In the sixth day of my week-long drive of the new and fifth-generation Honda CR-V, I finally opened the hood to see for myself.
The pricing sticker and the Honda press kit both claimed the compact crossover utility vehicle has a turbocharged engine. But after a few hundred miles and nearly six days of driving, I was skeptical. Pleased that there was no discernible turbo lag, but skeptical that there even was a turbo installed, so tortoise-like is this crossover’s power to accelerate.
So I opened the hood and while the engine is tiny, a mere 1.5 liters and seemingly about the size of one you might expect to find on a lawnmower, it was topped by a turbocharger, though apparently not for the reason I’d anticipated.
Order up a brand-new CR-V in basic LX form and it carries a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 184 horsepower and 180 pound-feed of torque. Opt for the EX, EX-L or Touring model — the one I’ve been driving not only is a Touring but with all-wheel drive — and the engine is a 1.5-liter unit boosted to 190 hp and with 179 pound-feet of torque.
With the turbo, peak horsepower and peak torque arrived earlier in the rev range, which is a good thing, and once the torque peaks at 2,000 rpm, it holds at that level all the way until 6,000 rpm.
But the point of the turbo is fuel economy. Normally aspirated, the larger engine gets 2 mpg less across the board — city, highway, combined — EPA estimated mileage than the smaller but boosted powerplant.
Each, by the way, is linked to a continuously variable transmission, another fuel-sipping technology that driving enthusiasts tend to dislike, preferring to be able not only to select their own gears but to hold them long enough to achieve peak dynamic performance.
But, for the most part, that’s not what compact crossovers are all about. They’re about providing peak efficiency for young families.
Or are they? Base price on the new 2017 CR-V LX with front-wheel drive is $24,045, but by the time you get the Touring version with all-wheel drive you’re at $33,695 — and still short of 200 horsepower.
On the other hand, while mph suffered, I did average 33.7 miles per gallon during my week behind the steering wheel, which is a good thing, even for young families who might be able to afford the entry price point.
Honda introduced its newest CR-V as a vehicle with “premium design, big versatility and fun-to-drive persona.” We found it lacking in the fun-to-drive area, but what about the other two, premium design and big versatility.
While perhaps fresh for Honda, the exterior design doesn’t really separate the CR-V from its competitors in the compact crossover category. With a very few exceptions, these vehicles have become as generic as the “cookie-cutter” four-door sedans we criticized for their sameness in the 1980s and ’90s.
The new interior is nice, pretty much luxurious, and now with more than two more inches of leg room for those sitting in the second row. Not only are the seats of the Touring model leather covered, but the driver’s seat has 12-way power adjustment, the passenger’s side has 4-way power control and both can be heated.
My personal disappointment with the interior is probably a matter of age. The radio and navigation systems are controlled by a 7-inch touch screen, augmented by a volume-control knob. But there’s no station-switching knob, which would have meant having to divert attention from the road to even attempt to change stations.
Maybe it’s second nature for those who have grown up with smartphones, but I really missed having buttons so I could set my favorite stations for easy selection, or at least a knob I could reach over and spin while keeping my eyes on the road, not on a screen.
Fortunately, the new CR-V is chockfull of the latest in safety features — active cruise control, collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, road departure mitigation, rear cross-traffic monitor, blind-spot exterior mirrors, etc.
There’s also a power rear liftgate that, should your arms be full, opens or closes with a wave of your foot.
Such parking-lot choreography is probably very handy for the CR-V’s target audience. But how I want a vehicle, and especially one with a turbocharged engine, to respond when I move my right foot is for it to scoot on down the road.
2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring
Vehicle type: 5-passenger compact crossover, all-wheel drive
Base price: $33,695 Price as tested: $34,595
Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, 190 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm, 179 pound-feet of torque @ 2,000 rpm Transmission: continuously variable
Wheelbase: 104.7 inches Overall length/width: 180.6 inches / 66.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,421 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 27 city / 33 highway / 29 combined
Assembled in: Alliston, Ontario, Canada