Fling a Frisbee in the parking lot of any chichi New Age grocer and it will likely clatter across the hood of a Honda CR-V.
Heck, the way I throw, I might nail two at Whole Foods alone.
Like Frisbees, Honda’s CR-V compact crossover has morphed into a useful and mildly trendy artifact in oh-so-hip urban America.
On some mornings in my leafy neighborhood, CR-Vs seem so plentiful I wonder if someone is giving them away with coffee at Starbuck’s.
The problem for hyper-competitive Honda is who pays any real attention to a Frisbee – or its four-wheeled equivalent, the CR-V?
If you get tired of the old one, you get a new one in a different color. No worries, dudes and dude-ettes.
That may change a bit this year, though, with the fifth-generation 2017 CR-V, which for now remains the top-selling compact crossover in the U.S.
With the really solid redesign of the compact Civic sedan last year, Honda made it clear that it wants to do more than just build reliable, efficient appliances.
The new CR-V, which shares a platform, powertrain and major suspension components with the Civic, quietly embodies that intent.
Slightly longer, wider and taller, the silver CR-V Touring I had recently flashed some real presence just sitting still in the driveway of Chateau Box.
Although instantly recognizable as a Honda CR-V, it sported a bolder two-bar chrome grille wedged between large, curved projector-style headlamps.
The hood showed some flair as well with a flat center and prominently raised edges, while a strong character line cut through the door handles.
Slightly protruding fenders added a bit more spice to the CR-V’s mostly flat body, housing bigger black-and-silver 18-inch alloy wheels shod with 235/60 tires.
Moreover, a sort of hockey stick shaped piece of chrome trim at the base of the body looked kind of BMW to me – and really pretty good.
Granted, that was offset somewhat by enormous bat-wing taillamps that ran the length of the back window, looking like a Volvo that had spent way too much time on Sixth Street in Austin.
But, hey, at least Honda opted to put polished dual exhausts on the high-end Touring model I had.
Still, the big-small news hummed quietly beneath the CR-V’s chiseled hood.
For the first time, the little crossover gets a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 190-horsepower.
Though more powerful than previous normally aspirated engines – and with more torque down low – the motor is paired with a belt-and-pulley CVT “transmission.”
It’s actually not all that bad. (I’m given to occasional hyperbole after my daily Red Bull, especially if Unknown Hinson is on the radio.)
While a bit sluggish initially – possibly from the CR-V’s all-wheel-drive system — Mighty Mouse came alive once I pushed hard into the accelerator and really prodded the CVT.
From about 2,500 rpm on, the engine seemed pretty strong, propelling the 3,500-pound CR-V to 60 in 7.6 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
Maybe more important for most drivers, the turbo-four felt refined and pretty spirited while delivering a best-in-class 27 miles per gallon in town and 33 on the highway.
The CVT, meanwhile, remained more or less invisible during my week of driving, droning only under hard acceleration and when I got cranky with it.
Best of all, the new platform made the crossover seem nimble and agile, turning nicely into corners with good grip and only slight body-lean.
The ride felt mildly sporty – firm enough to keep things under control but smooth enough to take on a thousand-mile trip.
Likewise, the steering was quick and well-weighted, providing good road-feel and making the CR-V pretty pleasant in traffic with its relatively high ride and big windows.
Fortunately, Honda also took a pencil to the CR-V’s interior, which in previous generations tended to look basic, bland and predominantly plastic.
The much-improved black interior in my $35,000 CV-R nicely conveyed its top-of-the-line status.
A curved black dashboard in decent plastic, for example, flowed over the instrument panel with a stylized hood, wrapping around a 7-inch display screen mounted flush with the dash.
As usual, Honda makes you use touchpads on the screen to tune the radio – a truly dumb idea if you’re driving – but provides a button for the volume.
In addition, the system offers Apple CarPlay/Android Auto Integration, as well as Pandora and a USB audio interface.
In a bit of flourish, the instrument panel featured a computerized tachometer laid out as a band across the top of the instrument panel with the speed in digits below.
I’m not sure why, but then, I occasionally still take photos of my feet while trying to shoot a real picture. New-tech sometimes eludes me.
Meanwhile, a broad console offered a deep storage bin at its base and both the dash and door-tops got some faux “stitching” to give them a bit more pop.
The leather-trimmed seats also looked reasonably upscale with sectioned, perforated centers, and good leg- and headroom in back.
Will anyone notice? Beats me, but with the new Civic and now CR-V, Honda seems determined to again find its special groove.
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