The Honda CR-V is the best selling SUV — compact or otherwise — in America. In a recent evaluation by Swedish auto magazine Teknikens Värld the Honda CR-V failed to regain traction when the front wheels were on a set of rollers. Competitive vehicles were able to negotiate the challenge with ease.
An all-wheel drive vehicle’s most important attribute is the ability to continue moving forward, even when there’s no traction on any one wheel.
It’s the type of evaluation that Subaru has been making hay with since at least 2011, when it showed the Subaru Forester versus the previous generations of the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV-4, Nissan Rogue and Honda CR-V.
When the Swedish magazine Teknikens Värld tested the previous generation Honda CR-V in a similar test — placing ONLY the front wheels on rollers, rather than one front and one rear wheel — the 2013 Honda CR-V wasn’t able to move forward. As a result, Honda reprogrammed its all-wheel drive system and had it retested, and then it was able to negotiate the challenge.
But when Teknikens Värld tested the all-new 2015 Honda CR-V this past week, it appeared that the ability to move forward when the front wheels are slipping was engineered back out of the updated vehicle.
The Ford Kuga in the video is the twin to the Ford Escape sold in the United States.
The Honda CR-V offers what Honda calls Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System™. The reality is that for the vast majority of time, CR-V drivers are being pulled along by the front wheels only. When the going gets slippery, though, a Dual Pump system engages to send power to the rear wheels.
Up front is a conventional front wheel drive system, but it’s mated to a transfer case, with a driveshaft that runs front to rear. The Dual Pump system is in the rear differential, and features — as should be obvious from the name — two hydraulic pumps.
The front pump is driven by the front wheels by the drive shaft. The rear pump is driving by the rear differential. The idea is that when either set of wheels loses grip, power automatically funnels to the wheels that have grip.
During normal levels of traction the front and rear wheels, and their pumps, turn at the same speed. Hydraulic pressure circulates between the front and rear pumps, but it’s at atmospheric pressure. The second one of the differentials turns at a different rate, though, hydraulic pressure increases. That opens a valve body, which then activates a mechanical, multi-plate clutch.
The clutch is supposed to connect the front driveshaft to the rear differential, which then feeds the correct amount of torque to the rear wheels to establish traction. In theory, the more the front wheels slip, the more torque is delivered to the rear wheels.
Ignore the obnoxious disco soundtrack here, but this video offers a graphic representation of how that system works:
Honda of Sweden said in the Teknikens Värld test, the failure to move forward was because the test was unrealistic. Honda America’s Chris Naughton forwarded Honda Sweden’s response:
“In real conditions, regardless of the surface, there is a certain amount of friction always available for both front and rear wheels,’ the announcement says. ‘A scenario like the roll test with such a high difference in grip between the front and the rear wheels is highly unlikely.”
Meaning that the rollers offered zero friction, which is an unrealistic situation faced by most drivers. But that’s EXACTLY the kind of conditions you face when a thin layer of water freezes. It’s a condition known as black ice, and it happens pretty frequently all over the United States. It offers so little friction that you can’t even stand in one place, as evidenced in this video: