What is it?
The Honda CR-V has reached something of a zenith with this first-ever hybrid version of the new fifth-generation model.
I’m not sure this super-sensible, practical, grown-up family SUV has ever felt more rational, more serious or less exciting than it has become by the edition of Honda’s latest petrol-electric powertrain. You might even say that ‘peak CR-V’ has finally been achieved. In the car’s own super-sedate, marvellously boring way, that’s quite something to behold.
You won’t find a modern passenger car with much less sporting pretense about it than this. Consider, for example, that it has a powertrain with two electric motors (the main ‘drive’ one producing some 181bhp) and a 2.0-litre petrol engine (which produces 143bhp at maximum power) and yet Honda apparently can’t tell you how much power or torque that powertrain makes as a combined whole. That says a lot about how much CR-V customers are expected to care about such things, doesn’t it? Not even a fraction of half of a jot, bless 'em.
The car’s new ‘multi-mode drive’ hybrid propulsion system is interesting because, unlike older Honda hybrid set-ups, it aligns the piston engine in series upstream of the electric motor, rather than in parallel when it might have driven into a shared transmission; because that transmission consists not of CVT-like planetary gearing but instead of a single-speed ratio onto which the combustion engine is coupled by an electronically governed clutch; and because, when the car’s running in hybrid mode, there’s no connection between the combustion engine and the wheels at all.
A third ‘engine drive’ operating mode (the others are EV and hybrid) allows the 2.0-litre lump to mechanically connect to the gearbox when the car is cruising at higher speeds and running under higher loads – but most of the time, it really is the car’s 181bhp electric motor and only that doing the driving.