People who buy the Honda CR-V are a different breed altogether. You’d see the CR-V’s parked in classy localities of South Bombay, with the owners chauffeured around on their way to yoga classes and Starbucks, or attending kitty parties and high teas. These are the kind of people who only drink decaf caramel macchiato along with a red velvet cupcake and wear designer clothes while talking about their European vacations and business trips. Now, even though the stereotyping endures, you get the picture about the people who drive a CR-V, right. Which means no CR-V must have even seen a broken or bad patch of road for most of its life, leave alone going off-road and getting its body-cladding dirty.
On the contrary, that is what we did at our 2019 CarWale Off-Road Day. We got the 4WD version of the CR-V and put it through our scientifically devised off-road course over five challenges. Under the hood, there’s a 1.6-litre diesel-automatic making just 118bhp and 300Nm. But could this cheeky and elite road-focused SUV conquer our challenges and prove that it is as formidable off-road as it is sitting by the kerb of a fancy restaurant; or would there be a need to tow it out? We are sceptical too, so without further ado, let’s get cracking.
Now, to address the elephant in the room, the CR-V doesn’t come with any kind of special off-road hardware. However, there’s a sophisticated electronically-controlled AWD system and ESP with hill assist controls but that’s about it. With that, we lined-up the CR-V at the sludgy start-line, pushed a button to put it in the drive (there’s no gear lever here, and that’s pretty much all we can do with the CR-V – press a button) and gassed it rather zealously. And surprisingly, no drama ensued. The CR-V calmly picked-up pace and went ahead sedately without any fuss. Exuding an executive feel when accelerating, the CR-V took 3.5seconds for the 0-30kmph run. Which isn’t half bad especially when you consider that it was wearing those road-going tyres. The lack of drama might not bode well with many but CR-V made its intentions clear.
Next up, the off-road braking test. Tipping the scale at 1740kg, the CR-V is one of the larger SUVs here and it clearly showed. After the lack of spectacle in the acceleration test, we were hoping to see some muck fly this time. But again, the CR-V maintained its composure when the brake pedal was smashed to the floor and it came to a grinding halt from 30kmph after 20 feet. Still, we believe it could have done even better if only there was more bite from the brakes and the ABS was calibrated to be robust rather than comfortable.
Yes, the CR-V’s ABS is too focused for road use. It appears to have been calibrated in such a way as to not let the rear passenger spill his/her coffee on their way to a business meeting even under hard braking. The other electronic gizmos like vehicle stability assist with traction control were seen working overtime to maintain the CR-V’s demeanour at the cost of braking distance though.
There’s no divided opinion here that the CR-V has the most car-like driving dynamics amongst its company this year. It does wrap around you behind the steering wheel and the driving position is spot-on as well. In fact, it’s got a ‘high-riding hatchback’ vibe to it rather than a proper SUV’s dynamic. Add to it the light steering, nicely setup chassis balance and all its electronics working behind the scene, and the CR-V was able to slither through the slalom course with the utmost ease.
Watching the CR-V slide around the cones was enthralling as well before it crossed the finish line in 37.3 seconds. Even after losing traction on most grimy part of the course, the CR-V managed to soldier on without showcasing any chink in its armour. So we can say that the CR-V does look equally handsome playing in dirt and muck as much as it does rolling on paved streets of high-class neighbourhoods.
Now comes the most astonishing part, the Honda CR-V managed to perform the best in our rather difficult trail test. Displacing mere 20ml of water from the beaker, the CR-V offered a truly flat ride on the trail test thanks to its well-judged suspension set-up and a balanced AWD system. The CR-V didn’t attack the course, instead, it managed to glide over pretty much every crest, the flowing bourn, while remaining flat over rocky sections, twists and turns and most of the rutted ridges. Surprisingly then, the CR-V does offer a swanky ride, be it your paved driveway or a beaten track high up in the mountains filled with slush, rock, rivulet, mulch, and ridges.
Off-Road Hill Climb
After a surprising performance so far, the hill climb test is the last challenge between the CR-V and glory. As we know, conquering this rutted and steep climb is proven to be no easy feat even for an adequately equipped 4x4, so we were starting to wonder how a soft-roader would perform this task. Even the ground clearance, the approach-departure angle, and the break-over angle of the CR-V aren’t anything to write home about. It’s a heavy SUV, there’s no low range gearbox either, and all that is to do is put the right foot down and pray that it emerges on top without having to write to Honda about what went wrong with their almost Rs 40 lakh SUV.
Gathering all the experience and courage, Santosh went for it. After a good initial momentum, the CR-V did start to struggle when the front tyres reached the steep slope and rutted incline. Add to it the rocky and jagged terrain and it appeared that going further might not be possible anymore. But to our surprise, the clever AWD then sent power to the correct wheels which still had traction, and voila! the CR-V was out of the hurdle and reached the top. Phew, that was a close one.
After putting the Honda through our treacherous task we came back highly impressed with the CR-V. Off the motley crew we have here, the CR-V feels the most car-like. At first, we were slightly paranoid about venturing into some of the most treacherous terrains in the expensive yet feeble Honda SUV but in the end, the CR-V managed to pull itself through all the tests without the hassle we initially thought it would. What also helps it pull off such a feat is the manner in which the electronics allow the power to be laid down on the difficult surfaces.
Even though it is bought by people who would never take it anywhere close to a rugged terrain, but if they ever do, now we know that the CR-V will make sure they get through. Sure it could do with more off-road hardware, but if the CR-V will be seeing the beaten path only occasionally while spending most of its life chauffeuring between coffee shops and yoga classes, what it packs right now is more than sufficient.
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi.
Click on the links below to find out how these SUVs fared in our tests.