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Review: 2017 Honda CR-V Touring AWD

This is the all-new fifth generation 2017 Honda CR-V. Yes, it is all-new, as per Honda, but you wouldn’t necessarily know this by looking at it. In my eyes it simply looks too similar to the 2016 model to be called all-new, but it is. One would know that this is an all-new vehicle by simply driving it. I would even go as far as to say that this is the most significant update to the CR-V since the original came out in 1997.

Looking at the spec sheet, much like the exterior, the changes are not that dramatic. The base engine is a carry-over on the LX model only. All other models get Honda’s new 190hp 1.5-liter turbocharged four. While that’s only six more horsepower, the 179lb-ft peak torque is available at 2000rpm, as opposed to 4000rpm on the old 2.4-liter engine. That makes a big difference in daily driving. The new engine with AWD is EPA rated at 27 MPG in the city and 33 on the highway. 2WD models gain an extra mile from each gallon. In both cases it is about a 2 MPG increase over the base (old) 2.4-liter engine.

The power from that engine is sent to either the front wheels or all four. It gets there via a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, which is the only option. The transmission has been improved too; it’s less whiny, quieter and, well, less CVT-y. It is still not responsive as a typical automatic but it’s fair to say that typical CR-V buyers wouldn’t know the difference. There is a sport mode but the difference isn’t drastic.

While the exterior does look similar, the new CR-V is 1.4 inches taller, 1.2 inches longer, rides on a wheelbase that is 1.6 longer, and is 1.4 inches wider. The longer wheelbase translates directly into a very noticeable 2.1 inches of rear seat legroom. With the rear seats folded, the length of the cargo area is over five feet.

The interior gets a total makeover, too. The multiple display screens are gone and no one will miss them. Front center is a clear digital gauge cluster. The center part is a configurable screen, with a tach around it, speedo on top, and smaller gauges on the sides. It is easy to see and navigate.

The 7-inch infotainment center is one large touch-screen with shortcut keys on the left. The navigation section is a straight Garmin interface and there is now an actual audio volume control knob – thank you, Honda. The new system is much more intuitive overall than the older Honda systems but is not perfect. For one, the screen is too bright at night, even when fully dimmed. The system has an Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but sometimes it would lose connection to my iPhone.

The seats on the Touring model are hugely improved – they are thick, wrapped in soft leather and feel downright premium. Having spent about fourteen hours driving this CR-V on a race weekend, my butt and back showed no serious signs of fatigue. The driver’s seat tilts, raises, and slides in 12 ways and there was plenty of room for the 6’2” me in all directions. Both front seats are heated, buttons for which are now near other climate control buttons and not randomly in the middle of the console.

The center console is simple and functional. There is an L-shaped tray that holds smaller items, which slides back to allow access to the large center bin. That tray can be removed and snapped into the bottom of the console, turning the bin into one large container. Inside the console are two USB ports and a 12v socket. The armrest slides forward for extra arm support and there is another tray in front of the two large cup holders. Overhead is a sunglass holder and small convex mirror that allows you to spy on your kids in the back seat.

The extra legroom in the rear seat is immediately noticeable; even my nine year old daughter commented on it. The center armrest has two cup holders, in addition to one in each door. There are two more USB charging ports for rear passengers, which is damn handy these days. The bench splits 60:40 for folding.

The cargo floor has two levels of adjustment; low to maximize cargo space and raised to make a flat loading floor when the rear seat is folded down. There is a cargo cover but it is a bit flimsy and once removed only fits diagonally on the floor of the trunk. Under the cargo floor is a temporary spare tire. EX-L and Touring models get a powered hatch with three height opening limits.

Honda says that they worked overtime on improving the driving experience. The steering ratio is now quicker and it turns lock-to-lock in 2.3 turns versus 3.1 on the older car. The improved AWD system sends more power to the rear wheels and the brakes are slightly bigger. Wheel and tire sizing has been increased and the suspension refined for nicer ride and more responsive handling. Honda paid attention to noise, too, and while it is not super quiet overall, the engine and transmission noises have been significantly reduced from the previous generation car.

The 2017 CR-V LX 2WD starts at $24,045. The loaded Touring 4WD model shown here is $34,735. That money adds a sunroof, roof rails, heated leather seats, nine-speaker 330W audio, remote start, LED headlights, all the latest active safety features (all but LX get these), and nicer exterior trim and wheels.

Overall, the new CR-V is not significantly changed in many ways, nor is it revolutionary. But it is clear that the design team sweated the details and carefully reworked even the smallest of nuances of the previous generation vehicle. And that is what truly matters to the casual CR-V buyer – comfort, space, convenience, safety, and efficiency. The Touring model feels like no other CR-V before and it has a premium feel to it. The improved driving characteristics and interior quality are the icing on the cake.

Disclaimer: Honda lent me the red CR-V in the winter and the gray one for the recent 24 Hours of Lemons race for the purposes of this review. Most images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2017, dash and seat images are from Honda.

  • neight428

    Such competence, efficiency and reliability. I’m getting old.

  • Fred Talmadge

    I like the that the dash isn’t the typical 2 big round dials. Still have a ways to go in the whole digital dash design.

    • Agree. I do believe that cost/price has a lot to do with it. The new Audis and BMWs are fantastic.

  • cronn

    Did they fix the AWD?

    Honda really dropped the ball on the AWD system in the CR-V as of late. Put the front wheels on rollers (or on ice) and it’s all out of ideas. No traction from the rear wheels at all.

  • Rudy™

    I don’t get the premise of “similarity” with the 2016 model. The rear is vastly different–CR-Vs have never had any semblance of horizontal taillight or reflectors in the past. The front is a combination of Gen 3 and Gen 4B styling with some new design cues from the bumper down. The side view with the windows does have a similar shape, but the body is a little more sculpted. To my eyes, anyway, there is no mistaking this for any earlier generation. Not even close. Yet it still looks like nothing but a CR-V.

    If you really want to see how it is evolved, go back and sit in a ’97. I’ve kept mine around as a “beater” and after nearly 300k miles it’s still going. Let’s hope these newer ones (which IMHO have way, way too many gizmos and gadgets to break…like most new cars) are anywhere near as reliable.

    • I know the first gen CR-V very well. We had a ’99 EX 5-spd for six years. I loved that thing and actually used the rear picnic table.

  • Kiefmo

    My folks just picked up a 2017 EX in the same fantastic red as your tester. Ostensibly, it was to replace my mother’s 2005 Accord LX, but when they saw what they’d get in trade for the Accord, they decided to just keep it. My mother is somewhat attached to the car and didn’t really want the CRV, but my dad wanted a better road tripping vehicle than the 2007 Ridgeline they were using for long ventures from home.

    The Accord would never do for such trips, partly because my mother brings along too much stuff, but more because they like to venture down some rough roads (short of “true” offroading, but more than you’d want to take a sedan down). One thing I haven’t seen reported much is that the CRV has a useful 1.5″ more ground clearance (up to 8.2″) for 2017, which is the same as aforementioned Ridgeline. So, as long as they don’t get too crazy for the approach/departure/breakover angles or the all-season tires, they should be fine.

    Also, the Ridgeline will never be sold, because it’s still the most useful for hauling my dad’s band’s PA (it has a topper), and as long as they still have a cargo trailer, bumper-pull RV, and Bayliner, they’ll need the Ridgeline’s towing capacity.

    • caltemus

      What about the ridgeline makes it less than ideal for road tripping? Compared to the CR-V, is is just the few truck-like concessions? From what I understood the Ridgeline was already far better than most full size trucks for ride and NVH.

      • Kiefmo

        19mpg average is what makes it less than ideal.

        It isn’t the cost that’s the problem (I mean, the car note on the CRV is probably $550/month), it’s the range that bugs them. When we took a road trip to Glacier two years ago, crossing Montana at 85mph, they had their gas light coming on when our Odyssey (same engine/trans, more miles) still had 1/3 tank.

        Also, the Ridgeline has 150k on it now, and my folks haven’t disabused themselves of the old fashioned notion that cars are just waiting to have a catastrophic failure once they get past 100k, so it’s for their own piece of mind, they say.

        Me? I see through their bullshit. My brother bought a 2015 CRV value package new, and they loved it. Then the missus and I bought our 2014 Pilot. My dad just got new car envy. Ain’t a thing wrong with his Ridgeline — he’s maintained it by the book.

        • caltemus

          Good to know, they’ve been on my radar for a while. My grandmother’s Jeep Renegade has a similar issue, its got like an 8 gallon tank or something.

  • Matt Richter

    Wifey has a 2014, damn if it isn’t a great road tripper/winter trekker. I drove 100 miles in a blizzard with it last winter. Can’t wait to see how it does on fresher all season tires.