Notable features: Thanks to improved aerodynamics, less weight and engine friction reduction, the CR-V gained a couple of miles per gallon in fuel economy, despite using a mostly carryover powertrain. Honda also made the gear ratios taller to help with fuel economy, yet the car is 0.3 seconds quicker to 60 mph.
Honda increased the CR-V's torsional rigidity by strengthening the tailgate area and by using some thicker gauge steel in crucial areas.
A neat interior touch: The split-folding rear seats will flop down flat with the touch of a lever easily reached from the tailgate. The center console has a cubbyhole that will swallow a small-sized purse.
Honda claims the CR-V has "electronic all-wheel drive," but it's mostly a carryover hydraulic system with an added electronic actuation of the torque-split mechanism between the front and rear wheels. The old system would start in front-drive and send power to the rear wheels if wheel-spin were detected; the new version always supplies some amount of power to the rear wheels at startup. Up to 100 percent of engine torque can be sent to the front or rear wheels.
Honda also changed from hydraulic to electric power steering.
Standard features across the line include air conditioning, cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, rear-seat heater ducts and a 160-watt AM/FM/CD player.
Standard telematics include Bluetooth connectivity, rear backup camera with three angles, USB audio with Pandora link, multi-information display, and SMS texting that works with Droid X and most BlackBerry phones.
What Honda says: "People want something more economical and environmentally sensitive, but people's true wants and needs haven't changed," Akio Tonomura, CR-V large project leader, said at the press preview here.
Compromises and shortcomings: There is no hybrid version — for now. Honda is notorious for tire and wheel noise creeping into the cabin, although this version is somewhat dampened. The five-speed automatic often resorts to downshifting into second gear when more power is suddenly needed at freeway speeds, creating a riotous racket in the cabin. There is no "sport-shift" feature with the gearshift. The rear quarter-window framing gives the butt of the car a distinctly droopy appearance from the side view. Some journalists complained of a vague on-center steering feel.