2015 Honda CR-V Driving Impressions

The Honda CR-V isn’t about performance but it has nothing to be sorry for. In this cute-ute class filled with 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines, the CR-V offers very good power and is among the lightest. A Ford Escape or Subaru Forester turbo will be faster, but you’ll pay extra to get it and more at the pump.

The 2015 CR-V engine is more sophisticated than the 2014 version, so it makes the same 185 horsepower but at lower revs. The new engine delivers 10-percent more torque, also at lower revs. It is just as smooth and refined as the old one, though in the absence of ambient noise it may sound louder at idle.

The continuously variable transmission is also new (like the engine, new to CR-V, not Honda). As the name implies it has no specific gears but varies the ratio as needed over a very broad range, making the engine produce only the power required. Drive off slowly and it runs barely above idle, but give it the boot to merge and it runs high up the rev band until you lift off the throttle. It lacks the feel of immediate response that a traditional automatic transmission offers. However, fuel economy is improved by four miles per gallon in the city and there isn’t such a large disparity between city and highway consumption.

A semi-corona around the big speedometer varies blue to green as a subtle economy indicator. A sizable green ECON button switches operation to more fuel saving means, primarily in response to the gas pedal and air conditioning operation. It will still stay cool inside but power will feel dull; its biggest benefit will be to drivers with a heavy foot and/or jerky driving style and passengers will appreciate the smoother ride. As usual, your mileage will vary, driving style a much larger factor than the econ button.

Although the wheels are slightly wider and farther apart on the 2015 CR-V, most owners may not notice the subtle recalibration. The CR-V reacts to extreme inputs with a bit more precision and otherwise rides as comfortably as the 2014. It doesn’t lean much when pushed hard and the electric steering assist and electronic stability control work together to keep it going where you point it even under heavy braking. Just remember to steer.

Even that gets some assistance on the Touring model, which adds lane departure warning (defeatable) and lane keeping assist (works from 45-90 mph) to help keep the CR-V in its lane if your brain wanders. The Touring model adds forward collision warning and collision-mitigation braking so if you fail to acknowledge the visual and audible warnings by changing course and/or applying the brake, the CR-V brakes automatically.

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