New AWD system
At only $1300, the CR-V's AWD system is a relative bargain. And this year, the system adds even more capability. It is more proactive in shifting torque to the rear axle, and, by the way, it can now shift 57% more torque to the rear axle. On AWD CR-V models with the TFT LCD instrument panel (basically all of them besides the LX), there's even a "AWD Torque Distribution Monitor" graphic available on the Driver Information Interface (DII). The RealTime AWD system has evolved quite nicely over the years.
Besides the brand new powertrain, the other HUGE news for the 2017 CR-V is that it's riding on a completely new architecture. Like the powertrain, this architecture shares its roots with the 10th generation Honda Civic. The new CR-V features a wheelbase of 104.7", which represents an increase of 1.6" over the 2016 model. Most of this additional wheelbase went towards stretching rear passenger legroom and improving passenger ingress/egress. Somehow, the 1.6" increase in wheelbase resulted in a 2.1" increase in rear seat legroom. The 2017 CR-V is 1.2" longer overall, so the rear overhang has actually decreased slightly. Width is up by 1.4" and it's also 1.4" taller than the 2016 model. As a result of these stretched dimensions, the 2017 CR-V's cargo volume has increased by 2.0 cu ft (now 39.2 cu ft) with the rear seats up, and is up just shy of 5 cu ft (no 75.8 cu ft) with the rear seats folded.
Honda has redesigned the folding mechanism of the rear seat so the seat cushions no longer tumble forward when the seatbacks are folded. Instead, they shift forward slightly, while the seatbacks fold flat. As a result of this redesign, the seat cushions have a more substantial feel to them than those found in the 2016 CR-V.
It used to be that a lot of Honda's competitors (other than Mazda) seemed to focus on things far away from driving enjoyment. But nowadays, hell, even a lot of Toyotas have quite a nice chassis feel. Honda used to set itself apart not only with its packaging and powertrain triumphs, but the combination of these strong attributes along with its generally good driving feel. The CR-V maintains a generally very good driving feel, but it's not necessarily setting the pace for the segment from a sporting standpoint. If we were to improve this angle of the CR-V, we'd specifically like to see improved damping characteristics, particularly over larger amplitude road imperfections. From a steering, braking, and balance perspective, we found the CR-V to be quite agreeable. We were a little bit surprised to find that a 2016 CR-V driven on the same roads delivered nearly the same level of satisfaction, though. Admittedly, from a dynamic perspective, we were hoping to experience a larger gap than we did. Fortunately, the 2017 CR-V offers more over-the-road refinement than the 2016 model.
We're not going to tell you how to feel about the 2017 CR-V's styling, but Honda would like for you think that the new CR-V looks a bit more masculine. There's less underbite up front, a beefier tire/wheel package across the board, and more bulges in the flanks. From our perspective, this is a handsome vehicle. Your mileage might vary.
Inside the CR-V, the feel is definitely a notch or two more upscale than the outgoing CR-V. We've only had the opportunity to check out the top trim levels of the CR-V, so we're not sure how all of them look, but from what we saw, we were generally pleased. We're generally not fans of fake wood trim, but the stuff that Honda selected for the CR-V, with its buff/matte finish actually looks quite alright. Honda's interior designers have done a fine job with material selections and the general flow of the cockpit. It definitely feels like an upgrade from the 4th generation CR-V interior. The seats have a new stitching pattern which seemed to draw some gasps of concern, but in our time driving the CR-V, they proved to be very comfortable.
Given the success that Honda has had with selling the 4th generation CR-V, it's difficult to envision anything but unprecedented sales for the 5th generation model. For such a small increase in list price, the 5th generation CR-V brings an impressive level of value. Refinement, Luxury, Performance, Features, Safety, and Efficiency have all been notably improved. On the powertrain side, Honda has clearly left some room for a "premium" version of this CUV (ahem, RDX), but few will be disappointed with what the CR-V delivers at its price point. The 2017 CR-V is definitely a winner in our book.