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Heels On Wheels: 2011 Honda CR-V Review - VIDEO ENHANCED

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2011 Honda CR-V

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE CR-V VEHICLE The Honda CR-V, standing for either Comfortable Runabout Vehicle or Compact Recreational Vehicle, is really the SUV that set the crossover blaze afire back in 1997 when it first debuted. And it remains a popular choice to this day due to a curvaceous redesign a few models back, modern interior technology and an efficient 4-cylinder engine. For 2011, a new trim, the SE (Special Edition), adds to the standard features of the CR-V LX some alloy wheels, a 6- speaker 6-disc CD player, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and rear privacy glass.

SEE ALSO: Honda CR-V Specs, Comparisons and Prices - Honda Buyers Guide
SEE ALSO: Is the Honda CR-V your perfect new car match?

I drove a 2011 Honda CR-V equipped with the 180-horsepower 2.4-liter DOCH i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine and a 5-speed automatic transmission with Grand Control Logic and Real Time 4WD. Available in LX, SE, EX and EX-L (all with or without 4WD), my top-of-the line EX-L trim came with the following highlights: leather-trimmed seats, 7-speaker audio system, steering wheel mounted controls, XM Radio, driver’s 10-way power seating, Bluetooth, and Honda’s Satellite-Linked Navigation System with voice-recognition. Total vehicle cost came to $30,095.

There isn’t quite anything wrong with this practical small-to-mid-size SUV. But that statement in itself is the problem with the Honda CR-V. There isn’t really anything that sets it apart from the oversaturated and very competitive crossover market. The CR-V gets you to where you need to go, but not all that fast. The vehicle has a decent navigation system, but one that needs updating. It offers a spacious, but rather plain, interior. In short, the CR-V is for those that like consistency in their ride and aren’t moved much by the wow factor.

Watch TACH's exclusive Honda CR-V EX-L promo video


Stylish But Comfortable Results: A big plus for the CR-V is its roomy interior. Also, the center console is very driver-oriented with the radio and climate controls as well as the automatic shifter all housed directly near to one another. Yet for 10-way power seating, I expected more comfort. Note there is no third row option, which is a popular request for SUV shoppers. Overall, you’ll find little to complain about; but again – not much to compliment.

Reliability & Safety Factor: Surprisingly, the 2011 Honda CR-V did not make the 2011 Top Safety Pick list by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), although the Element and Odyssey did. The CR-V has ratings of “Good” in all crash test categories but roof strength, which earns just a “Marginal” rating. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) give the CR-V 4-stars (versus 5-stars) in all testing areas.

Cost Issues: The base model – the LX trim with 2WD – starts at $21,895. A Honda CR-V EX-L trim with 4WD and Honda’s Satellite Navigation System tops at $30,095. This is vehicle best served modest, or at the cheaper trims, as increasing options cannot disguise the fact the interior just has a very simple feel.

Activity & Performance Ability: The CR-V’s powertrain lacks any performance pluses like a turbo or supercharged option that so many of its competitors are offering. Yet the ride is reliable, as the engine offers steady acceleration, the brakes are balanced, shifting is seamless and the steering feel is firm. But the lack of power leaves something to be desired, especially after driving the automaker’s newest edition, the Acura TSX Sport Wagon and loving the performance of the 201-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. If you walk away feeling robbed of excitement, try test driving this model.

The Green Concern: The 180-horsepower 2.4-liter DOHC i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine with 2WD gets an estimated 24-MPG on average. Equipped with Real Time 4WD, the vehicle retains 23-MPG, which does beat out many SUV competitors (those with bigger V6 engines, of course).

The Honda CR-V might be an affordable and reliable crossover choice, but it is definitely not a vehicle for those expecting to be wooed by either luxury or powertrain performance – two components many competitors are happy to offer you at also reasonable prices.

Click PLAY to watch a short CR-V EX-L promo video

2011 Katrina Ramser