is brisk and seamless, though high-end performance lags; passing safely in a CR-V packed with gear will require a long, straight stretch of roadway.   

The CRV’s available AWD system is upgraded this year to increase the torque available to the rear wheels. A new step-less control system improves stability in less-than-optimal conditions.

Cabin updates include a crisply modern look, better materials quality and more soft-touch surfaces. The configurable center console includes multiple storage bins, shelves and cupholders. The digitized control panel adds a freestanding volume-control knob but the touchscreen controls are more complicated than necessary. 

Rear-seat legroom and cargo space both grow substantially. Dropping the second-row seats into the flat-floored cargo area is simplified with the addition of a pair levers.

The base CR-V is equipped with automatic climate control, cruise control, an electronic parking brake and Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

The volume-leading EX ($27,635) gets the new engine, a long list of comfort and convenience extras and a suite of driver assist features that includes automatic high-beam headlights, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and intervention, adaptive cruise and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking.

Call it inevitable or just really good, the 2017 CR-V will satisfy the expectations of crossover shoppers.

Contact Don at don@dadair.com, or visit www.dadair.com.

2017 Honda CR-V AWD Touring
Vehicle base price: $24,045
Trim level base price: $33,695
As tested: $34,595
Options: The Touring AWD is a fully equipped trim. Our tester came with no extras.
Tow rating: 1,500 lbs
EPA ratings: 29 combined/27 city/33 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified

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