Huntington Beach, Calif. — I would guess that when most people are asked, ?what was the best-selling SUV/crossover in the United States last year?? the answers would include Escape, Equinox, RAV4, Highlander or Explorer. The correct answer is Honda CR-V. Honda?s sales leadership is even more impressive when you consider that Honda doesn?t do fleet sales like most brands do.
The Honda CR-V was also the best-selling SUV over the last decade; in fact, it?s the best-selling entry-SUV of all time. That?s why the introduction of a 2015 CR-V is such a major, minor model change ? Honda doesn?t want to mess with success, but they need to push ahead to maintain their leadership. It?s a conundrum.
The significant exterior styling changes are in the front and rear of the 2015 Honda CR-V where the new grille treatment integrates the headlights creating a broad wing-like shape (some may say horns) with a multi-tone grille. The bumper and lower fascia have a horizontal look with more dimension and chrome. In the rear other chrome accents and a metallic-looking inset below the bumper add to the sophisticated look.
The basic shape of the 2015 Honda CR-V remains the same. A quick glace at the side of a 2014 and 2015 models look about same, except for the wheels, which are turbine like on the new model.
Inside, the dash changes are subtle conveying further refinement with a faux stitched treatment on the dash along with a sculpted look on some other surfaces. The perforated leather seats give the interior a more tailored appearance, too. But the most noticeable change is the center console which has a sliding arm rest and a compartmentalized storage area that can be configured for personal needs. My driving partner noticed that the original-size Apple iPad fit nicely in the top of the console and worked like a top for the compartment with a small gap at the ends. I wonder if that was intentional or an interesting coincidence? Another feature that caught his attention was that the sun visors, now slide to help block the sun ? those that don?t are one of his pet peeves.
One of the most significant changes is the Earth Dream Technology? engine and transmission. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine now has direct-injection and as a result picks up 18 more pound-feet of torque with the same 181 horsepower. The five-speed automatic transmission has been swapped for a new Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Buff magazines that do testing say the new combination is about a half second quicker than the 2014 model with a 0 to 60 mph time of 8.6 seconds. The EPA says Earth Dreams Technology makes a four mpg improvement in city driving and a three mpg improvement on the highway and combined figures. The EPA rates the latest front-wheel drive CR-V at 27 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined. The AWD version is one mile per gallon less across the board.
Honda Sensing? safety system is new this year adding a suite of the latest safety technologies. Honda Sensing integrates Lane Keeping Assist System and a Collision Mitigation Braking System? that will warn the driver of the impending collision with a pedestrian at speeds up to 40 mph. If a collision is unavoidable the system will brake to help avoid or lessen damage. The system also includes the first CR-V adaption of Adaptive Cruise Control.
The 2015 Honda CR-V has the next-generation Advanced Compatibility Engineering? frontbody structure which helps absorb frontal crashes. Honda engineers made more than 60 structural changes to stiffen the body structure and collision performance.
A fourth, and upper end, trim level has been added to the CR-V lineup for 2015, too. The new Touring edition steps up from the EX-L adding navigation, a new power tailgate and the new Honda Sensing suite of safety and convenience features, along with larger wheels, HomeLink remote, and projector headlights. For even better value, the mid-level EX version gets about $1,400 in added standard content including 10-way power driver?s seats, heated front seats, Honda LaneWatch?, push button start and LED daytime running lights.
Honda has switched the navigation/audio system to a new seven-inch capacitive touch screen display for all models except the LX trim. It works like a smart phone or tablet ? for example, you can make adjustments by swiping a finger across the screen to move the image, or pinching the screen king with two fingers to reduce the map size. The same screen is used for the backup system and allows the driver to select different views ? wide, normal and down.
I was sorry to see that the volume knob was eliminated in favor of a toggle-type button on the unit; however, it?s easy to make audio changes and adjustments using the redundant controls on the steering wheel. It?s also possible to use the voice command system to make changes ? although I admit I still find that challenging. I assume that an owner that uses the system everyday will be more adept.
The 2015 CR-V pricing starts at $24,250, including the destination charge for the front-wheel drive LX and goes up to $33,600 for the new Touring trim level with all-wheel drive. When selected, all-wheel drive adds $1,250 to all models. I like the way Honda does its pricing; you buy the trim level that suits your needs and budget ? you don?t buy a level and then have to add a bunch of options. I think it makes the shopping process much simpler and less stressful.
Drivers won?t find the new CR-V much different than the previous generation. It?s a bit smoother, quieter and refined, driving more like a car than an SUV. There?s no wallowing or sway on corners, rather it feels flat and well balanced. The steering is precise and changes made to the brakes produce a firmer more confident pedal feel.
Over the last 19 years, more than 2.3-million U.S. drivers have invested in the Honda CR-V and for 2015 Honda hasn?t messed with the formula; it?s just a new and improved version of the most popular SUV in the country.