Honda Next-Gen CR-V Unveiled At Turbocharged Press Event

Honda did the “reveal” thing with its 2017 CR-V inside Shed 3 at Detroit’s Eastern Market this week and the fifth-generation, perennially best-selling SUV seems, on first glance, to be “bigger, more powerful, more fuel efficient and potentially better in every way,” Detroit Free Press auto critic Mark Phelan tells us in a video report. “You could almost feel a chill run through the competition” — namely the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Logue, Jeep Cherokee, Subaru Forester, Chevrolet Equino and Ford Escape.

The automaker is anticipating so much demand in North America for the revamped CR-V, which is its No. 2 seller behind the Civic, that it will be assembling the vehicle at three plants, Brent Snavely writes in USA Today — East Liberty, Ohio and Alliston, Ont., as well as Greensburg, Ind., which is undergoing a $52 million upgrading and will add 100 workers. It has sold nearly 4 million CR-Vs since its U.S. launch in 1997; it introduced the fourth-generation CR-V in 2011 and updated it in 2014. 



But Bloomberg’s John Lippert points out that Honda is facing a hard fight to retain its dominance as new models from Ford, General Motors and other automakers “are challenging its dominance.”

The CR-V “ranked 14th out of 20 vehicles for total quality in a Strategic Vision survey of customers who purchased 2016 model year vehicles between October 2015 and March 2016. The Subaru Crosstrek was first in the category, which includes exterior styling, and it’s being redesigned for the 2018 model year,” Lippert writes.

“Honda shouldn’t take their success for granted,” Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Vision, tells Lippert, as “companies like Subaru develop a stronger brand image and as they offer better features.” 

Honda SVP and GM Jeff Conrad exuded confidence that his spanking new model will prevail, of course, telling the assembled oil-stained wretches “the new Honda CR-V raises the bar in every imaginable way, delivering more performance, space and premium content together with higher fuel economy ratings and value than ever before. Customers are going to love what they see and what they experience …”

The fact that the engine is turbocharged made its way into most headlines this morning, although that 1.5-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine will only be available on the higher trim levels  — Honda currently offers five CR-V models — Charles Fleming reports in the Los Angeles Times

But the 2.4-liter four-cylinder power plant “will make 190 horsepower (up from 185 on the current engine) and offer improved fuel economy that Honda says will be the highest Environmental Protection Agency numbers in the entire SUV class,” Fleming writes.  

There are front-end design refreshes, too, among other improvements, reports Kyle Campbell for the New York Daily News: “The headlights are sharper, more aggressive and are available with LED accents; fenders are bigger; the hood is longer and features sweeping accent lines,” if that sort of thing turns you on.

Snavely has an interesting sidebar in the Detroit Free Press on the hows and whys behind Honda choosing to unveil the sleek CR-Vs in a produce-market shed between two trailers loaded with hay instead of at a glitzy presentation at an auto show, like (mostly) everybody else.

  • Timing. Honda likes to keep its new models under wraps until they’re about to go into production. The New York Auto Show was too early; L.A.’s too late.
  • Coordination. Chevrolet had scheduled a “ride and drive program” for reporters for the Chevrolet Cruze hatchback on Wednesday, too. “Once the two automakers learned they both inadvertently scheduled major media events on the same day,” they worked together so that reporters and analysts could attend both events. 

“The announcement of one particular feature … actually drew applause from the gathered media,” reportsForbes contributor Sam Abuelsamid. “It should be noted that as a general rule, auto writers don’t applaud at press conferences. They made an exception when American Honda vice president of communications announced that the CR-V would feature a new generation display audio system with — wait for it! — a volume knob!”

It seems that the volume control on Honda’s touchscreen audio system, which was introduced with the 2014 Honda Fit, “has always been a bit finicky” — and was “probably the single biggest UX complaint about recent Hondas,” Abuelsamid tells us. So “Honda heard the voice of the customer and developed a new generation of this audio system with a classic rotary knob to turn up the tunes with a quick flick. Sometimes, old tech is just better.

As the happy owner of 2005 CR-V — with a rotary knob, jerry-rigged Bluetooth, no turbocharge in the engine and somewhat tawdry floor mats — I agree. The dilemma of making cars so reliable that people want to buy them is, of course, that people don’t have to buy them all that often.

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