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Honda’s popular compact crossover CR-V goes upscale with a meaner appearance and a new premium model

What changes make it different?

Bolder styling, better fuel economy yet more torque, and a new top-line model packed with safety features. This is America’s best-selling SUV and the changes are intended to make it more appealing to affluent buyers.

Basic dimensions and engineering carry over from the model-year 2012 introduction of this fourth-generation CR-V. The next full redesign won’t come before 2018, but Honda says the 2015 updates constitute the crossover’s most significant midcycle revisions ever.

Starting at $24,150 (including destination fee), base prices increase about $200 over comparable ‘14 models, though the new flagship Touring edition begins at $32,350, $900 over last year’s top model.

Should I wait for the 2016?

Probably not. With the fairly extensive 2015 revamp, changes to the ‘16 are apt to be minor and not worth waiting for. It’ll be a rerun, though it’ll almost certainly cost more.

If you’re on the fence, though, you might wait to check out Honda’s new entry-level crossover, the HR-V. It’s due in late 2014 and is based on the company’s subcompact Fit hatchback. About 9 inches shorter than the CR-V, it will have less power but even better fuel economy and also cost several thousand less.

How is the styling different?

It skews more serious, even slightly aggressive. Doors, roofline, and the tapered back windows are unchanged. But the front end loses its “happy face” countenance thanks to a sharper-cut grille and edger fascia. Sleeker headlamps and addition of LED running lamps to all but the base model reinforce the makeover. The chunkier, reshaped tail conveys less the character of a hatchback car and more of an SUV. Combined with new mirrors and wheels, the look is indeed more upscale.

The Touring joins a returning lineup of LX, EX, and EX-L models. All have a dashboard that retains its attractive one-wave motif but frees space for a 7-inch central display screen, roughly 2 inches larger than before. It’s standard on all but the LX and delivers audio and telematics info and, on the EX-L with navigation and Touring models, navigation mapping.

The front center console gets an armrest and adds rear ventilation ducts; both are overdue improvements to an airy cabin that remains among the most comfortable and efficiently packaged in the category. A stiffened body structure is intended to maintain top safety ratings in collision tests.


What are the mechanical changes?

Engine and transmission upgrades promise better performance and succeed in boosting overall fuel-economy ratings a noteworthy 4 percent, to among the very best in class.

This five-passenger crossover reprises a 2.4-liter four-cylinder as its sole engine but the lighter-weight new unit is a member of the automaker’s EarthDreams engine family. It draws abreast of top competitors with addition of direct fuel injection and other updates. Horsepower remains 185, quite good for this displacement, while torque increases to 181 pound-feet, from 161. Torque is the muscle behind acceleration and the 11 percent gain erases a CR-V deficit, placing it among the strongest non-turbocharged four-cylinders in the class.

The new transmission addresses another competitive deficit: an automatic with just five gears. Most rivals use an automatic with at least six gears. For 2015, Honda dumps the conventional automatic altogether for a continuously variable transmission (CVT). This performs the duties of a traditional automatic but delivers power in the manner of a rheostat rather than though stepped gear ratios. The automaker has adopted a similar strategy for its Civic and Accord cars, with positive results for performance and fuel economy.

Suspension upgrades are designed to enhance what is already one of the best-handling compact crossovers. And EX models and above get half-inch-wider wheels for a more planted stance that underscores the newfound sense of seriousness.

Every model is again available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). As with most in the competitive set, the AWD system is intended as an all-season traction aid, not for serious off-roading.

All trim levels retain standard stability-control systems, but exclusive to the Touring and a first for this SUV is a suite of driver-assistance aids already available on some rivals. Marketed under the Honda Sensing label, these include forward-collision and lane-departure alerts, as well as adaptive cruise control designed to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, and forward collision mitigation that can automatically apply the brakes.

Does fuel economy improve?

Yes. Credit the EarthDreams engine and CVT, which, by the way, deliver gains that partly offset slight increases in curb weight over the ‘14 model. EPA ratings are 27/34/29 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 26/33/28 with AWD.

That beats this SUV’s 2014 ratings of 23/31/26 mpg with front-drive, 22/30/25 with AWD and compares favorably with those of the three rivals that trail this Honda in the compact-crossover sales race.

The Ford Escape with its turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder of 178 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque rates 23/32/26 mpg with front-drive, 22/30/25 with AWD; the Toyota RAV-4 (179 horsepower, 172 pound-feet) rates 24/31/26 and 22/29/25, respectively; and the Nissan Rouge (170 horsepower, 175 pound-feet) rates 26/33/28 and 25/32/28.

What are the new features?

Beginning with the EX trim, all 2015 models now come with the convenience of keyless entry and pushbutton start, as well as the 7-inch touchscreen Display Audio telematics interface and Honda’s LaneWatch blind-spot video system.

Display Audio enables users to tap, pinch, and swipe in the manner of a smartphone or tablet to manipulate radio and other telematics features, including the available next-generation HondaLink connectivity and navigation systems.

LaneWatch mounts a small camera in the passenger-side mirror and projects on the dash screen a view along the vehicle’s right side. It’s activated by a button on the turn-signal lever or when the driver uses the lever to signal a right turn or lane change.

Among other 2015 additions, the EX acquires the power driver’s seat and heated front seats previously reserved for the EX-L. The EX-L gets an automatic-dimming rearview mirror while retaining its standard leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, subwoofer-equipped audio system, and heated mirrors. Adding voice-activated onboard GPS again creates the EX-L with navigation model.

In addition to the aforementioned safety adjuncts, the Touring gets this crossover’s first power tailgate, driver’s memory seat, side mirrors with integrated turn signals, and 18-inch wheels.

Every ’15 CR-V again includes the company’s Easy Fold-Down 60/40 split rear seatback with release levers near the tailgate opening and pull straps at each rear door. Also onboard all versions is a rearview camera that provides a choice of three different views on the dashboard screen.

How are 2015 prices different?

They increase modestly but still trend a little higher than those of key competitors, partly because Honda eschews free-standing options in favor of a specific features set for each model. Transaction prices are similar for comparably equipped versions of rivals, although few match this crossover’s resale value or its maker’s high reliability ratings.

Base-price range is $24,150- $33,600. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee, here $830, which is about average.)

To compare, the 2015 base-price range is $23,995-$33,350 for the Escape, $23,650-$30,490 for the Rogue, and $24,656-$30,735 for the RAV-4.

The ’15 CR-V LX is priced at $24,150 with front-drive and $25,400 with AWD. In addition to features mentioned earlier, it comes with 16-inch wheels, cruise control, Bluetooth hands-free cellphone link, and a stereo with Pandora interface.

The EX is again the most popular trim and is priced at $26,250 with front-drive and $27,500 with AWD. It adds to the LX 17-inch alloy wheels, upgraded audio system, variable-speed windshield wipers, rear privacy glass, fog lights, and a power moonroof.

EX-L prices are $28,850 with front-drive and $30,100 with AWD. With navigation, they’re $30,350 and $31,600, respectively. EX-Ls add a further audio upgrade and satellite radio, among other step-ups.

Touring versions are $32,350 with front-drive and $33,600 with AWD.

When will it come out?

October 1, 2014

What are the best competitors?

Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]