2008 Honda CR-V EX-L 4WD Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2008 Honda CR-V EX-L 4WD with Navigation

In the decade since the first Honda CR-V was introduced, crossover SUVs have gone from an interesting new idea to mainstream transportation. And, although crossovers are the fastest-growing vehicle segment in the U.S., and are seen as an American phenomenon, the appeal, at least of the CR-V, is worldwide. It's one of Honda's global best-sellers, and is sold in more countries than any other Honda car.

Perhaps this has something to do with its blend of convenient size, functionality, economical operation, style, and safety. The third generation, new for the 2007 model year, is a departure from the boxy original and second generation in style, but it also improves upon its predecessors in interior space, function, and comfort and safety without an increase in size or fuel consumption. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine has been further developed for a little more power and lower emissions. New engine mounts reduce the amount of noise and vibration transmitted to the unibody structure. A five-speed automatic replaces the previous four-speed, and a manual transmission is no longer offered. The "Real-Time 4WD" system, optional for all models, now can transfer more torque to the rear wheels when necessary. As before, it is completely automatic, with no driver intervention necessary. The maintenance schedules for drivetrain components are calculated by the Maintenance Minder system based on input from various electronic monitoring systems. The driver is notified by means of a display on the instrument panel.

As is common in the industry, the CR-V is quietly moving upscale. The entry-model LX still has cloth upholstery and the CR-V trademark fold-down tray table between the front seats, but the wheels and tires are larger, the braking system has been significantly upgraded, and there are a host of standard comfort and convenience features including MP3- and WMA-CD playback on the AM/FM/CD audio system and a jack for an external audio player. Windows, mirrors, and remote-entry locks are power-operated, air-filtration air conditioning is standard, and the rear seat slides fore-and-aft for legroom as well as being split 60/40 for fold and tumble versatility come cargo time.

The EX adds a little chrome trim, a one-touch moonroof, an upgraded audio system, a dual-deck cargo shelf, and alloy wheels. For full luxury, see the EX-L. "L" in this case is for "leather" for seats and armrests, with front seat heaters. XM satellite radio is available. At the top of the line is the EX-L with Navigation, adding Honda's satellite navigation system with a rearview camera and further upgraded audio system. New for 2008, the EX-L gets a power-adjustable driver's seat and automatic climate control.

As is usual with press fleet vehicles, the CR-V in my driveway this past week was fully equipped, in this case a four-wheel drive EX-L with the navigation package. At just over $29,000 it was not inexpensive, but that's barely above the average new-car price today. It was definitely above average in its comfort, convenience, and utility. As it has always been, it's a vehicle for the wilds of the suburban shopping mall parking lot and the daily commute, not the extreme wilderness. Conveniently-sized, small enough outside to fit easily into small spaces yet large enough inside to be comfortable and useful, with plenty of power and good brakes for dealing with the daily grind, the Honda CR-V is perfectly at home in its natural habitat.

APPEARANCE: Even though the newest CR-V has the standard crossover SUV high two-box shape, its well-raked windshield and the arched top line of the chrome-trimmed side windows disguise that with the illusion of a fastback, coupe-like roof line. All models have textured matte plastic lower front, side, and rear trim that offers some protection against minor impacts and road hazards along with its SUV look. A slightly bulging hood, with matching fenders, large bright headlights, and a sharp character line on the side that rises toward the rear gives the CR-V a sporty but honest look. Macho attitude not spoken here. The LX has black door handles, outside mirrors, and grilles, while the EX modes get body-colored mirrors and door handles and chrome trim on the upper and lower grilles. All have the vertical taillights that have been a hallmark of the CR-V since the beginning.

COMFORT: Inside, the CR-V makes the most of its modest size. The third-generation structure is a little wider, and that translates to welcome extra hip room for everyone. In front are redesigned buckets, with improved comfort and support. In the leather-equipped EX-L, the driver' seat is now power-adjustable. All versions have manual tilt and telescope adjustment for the steering wheel, for the added safety and comfort of a good driving position. The EX-L replaces the standard folding tray table between the front seats with a real console with open and covered storage and cupholders, and the power point and audio jack that are otherwise on the tray. The easy-to-read main instruments are shaded from glare, while audio, climate, and with the navigation system, nav system controls are in the center stack, easily accessible by both front seat passengers. The navigation system is reasonably simple and straightforward in operation, and the central screen is used for the backup camera display that is automatically activated when the CR-V is put into reverse. The rear seat is split 60/40; both sections flip and tumble, and the center seatback folds separately. Importantly for passengers, each part is adjustable fore and aft to maximize legroom, and three-across comfort is helped by a flat floor. There is also a little more cargo volume, both behind the rear seat and with it folded. The EX and EX-L have a removable cargo shelf behind the rear seat for "double decker" storage of grocery bags or other relatively light items, as the top shelf is rated for 20 pounds. Honda claims that two mountain bikes can fit inside without disassembly, with the rear seat folded. My road bike required removal of the front wheel.

SAFETY: The third-generation CR-V was designed and built to meet the highest safety levels in both Federal and IIHS testing. Its unibody structure was designed and constructed for maximum occupant protection, including from impacts with larger vehicles, and for maximum pedestrian protection. Dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags and front seat-mounted side airbags with passenger occupant sensing to control deployment according to front passenger size, and side-curtain airbags are standard in all versions, as are four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist. Electronic vehicle stability assist, with works with the ABS and drivetrain electronics, is also standard across the line, as is a tire-pressure monitoring system.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Increased structural rigidity and a revised fully-independent MacPherson strut/multilink suspension, along with a lower center of gravity and wider track, improve the CR-V's already good road manners. It's a tall wagon, really, not a truck, and feels like that on the road. Steering effort is light but not overly so, and cornering behavior is good for a crossover SUV.

PERFORMANCE: A slight increase in compression and revised valve timing to take advantage of new intake and exhaust systems add ten horsepower to the CR-V's twincam, 16-valve 2.4-liter aluminum alloy engine, for 166 (by the new SAE rating method) at 5800 rpm. Torque is 161 lb-ft at a relatively high 4200 rpm, but the above changes broaden the torque curve, as does the i-VTEC system, which combines variable cam phasing with the traditional Honda VTEC variable valve timing and lift. That also improves power delivery and reduces fuel consumption and emissions. Both economy and performance are further helped by the new five-speed automatic transmission, which features Grade Logic Control to improve performance and civility up- or downhill. CR-Vs with the Real Time 4WD(tm) single-range four-wheel drive system have up to 20 percent more torque automatically transferred to the rear wheels now, for better traction in low-traction conditions. At 3500 pounds, the CR-V is not particularly light, but the engine and transmission work well enough that traffic is not a problem,and acceleration is comparable to other small crossovers.

CONCLUSIONS: The third-generation Honda CR-V adds style and substance to a proven formula.

SPECIFICATIONS

2008 Honda CR-V EX-L 4WD with Navigation

Base Price			$ 28,400
Price As Tested 		$ 29,035
Engine Type			aluminum alloy dual overhead cam
				 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with
				 i-VTEC variable cam profile and phasing
Engine Size			2.4 liters / 144 cu. in.
Horsepower			166 @ 5800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			161 @ 4200 rpm
Transmission			5-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		103.1 in. / 177.9 in.
Curb Weight			3549 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		21.4
Fuel Capacity			15.3 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				225/65 TR17 Bridgestone Dueler H/T
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD,
				 BA, VSA standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut/
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 single-range 4-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		22 / 28 / 23
0 to 60 mph				10  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Destination charge			$ 635

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