Redesigned CR-V is the crossover that does it all
As crossovers grow in popularity, they’ve begun to outsell sedans as some automakers’ highest-volume vehicles. It’s understandable – these vehicles blend the everyday comfort and fuel economy of a car with the versatility and high seating position of an SUV.
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But you’ll struggle to find an affordable crossover that pulls off this balance better than the redesigned 2017 Honda CR-V. Other models do force a compromise – the best sedans typically trump similarly priced crossovers’ gas mileage, handling and noise levels. But compare the CR-V (priced from $24,985) to a similarly equipped Honda Accord midsize sedan ($24,130), and the crossover’s disadvantages are hard to come by.
At least based on a preview test drive at Sport Honda in Silver Spring, the new CR-V improves substantially over the already impressive 2016 model. (A more in-depth evaluation is scheduled for later this year.)
A new turbocharged engine, standard on all but the base LX model, delivers class-leading fuel economy of 30 miles per gallon in mixed driving with front-wheel-drive and 29 mpg with the tested all-wheel-drive. The former figure is equal to the Accord’s mileage – the more aerodynamic sedan does a little better on the highway, while the crossover catches up in city driving – and better than many other midsize sedans.
The CR-V also impressed on the road, with improved ride quality along with responsive handling. A number of crossovers retain a bit of the trucky old SUV flavor with loose, slow steering; drive the CR-V back-to-back against a Toyota RAV4 and the difference is clear. Granted, Honda surely didn’t create a physics-defying crossover that’s as agile as a lower sedan, but if you drive normally rather than pressing the car to its maximum limit, the CR-V offers confident poise.
Inside, the CR-V continues to be among the roomiest vehicles in its class, with a conveniently low cargo floor that expands total volume and makes it easier to load and unload packages. The rear seat now also lies flush with the rest of the cargo floor when folded down, a welcome improvement compared to the ledge last year’s model formed. Interior quality also saw an upgrade, and although basic ergonomic sensibility still plays second fiddle to style on the dashboard, Honda at least restored a volume knob instead of sending you through a touchscreen like the old CR-V.
As if the CR-V’s other upgrades aren’t compelling enough, the tested $28,895 EX all-wheel-drive model comes more generously equipped than ever, with high-end features including emergency automatic braking system, automatic lane-keeping steering, a heated 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a moonroof and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Four-cylinder engine is well-suited to Lexus coupe
During last year’s test of a Lexus RC F, the dominant impression was that this V8-powered sports coupe didn’t play to the Lexus brand’s traditional strengths of cushy comfort and silky refinement. Rather, it gave up ground on those qualities without managing to be a true high-end performance car.
Fortunately, Lexus also sells the RC coupe with smaller engines, including the base 2.0-liter four-cylinder on the subsequently tested RC 200t. This model offers distinctive styling, pleasant driving dynamics and acceptably posh interior trim at a much lower price – a base level of $41,130 instead of $65,145. And although it’s still a fun sporty coupe, it has more of the comfort you’d expect from a Lexus.
With 241 horsepower instead of the RC F’s 467, the RC 200t’s acceleration is bound to be peppy more than ferocious. But it’s still decently quick and quiet, more than sufficient for zipping around in traffic or even on a back road. You can get a richer engine note with the V6-powered RC 300 or RC 350 models, along with optional all-wheel-drive instead of rear-wheel-drive for some additional wet-weather traction.
Any of these models will offer you a pleasant balance of ride and handling, without the extra stiffness of the RC F. They’re also more fuel-efficient; the tested RC 200t is rated for 26 miles per gallon in mixed driving compared to just 19 mpg for the RC F.
Given that they’re Lexuses, no RC model is inexpensive. And as sporty coupes, none has the everyday practicality of a sedan. Lexus will happily sell you an IS sedan if you want a similar driving experience to the RC but with four doors and a roomier back seat. But if you prefer a more distinctive look, the RC 200t delivers it without the sacrifices of an outright performance car. Compare it against the Audi A5 or Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe.