OVER COMPLICATED GOODNESS: 2023 HONDA CR-V HYBRID
If there is one thing for certain, crossovers, as a category in whole, is a relatively boring concept. That of course is unless you’re looking at a Lamborghini Urus or the Ferrari Purosangue, and if that’s the case, how did you end up here, on this page. I digressed… the reality is that most crossovers are about as interesting as a history lesson on the pencil sharpener. But just because they’re boring doesn’t mean they don’t have to be any good. Take the all-new Honda CR-V for example, in a sea of revolutionary tedium, the new CR-V is pretty darn good.
There is no beating around the bush, Honda did such a great job styling the new Civic, they figured, give it a little lift, a taller roof line, and boom, a new CR-V… masterpiece. Yet, while I may mock the idea that the CR-V looks like the Civic, I actually like the Civic, so naturally the same compliment applies here. And I like that Honda tried to keep the spirit of the CR-V alive in the back with elongated, tailgate wrapped taillights, although the claw design is a bit different, I like that too.
Carrying over from the previous generation, the CR-V continues strong with its small, but mighty 1.5-liter turbocharged engine that’s good for a solid 190-horsepower. That powertrain can be found in three versions starting with the entry CR-V LX at $28,410. But should you want a little more fuel economy, there is the new CR-V Hybrid available in the Sport & Sport Touring starting at $32,950.
Despite some thinking Honda was perhaps a bit lazy carrying over its turbocharged engine, their main focus was providing a completely revamped, very complicated, over-engineered hybrid system. So I must apologize for the level of urbane facts that’s are about to occur.
Unlike a traditional hybrid system, the CR-V is powered by three motors. A propulsion motor, an electric generator motor and a gasoline engine. Driving the wheels, the CR-V gets most of its delivery from a 181-horsepower electric motor that is backed up by a 145-horsepower 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine – in this sense, the roles are reversed compared to other hybrids that is powered by a gas engine and backed up by an electric motor. The thing is however, the electric motor has to get its power supply from somewhere, so that’s were the third electric motor comes into play. It is a 161-horsepower electric generator that feeds a small 1.1-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and always works as the starter motor. Think of it as sort of like a contingency plan to the already in place backup plan.
With so much horsepower being tossed around, the total combined output only comes to a total of 204-combined horsepower, which is a slight improvement over the previous generation’s 201-horsepower rating. But keepings to the complexity of the engineering, the power of these three engines is not connected through a single speed continuous variable transmission, like we’ve seen in the past. The CR-V uses a direct-drive transmission that gives the driver a false sense of reality. Since the 181-hp electric motor can rev upwards of 14,500 rpms and the 161-hp generator can supply 17,000 rpms, the tachometer within the cabin is mostly there for show – it incorporates what’s called a Linear Shift Control that generates vehicle speed-linked revolutions that’s gives the impression of a conventional transmission shifting gears.
Furthermore, Honda moved the electric motor to now be side-by-side of the engine’s crankshaft verses being inline, by doing such it creates a new high-speed & low speed ratio on the transmission that allows for better fuel economy, improved driving dynamics and 1,000 pounds of towing capacity. That may not seem like much but given this wasn’t available previously now allows for owners to tow small campers or recreational vehicles.
With everything working in harmony, the performance side of the CR-V is no more than a standard hybrid crossover. Foot down on the accelerator and it will get to 60-mph in just under 8-seconds. And after sticking to just highway driving during our week, we found that our example met the EPA rated 34-mpg’s.
On the driving aspect, there is a noticeable difference between the previous generation and this new generation. Because of the intricacy of the hybrid system, the entire structure of the CR-V had to be overhauled with a stiffer body shell, additional spot welds, and beefier front and rear subframes. Doing such gives the CR-V a solid, well-planted feel that you don’t get from other compact crossovers in its class. It feels more on the premium spectrum.
Inside, much like the exterior, there is a lot of similarities to the Civic… pretty much matching spec-for-spec with a digital instrument cluster, a large 9-inch touch screen display, handsomely applied finishes, and overall attractive presence. The seats on our Sport Touring were wrapped in leather with power adjustable driver and passenger seats with usual heated seat options; however, the lack of ventilated seats is a surprising miss here.
On another note, Honda FINALLY recalibrated their Honda Sensing System and their adaptive cruise control. The system used to be such a headache, taking the vehicle follow distance far too seriously with slamming on its brakes in low-speed traffic scenarios. The system in the CR-V has finally been updated to be much more subtle and comfortable for the driver. The adaptive cruise control applies its braking more gingerly for a smoother stop.
As the story goes, the Honda CR-V carries the presence of the typical bland crossover that is attractive on the outside, attractive on the inside and gets decent fuel economy. But like any good book, you have to understand the story to appreciate its complexity. And in that case, the CR-V is anything but boring.
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