REVIEW: 2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring – Best In Class Driving Dynamics

Posted by

The new 2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring sets a new benchmark for compact crossovers in two key ways. It’s handling and ride comfort are absolutely perfect for the vehicle’s mission and its engine and transmission are simply the best in this class.

What is it? 

The Honda CR-V is Honda’s top-selling automobile in America. Compact crossovers are the number one automobile segment now, having passed trucks and midsize sedans, so this vehicle’s importance to Honda is significant. The CR-V has alwys been a contender for first place in its class. New updates propel it past all its peers in important ways.

Pricing and trims

The CR-V starts with its most basic trim, the 2WD LX, at $25K. All-wheel drive adds about $1,200. The EX rings in at about $28K, the EX-L at about $30K. The top trim is the Touring, which comes in at $35,575 with AWD and includes every available option.

Our CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring test vehicle is the best CR-V can build for you and rings in at a very competitive $35,575. We can find only one feature missing from this well- appointed Touring model, and that is a heated steering wheel.

Safety

Honda has always been a safety leader and with its new 2017 CR-V, Honda provides active safety systems in all but its base trim.

The Touring trim of the CR-V includes Honda Sensing. This package includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, and lane keeping assist. Honda does not break out the cost of this package but includes it on this trim level.

The 2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rated vehicle. That is the highest safety rating in the land. Our test trim included the optional LED headlights and forward collision prevention system required for the CR-V  to earn this highest safety score. Lower-trim CR-Vs do not earn the top safety rating from IIHS.

Performance

We love Honda’s new 1.5-liter turbocharged engine found in the 2017 CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring. We love it even more since Honda recommends regular fuel in the CR-V, unlike in its Civic Hatchback Sport, which for some odd reason, Honda tuned to need premium fuel.

The 190 hp produced by the engine is more than competitive with this segment but has the added value of producing its maximum torque at lower RPMs than most competitors’ engines. So it feels stronger around town. Given the CR-V’s missions as a daily driver, family vehicle, commuter vehicle, weekend getaway SUV, and all-around vehicle, we feel the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine is now the best in this class. Ford’s Escape has some equally good driving engines, but they are more thirsty and don’t come with Honda’s excellent constantly variable transmission.

Constantly variable transmissions (CVTs) have matured and we have grown to love them.  Drive a CVT in a daily driver for a while and geared transmissions will feel crude and jerky by comparison. Together, the new turbocharged engine and CVT provide very linear satisfying power and torque for this class. Frankly, more power isn’t necessary. This drivetrain is just right, and it only takes a short drive to feel its benefits. The CVT in our test CR-V felt very smooth and is a big reason the CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring earns a 29 MPG Combined, 27 City, 33 Highway rating from the EPA. That is more than ten percent better than Ford Escape’s “EcoBoost” 1.5T engine and geared transmission. The CR-V 1.5T AWD’s 33 MPG highway rating even tops Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid Highway rating by 3 MPG! In our testing on mostly suburban roads and highway driving, we managed to maintain 30 MPG over 150 miles of driving.

Ride and handling

Honda departs from the mainstream in a critical way with regard to its wheel and tire choice and we cannot be happier about it. Instead of the ridiculous low-profile tires most automakers fit to their top trims in the compact crossover class, Honda instead goes for conventional, “high-profile”, 60-series tires mounted to 18-inch rims. The substantial sidewall provides enough flex to resist pot-hole damage, helps smooth out the ride, and yet, the CR-V’s handling is sharp and enjoyable. Like its engine and transmission, Honda has pulled away noticeably from the competition in this important aspect of drivability. The CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring offers a smooth ride, with great handling. It is shocking how few of the vehicles we test can pull this off.

Seating

Honda scores another win with fantastic seating in the CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring. The perforated leather is soft, appears to be of excellent quality, and the seat heaters do exactly what we want them to. They simply stay on. So many vehicles we test require a few menu taps to turn on the heated seats. Honda wisely lets them just stay where you set them. Seat comfort was ideal fo my six-foot, 195-pound body shape and with the ample cabin room, larger adults will find more than enough room to spread out. It goes without saying that every Honda fits petite frames well.

Like most compact crossovers, the rear seats are equal in size to most midsize sedans, but with better headroom. Six-foot teens can easily fit comfortably behind the front seats even when they are all the way back. Our prior test car was a midsize Jaguar. This compact CR-V had roomier back-row seats. With 40.4 inches of rear legroom, the CR-V beats the 2-row Nissan Rogue’s 38 inches.

Unlike some trims of the new Nissan Rogue, the 2017 Honda CR-V does not have an optional third-row.

Cargo

Due to its boxy rear shape, the CR-V has excellent cargo capacity. The CR-V’s 39.2 cubic feet of cargo area behind the rear seats is almost identical in volume to the 2-row Nissan Rogue’s 39.3 cubic feet. Surprisingly, the CR-V’s 75.8 cubic feet of cargo area with the rear seats folded is larger than the Rogue’s 70 cubic feet. We say surprising because the Rogue looks bigger to the eye. Under the cargo floor is a compact spare and ample room to stuff emergency supplies.

Infotainment and controls

The CR-V Touring trim has a large seven-inch Display Audio touch-screen. Navigation is included as is a multi-view and rear-view camera system. As we highlighted in a recent spotlight, Honda has brought back the volume knob for the system. The Honda infotainment system has some negatives. First, the screen requires a more deliberate touch than most screens we test. We often found ourselves tapping it twice in frustration. Second, the steering wheel controls are not ideal, and most crossovers we test have that sorted out now. The left side controls are not easy to use for volume adjustment and the swipe feature accidentally adjusted the sound volume often enough to make us like dislike it. On the other hand, the system has its positives, which include easy to understand menus and no silly mouse to learn to operate. Our phone synched with the CR-V as easily as in any vehicle we have tested. Doing simple tasks like adjusting the bass in the audio menus is straightforward and intuitive. We feel that at this price point the steering wheel should be heated, and we like to be able to adjust things like lighting and door locks in the menus. It feels like Honda held back on the CR-V’s functionality to make room for the Acura RDX to be better.

Overall

A brief conclusion to this review would not do justice to the 2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring. This compact crossover has set a new standard for engine and transmission excellence in this very competitive segment. It is hard for us to imagine a non-turbo base four-cylinder engine ever being this good. Honda has worked out all the negatives of turbos as well, so there is no downside. The CVT transmission is also as good as our favorite, Subaru’s, and with the small turbo just perfect in its operation.

The Handling and ride comfort of the CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring is also best in class and not by a little. Pretty much every compact crossover we test that is an automaker’s top trim is ruined by low profile tires that make the ride too stiff. Honda did a simple, smart thing and the payoff is huge. Overall, this Honda has the best driving dynamics of any compact crossover available, and yes, we are including every compact crossover in the “premium” class.

We wish we could also say the CR-V’s infotainment and interior was the best in the business for $35K, but it falls just short of perfect. For most buyers that value the driving experience, though, and for any Honda brand fan, the new 2017 CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring is so good it is hard to overstate it.

2017 Hinda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

Base price: $24,985

Price as tested, $35,575 including $940 destination charge:  

Options: None

Likes:

  • Fantastic Engine and Transmission
  • Super Comfy Seats
  • Fuel Economy
  • Driving Dynamics Are Perfect For Mission

Dislikes:

  • Wood Trim Seems Out of Place In This Modern Vehicle
  • Steering Wheel Controls Are Not Ideal
  • Lack of a Heated Steering Wheel At Price Point

Share:
John Goreham

John Goreham