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2012 Honda CR-V AWD EX-L Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO

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2012 Honda CR-V AWD EX-L


• SEE ALSO: Honda Buyers Guide

2012 Honda CR-V AWD EX-L Nav

The CR-V has been a major success for Honda since its debut in 1997, to the point where it is a benchmark in the small affordable crossover class. Vehicles in that class, known in the days when truck SUVs ruled as "soft-roaders" or "sport-cutes", have never had any pretense to being rugged offroad beasts. They are unabashedly wagon replacements, build up for extra space. And the extra ground clearance is as useful in urban and suburban environments devoid of road maintenance as it would be in the wilderness.

Model year 2012 sees the fourth generation of CR-V. While it is an evolutionary development of the previous versions, its all-new styling gives it more presence and significant upgrades to its unibody structure and powertrain improve ride quality, safety, performance, and fuel economy. Even better for most buyers, all trim levels -- value LX, well-equipped EX, and semi-luxury EX-L (for Leather) -- get the "Easy Fold-Down" 60/40 split folding rear seat, operated from the appropriate rear door or the cargo area, a lower cargo floor for easy loading and unloading, a multi-angle rearview camera, a multi-information display, and a sound system with USB and jack connections for music players plus Bluetooth® streaming audio and Pandora® internet radio capacity when connected through a capable mobile phone.

Honda's engineers keep coaxing more power from their engines, without increasing the appetite for fuel. If the CR-V's 2.4-liter four is familiar, it gets five more horsepower, to 185, and two more lb-ft of torque, 163 thanks to internal detail changes this year. It drives the front wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission, with the latest version of Honda's "Real Time AWD" all-wheel drive system optional for all trim levels. In that, electronic control replaces hydraulics, reducing weight and internal friction to further help fuel economy.

I've just finished a week with a top-of-the-line CR-V EX-L with the navigation system. To keep life simple, Honda considers that to be a separate model, as is the EX-L with, for the first time in a CR-V, a rear-seat entertainment system. No, you can't have both in one car… and make no mistake, the CR-V is a car, not a truck. A tall car, but with ample space for four or even five people and their stuff, or fewer people and even more stuff -- with quick and easy configurability and access. It has plenty of power for all real-world crossover tasks, and still returns good mileage for its size with a 25-mpg average for my week. It's a class benchmark for good reason, and still at the head of the class.

APPEARANCE: While there are no major changes in dimension, the newest CR-V looks larger than any before. This is optical illusion, likely the work of the higher hood, larger grille, more-sculpted side panels, and redesigned roofline and tailgate as CR-V Generation IV is about an inch shorter and an inch lower than its predecessor, on the same 103.1-inch wheelbase. Its shape is not merely a styling exercise, as its lower aerodynamic drag contributes to improved fuel economy. And a large part of that is underneath -- the coverings from the front bumper back are more like a race car undertray than SUV skid plates.

COMFORT: In a crossover like the CR-V, no matter how good-looking the outside may be, the inside is still more important. Even though there is slightly less outside to the 2012 CR-V, interior space has increased a bit (0.3 cu. ft.) and, more importantly, utilization of that space is maximized. Floor and cargo heights have both decreased, for easier access, and the 37.2 cu. ft. (rear seat in place) to 70.9 cft (rear seat stowed) of cargo space is augmented by useful storage spaces around the cabin, including a locking glove box, large console box (with USB and minijack connections and a power point) and even small open compartments in the front doors and along the sides of the console.

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

At EX-L level, appointments border on luxury, with new and very good leather-covered seats (front, two-level heated, driver's power-adjustable, passenger's manual) and a leather rim to the tilt- and telescope-adjustable steering wheel. There's a tilt-and-slide moonroof for extra light, and the safety of good visibility is enhanced by a standard backup camera, with selectable multiple angles of view, a convex outer section to the driver's-side outside mirror, and a convex "passenger monitor" interior mirror integrated with the overhead sunglasses holder. Instrumentation is complete and very well-designed, with the speedometer, tach, and engine temperature and fuel gauges in a backlit main cluster in front of the driver, with further information displays inside the central speedometer. To the right of that, at the top center, is the "intelligent" Multi-Information Display (i-MID), which shows audio, fuel consumption, and other information, selectable via a button on the steering wheel. In CR-Vs without the navigation system, the backup display is also there. The EX-L Nav's navigation system screen is below that, a touchscreen flanked by hard buttons for audio, map, and information systems. Climate controls are at the bottom, simple and not integrated into the screen systems. As nice as the front seat environment is, the rear seat is the strongest feature. Since you could be either at a rear door or looking through the tailgate when you need to flip a seat down, why not put controls in both places? Here they are, and the seat sections are spring-loaded for simple mechanical operation. No motors and electric circuitry to break down after a few years.

SAFETY: In the new CR-V, passive safety is addressed by a stronger unibody with Honda's "ACE" (Advanced Compatibility Engineering" structure and front and rear crumple zones, dual-stage multiple-threshold front airbags, seat-mounted front side airbags, and full-length side-curtain airbags with rollover sensors. The front seats are designed to reduce neck injury in rear-end collisions. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system add further protection.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The CR-V's improved unibody structure allows a comfort-oriented tuning of its fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension and responsive handling. No, it's not in the same league as a Civic Si, or even regular Civic, but blame physics and a higher center of gravity and greater mass. For its intended purpose and clientele, it's near-perfect. New this year is Motion-Adaptive Electric Power Steering (EPS), which works with the VSA system to give the driver better control, especially in tricky situations.

PERFORMANCE: Neat trick - more power and better fuel economy. The 2012 CR-V's 2.4-liter twincam 16-valve four-cylinder engine is basically familiar from last year and before, but numerous interior detail improvements to reduce friction and increase efficiency result in 185 horsepower (at 7000 rpm), an increase of five, and 163 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm, an increase of two. No, that's not much, but every little bit helps, and it's now done with less fuel and lower emissions, and the i-VTEC variable valve timing and lift control system ensures good low-rpm torque for most daily driving activities and plenty of midrange and higher-rpm power when needed for passing or quick merges into fast traffic. As in the Civic this year, there is an "ECO" sticker on the side window, indicative of the Eco Assist™ system. Press it, and throttle response is reprogrammed to be more gentle, while the cruise and climate control systems are allowed greater variation to use less energy. The area around the instrument cluster glows green when you're in low-fuel consumption mode, or white if you're thirstier. I kept it in Eco except when I knew I'd have to accelerate quickly. No complaints, and the result was low 20s around town, high 20s to 30 on the highway, and 25 overall. The five-speed automatic transmission has Grade Logic Control to keep it from hunting between gears on steep grades and Shift Hold Control to hold a lower gear on a twisting road when the car is driven assertively. The new "Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control" all-wheel drive system is electronically-based and works with the VSA and EPS systems for better control with less weight.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2012 Honda CR-V is the best yet.


2012 Honda CR-V AWD EX-L Nav

Base Price $ 29,795

Price As Tested $ 30,605

Engine Type aluminum alloy DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with i-VTEC® variable valve lift and timing

Engine Size 2.4 liters / 144 cu. in.

Horsepower 185 @ 7000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 163 @ 4400 rpm

Transmission 5-speed automatic

Wheelbase / Length 103.1 in. / 178.3 in.

Curb Weight 3529 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 19.1

Fuel Capacity 15.3 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires 225/65R17 102T Bridgestone Dueler

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, BA, EBD, VSC standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut, independent multilink

Ground clearance 6.7 inches

Drivetrain transverse front engine, automatic on-demand all-wheel drive


EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon

city / highway / observed 22 / 30 / 25

0 to 60 mph 8.5 sec

Towing capacity 1500 pounds


Destination charge $810