Youâ€™ll find Honda most often on or near the bullâ€™s-eye, what with the Accord, the Odyssey, the Civic, and the CR-V all nailing their targets through the crosshairs. From the center, Honda believes, thereâ€™s no direction to go but off the mark, which is why the 2007 CR-V remains pretty much what a CR-V has always been: an inexpensive five-seat duffel bag on wheels.
For 2007, CR-V project leader Mitsuru Horikoshi is after the â€œcool moms,â€ which in Japanese sounds like â€œkakko-eee mama-san.â€ Apparently, the cool moms like windshields that lie back, a body with a few curves, an Acura-like interior of metrosexual black plastic and burnished metal, and side glass that does the most suggestive rearward taper since the â€™49 Buick. The new CR-V strives to look more street chic in every way except for the warts growing out of the lower rockers, a styling clichÃ© suggesting skid plates that are so not there.
The not-as-cool moms who loved the old square CR-V at least get, in the new car, a formula that is otherwise little changed. Honda dares not chase competitors such as the new Toyota RAV4 up the size ladder. â€œItâ€™s not that we didnâ€™t consider a V-6 and a third row,â€ says Horikoshi-san. â€œItâ€™s that it clashed with the concept of CR-V.â€
We wonâ€™t gainsay Hondaâ€™s wisdom. With one four-cylinder engine and one five-seat configuration, the Honda CR-V rang up 150,219 sales last year, a big number in a growing segment (the Escape was the only compact ute to beat it, with 165,122 sales).
Horikoshi-san says the new CR-V has its own platform, sharing just seven percent of its parts with the Acura RDX (and nine percent with the Civic). Although just two percent derives from the old CR-V, the dimensions and the cargo-volume numbers donâ€™t vary much. News that body width grows by 1.4 inches isnâ€™t worth waking the President for. More significant, Honda moved the spare tire under the floor and replaced the side-hinged ambulance door with a top-hinged hatch. That helps push down the CR-Vâ€™s center of gravity by a very cool 1.4 inches.
Combined with a few subtle suspension changes, Honda advertises better handling with the new CR-V. At this early stage, we can report that it seemed quieter, and its steering is a bit heavier. Making 166 horsepower is a familiar 2.4-liter, dual-cam 16-valve four with i-VTEC variable valve timing and lift, good for 161 pound-feet of torque. Sadly, thereâ€™s only one transmission, a five-speed automatic.
The optional four-wheel-drive system uses the same twin-hydraulic-pump design to engage the rear axle through a wet clutch pack. There are no computers, but new ball cams get the clutch pack engaged faster while the pumps are still building hydraulic pressure. The goal is quicker rear-axle engagement on slick roads.
Honda promises that prices will change little. You wonâ€™t get to the exit for less than $21,000 for the base front-drive LX and $27,000 for the all-wheel-drive EX-L, a new leather-lined trim level and the only one in which a navigation system is available, for an extra $2000.
Yes, even kakko-eee mama-sans get lost.
Vehicle type: front-engine, front- or 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon
Estimated base price: $21,000â€“$27,000
Engine type: DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, port fuel injection
Displacement: 144 cu in, 2354cc
Power (SAE net): 166 bhp @ 5800 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 161 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 103.1 in
Length/width/height: 178.0/71.6/66.1 in
Curb weight: 3400â€“3550 lb
Performance ratings (C/D est):
Zero to 60 mph: 9.0 sec
Standing Â¼-mile: 17.0 sec
Top speed (governor limited): 109 mph
Projected fuel economy (mfrâ€™s est):
EPA city driving: 22â€“23 mpg
EPA highway driving: 28â€“30 mpg