2009 Honda CR-V

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Short Take Road Test: 2008 Honda CR-V EX-L 4WD

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2011.

In an era of small-scale utility vehicles — those conveyances that are a step or two up from basic transportation appliances and have the SUV look America loves so much — the Honda CR-V has struck a chord that resonates louder than many. Okay, louder than most.

A Sales Success
Even as we speak, CR-Vs are rolling out of Honda showrooms faster than anything else in the vast, amorphous vehicle class known collectively as crossovers, i.e., vehicles that straddle the increasingly vague border between conventional passenger cars and sport-utilities.

The CR-V's sales record — this one nameplate currently outsells the entire Mercury lineup — is certainly impressive. But from our driving-should-be-fun point of view, it's also a tiny bit mystifying.

But Can't We Have a Little Fun?
Do not interpret this to mean that the CR-V comes up short in the competence department. Renewed from top to bottom last year, Honda's cute ute is tightly wrapped, handsomely appointed, versatile, stylish, and by the standards of this popular class, exceptionally nimble.

Consistent with Honda design code, the CR-V is a model of ergonomic efficiency — controls are well marked, well placed, easy to locate, and easy to use. There are numerous nooks and small bins for stowing stuff, another Honda hallmark.

As they are on most Hondas, forward sightlines are outstanding, even by the standards of a vehicle class that makes many owners happy with a so-called command seating position.

Sightlines are a driver's first line of defense (presuming he or she isn't texting), and the CR-V provides a better view than most others, not only straight ahead, but in the rear quarters and out the back window as well, now that the spare tire has been moved from its previous mount on the back door to a less obtrusive spot under the vehicle.

The CR-V also responds better than most of its immediate competitors, being relatively quick on its feet, with precise steering, adequate grip, and respectable braking performance: 168 feet from 70 mph, a distinct improvement on previous models.

Ho-Hum Power
However, herding a CR-V on its appointed rounds isn't as rewarding as, say, doing the same in a Honda Civic.

One ho-hum element is power. The CR-V's 2.4-liter four generates 166 horsepower and 161 pound-feet of torque, not much of a gain over the previous CR-V, and the '08 also gained weight: The last CR-V we tested, in November 2001, weighed 3367 pounds. This new CR-V, dimensionally similar (a little wider and a little shorter) weighed 3526. Both testers were high-end EX models, and both were equipped with all-wheel drive.

The '01 CR-V hit 60 mph in 8.4 seconds and the quarter-mile mark in 16.6 seconds at 84 mph. Our '08 required 9.3 and 17.2 seconds, respectively. A current Honda Civic is capable of sprinting to 60 in fewer than eight seconds, and even the subcompact Honda Fit, with just 109 horsepower, can reach 60 in 9.0. In a market segment where key competitors such as the Toyota RAV4 are offering V-6 engine options, this is pretty tepid go power.

Mass doesn't help in the mpg department, either. With the EPA's tighter fuel-economy measurements for 2008, the CR-V, like others in this class, draws so-so ratings — 20 mpg city, 26 highway. During our travels, we bettered the city rating, averaging 22 mpg.

Getting back to point-A-to-point-B rapidity, you might observe that our CR-V's forward progress was diluted by its five-speed automatic, to which we say, "Yes, we agree." The previous CR-V offered a manual transmission. This one does not — one engine, one transmission. The only powertrain choice left to buyers is front- or all-wheel drive.

Honda's automatic is smooth enough, but it's no substitute for the sense of involvement that comes from a good manual gearbox.

Another shortfall that could be a turnoff to some is the absence of a third-row seat option. And although it's clear that Honda's consumer clinics led to the substitution of a rear hatch for the previous side-hinged door, we're not so sure this is an improvement.

Really, We Like It
Soon you'll be thinking we don't like the CR-V, which is not true. Okay, it's somewhat true at this price level. Our check-all-the-options-boxes EX-L tester (nav, leather, 262-watt audio, all-wheel drive) weighed in at a hard-to-swallow $29,035. For that kind of money, you could strap yourself into an all-wheel-drive RAV4 V-6 and save yourself four grand.

But as with any kind of automotive expenditure, a little restraint can save big money. An all-wheel-drive CR-V LX starts at $21,335, whereupon it looks much more attractive — quiet, composed, versatile, and bulletproof. Just don't expect it to double as a sports car.

Performance Data:
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 9.3 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 29.8 sec
Street start, 5-60 mph: 9.7 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 17.2 sec @ 81 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 168 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.78 g

FUEL ECONOMY:
EPA city/highway driving: 20/26 mpg
C/D observed: 22 mpg

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BB06 - 7/27/2014 10:16:22 PM