Honda, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2008 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi – Road Test

Honda’s 3rd generation of the very popular CR-V is by far the best looking one yet. As has become the norm in the automotive kingdom, each succeeding generation of vehicles brings with it improved safety, luxuries and dimensions. Honda hasn’t diverged from the norm in their design of the CR-V.

One thing that stands out in this re-design is that this just isn’t a Honda CR-V, but an Acura CR-V. This is a baby Acura SUV in every way imaginable – including the price. From the intoxicating smell of the leather interior to the quality feel throughout, Honda have really kicked it up a notch with the 2008 Acura – I mean Honda CR-V.

First Impressions
As I’ve mentioned the CR-V is much more Acura than Honda and the first sign of this upgrade was when I jumped behind the wheel. I jumped back out just as quickly to have a look at the badge on the rear door – I thought I’d gotten into an Acura RDX by mistake. Seriously!

The leather seats are manually operated, and very comfortable. Although there isn’t a lumbar adjustment, the shape of the seat back is perfectly contoured and with a height adjustment it was quick and easy to get comfortable. With thigh and side bolsters being quite prominent, I got the idea that this might be a very sporty SUV – a Sport Utility Vehicle instead of a Soft Utility Vehicle perhaps? Alas, it’s not quite as sporty as say the Mazda CX-7, but definitely much more sporty than the Honda Element.

Initial response off the line was satisfactorily quick without being considered racy. Stopping on the other hand caught me off guard. I had driven the Honda Element the previous week and become accustomed to the less than performance brakes accompanying that vehicle – the CR-V was quite the opposite. The brakes are very touchy and don’t require much travel of the pedal before they kick in and bring forward motion to an abrupt halt. It took a good few minutes to adjust to the pedal feel, but once used to it I never gave it a second thought.

The instrument cluster and gauges are pleasant and very legible, with a very useful information centre located between the tachometer and the speedometer. Instead of the usual engine temperature and fuel gauges – there are actually little bars that light up instead of dials.

Firing up the engine, the CR-V is extremely quiet. Because of the Drive-by-Wire Throttle System that has become almost standard in Honda vehicles of late, the power comes on the instant you press the gas pedal and the transmission shifts are virtually seamless.

The leather-wrapped tilt and telescoping steering wheel incorporates audio and cruise control buttons. The steering is very responsive and perfectly weighted, giving just the right amount of feedback. Taking the on-ramp to the freeway and getting up to the same speed as the traffic flow was effortless, and although it’s no sports car, I was quickly leaving everyone else in my wake. Highway manners over Toronto’s pot-holed highways were exceptional – again more like an Acura than a Honda. Wind noise at speeds above 80 mph was very good and I even opened the moonroof to see if that would detract from the very good initial impressions, but there was no problem in this regard either – it’s very good.

While making a little adjustment to the outside mirrors, a yellow dashboard light came on – uh, oh what have I done? It turns out the VSA (Vehicle Stability) button is right beside the mirror button, and I inadvertently brushed it without even realizing it. So I’d turned off a very important safety feature without knowing it. There was no owner’s manual in the glove box, so I took the chance and pushed the button again – whadda-ya-know – it worked. Why the VSA button was so badly placed only Honda engineers know.

The SatNav screen sits nice and high in the centre of the dash. Once you’ve pressed the screen to get rid of the lawyers warning and absolved-from-blame screen, the audio controls take the dominant position – as they should. The screen – in combination with the buttons surrounding it, are very easy to use and understand at a mere glance. Sub-menus and the like are easy to understand because someone saw fit to put arrows on the screen pointing to which button you need to press. Kudos once again to Honda for having the best SatNav systems! Unlike Lexus and Ford, you can use the navigation and maps while the vehicle is moving – how novel – allowing the passenger to plot your course! We did experience a first though – after programming a destination, the system had a brain-fart and shut down. The screen went blank and we tried every button to get it to come back on. After half an hour or so it came back on all by itself. The strange thing was we could hear the radio, but had no idea what the station was.

There are a myriad of little cubby holes dotted throughout the CR-V cabin, but none in particular really stand out as being very useful – most are just too small or inconveniently placed. The console that divides the front occupants has a nice large storage area that can hold plenty of CD cases or the like. There are two large cup holders, but what’s that long lid hiding? I lift the lid to discover a 6-pack CD changer – you know those old ones that everyone got when CD’s first came out? This is priceless! To change the CD’s you have to lift the lid and hold it open while fumbling around to slide a door out of the way and feel around for the white button to release the cartridge, then grab it and pull it out. Don’t do this while driving – you need both hands and both eyes!! Once you’ve loaded the cartridge you then have to figure which one of the eight options is going to be the one to get it back inside while holding open the lid – hopefully, you don’t break any of that “quality” plastic the changer cartridge is made of! Once you’ve got it sorted out its fine, but what a pain if you just want to load one CD or eject one. Why not have an in-dash unit behind the SatNav screen?

While I’m complaining: according to Honda the audio system is “a 270-watt AM/FM/MP3/WMA/6-disc Premium audio system with digital audio card reader and 6 speakers plus a subwoofer,” but I have no idea where this digital audio card could possibly be, and the CD changer says right on it that it doesn’t play CD-RW discs or WMA or MP3 tracks. When we had the system shut down – as described earlier – we discovered another CD player behind the screen (you push a button and the screen moves out of the way). That’s also where we found the digital audio card (whatever that is) and the DVD player for the SatNav DVD’s. Other than that it sounds great and there’s definitely a subwoofer there. Thanks to the SatNav system there’s also a rearview camera on the CR-V – that’s something I definitely was not expecting!

Whether bombing along highways or city streets the CR-V is a terrific vehicle to get around in. I flew over a rough set of railroad tracks and it took them with aplomb. Blasting over a different set of badly rutted railroad tracks wasn’t an issue either, as the suspension absorbed the bumps with very little vibration passed on to the occupants. Diving deep into corners isn’t for the faint-hearted though – but then you should be more conscious of this in an SUV shouldn’t you?  Flooring it from a stop-light isn’t going to get your heart racing though, it just picks up speed quickly and steadily, once it’s got going. Packing two additional passengers in the back really changed the forward momentum however – it got quite lethargic climbing a steep hill with all four onboard. With three people it wasn’t so bad.

Much like the Toyota RAV4, the CR-V is a strange mixture of being completely absent of features you come to expect (in-dash 6-disc CD changer, illuminated mirrors on the sun visors, fog lights, automatic climate control), while at the same time including items you wouldn’t expect such as a huge cargo area, conversation mirror and 2 glove boxes (actually there’s on glove box and one celery box – that’s about all that would fit in it!). Just when you complain about something missing, you discover something cool that’s been included and you didn’t expect to see. Case in point are the sliding rear seats. They can move forward and back to increase/decrease legroom and at the same time there are plenty of reclining options for rear passengers as well as a centre armrest (for some reason a lot of manufacturers overlook the need for an armrest in the back).

The rear seats are easy to get in and out of thanks to the wide-opening doors, and once seated, the occupants get a somewhat comfortable bench seat that incorporates two cup holders in the armrest. The rear seating is extremely generous, with plenty of foot space under the front seats as well as plenty of leg, hip and shoulder room for all three passengers. The flat floor makes it comfortable for three pairs of feet, and as mentioned before, the sliding seat helps too. The seats split 60/40 and fold almost flat with the pull of a couple of straps. There are a couple of different configurations available and while one is simply to tip the seat backs forward, far more room and a flatter cargo area can be found if you pull the seat cushion forward – attaching it to the B pillar – and then fold the seat-back forward. Unfortunately, the seat can’t be slid forward and then tipped thereby creating even more room. If you want a completely flat floor then there’s a waste of space just behind the front seats.

The interior cargo space is a very impressive 35.7 cu-ft. (I measured: 37” x 42” x 37”) with the seat up, and if you slide them forward all the way you gain an extra 6½” of length to give you a very impressive 44½” depth. With the rear seats folded to maximize capacity the cargo area increases to 72.9 cu-ft. (I measured: 54” x 42” x 37”). Unfortunately, the rear window doesn’t open independently of the tailgate for transporting those extra-long items. Speaking of the tailgate – it’s a traditional lift-up one as opposed to the swing open type of the past generation CR-V’s. One thing to note however, is that long items can’t be transported in the CR-V because the front seat reclines only, and gets impeded by the rear seat so it doesn’t fold anywhere near as flat as would be of use to anyone.  Additional storage space is under the cargo floor along with the spare tire. Another nice touch is the hard parcel shelf that can hold up to 22 lbs of stuff while also leaving room for other items below it. If you use the shelf to its best advantage, you could potentially have two separate cargo areas – one measuring 31” x 52” x 23” on top and the lower part being 38” x 42” x 13.”

All CR-V’s come with a 166-hp, 2.4-liter, 16-valve DOHC i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine and a 5-speed automatic transmission with Grade Logic Control. The CR-V is available in three trim levels in the U.S. – LX, EX and EL, with each of these three levels offering a choice of FWD or AWD. In Canada there are four models with only the base LX model giving you the FWD option. The remaining models are EX, EX-L (Leather) and EX-L Navi. The SatNav is a standalone option in the U.S.

Standard features in all CR-V’s include: 5-speed automatic transmission with Grade Logic Control System and lockup torque converter, air conditioning, average fuel consumption indicator, power windows with auto-up/down driver’s window, power door locks and steering-wheel-mounted cruise control. The EX models add the following: 17″ aluminum-alloy wheels, security alarm, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, exterior temperature indicator. On the EX-L  a 270-watt AM/FM/ MP3/WMA/6-disc Premium audio system with digital audio card reader and 6 speakers plus a subwoofer, leather-trimmed seating surfaces and heated front seats are added. On the EX-L Navi you get the Honda satellite-linked Navigation System with bilingual voice recognition that also includes a rearview camera.

For more details and options go to: ( or

Even the base CR-V is full of safety features including: Drive-by-Wire Throttle System, Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Assist ™ (VSA®) with Traction Control, active front seat head restraints, Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH), front seatbelt pre-tensioners and force-limiters also come standard.

The warranty is a comprehensive Bumper-To-Bumper 3 year/36,000 miles [60,000 kms] that includes a 5 year/60,000 miles [100,000 kms] powertrain warranty. Roadside Assistance is included for three years.
Towing capacity is a maximum of 1,500 lbs.

The Conclusion
I liked the CR-V a lot more than I expected to. It’s fun to drive, a bit sporty and very practical so long as transporting long items isn’t a priority. It’s roomy and provides very good fuel economy. The seats are very comfortable and hold you in place when your driving gets a little zealous. It’s a very likable SUV – the only big negative in my mind is the price.

Pricing for the 2008 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi:
As tested: $30,995 [$37,400 Cdn]
Base price for the 2WD LX starts at: $20,600 [$27,700 Cdn]
Destination & Delivery: $595 [$1,505 Cdn]

Fuel Consumption:  [Regular Fuel]
The 4-cylinder AWD is listed at 22 mpg City [10.7 L/100 km] and 28 mpg Highway [7.8 L/100 km]
I averaged 22.2 mpg [10.6 L/100km] in combined driving

Typical Acura – I mean Honda – quality fit and finish
Surprisingly large rear cargo area

A bit expensive when compared to some of the competition
Seat heaters cool down after just a couple of minute

Would I Spend My Money On It?
To be honest, No. For the same money, other manufacturers’ vehicles are V-6 or V-8 engines with a lot more horses under the hood. On the other hand, Honda’s reliability, quality and resale value may justify the premium prices to some extent.

Back Seat Driver Test: 8 out of 10
“There’s plenty of legroom back here!” “I love it!” “The seats aren’t the most comfortable I’ve ever sat in – it’s like sitting on a park bench – it’s firm but not uncomfortable.”

Immediate Competition:
Ford Escape, Honda Element, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Liberty, Mazda CX-7, Mitsubishi Outlander, Saturn Vue, Suzuki Grand Vitara

By The Numbers…
Powertrain:      2.4-liter, 16-valve DOHC i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine; 5-speed automatic transmission with Grade Logic   Control; Automatic AWD
Horsepower:    166 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque:            161 @ 4,200 rpm

10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
10 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
10 – Special Features (Climate Control etc)

10 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
10 – Rear Roominess
10 – Driving Position/Controls

8 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish

8 – Engine
10 – Transmission
10 – Ride & Handling

Ownership Value
7 – Bang for the $$
10 – Fuel Economy

143 Total / 150

Copyright © 2008 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland / Honda

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