It goes like this… Honda invites you to an event that is held locally to review a vehicle that is not scheduled for a meaningful change for a couple of years. What’s up? Well, enough that Honda can make a pretty big deal out of it. The top selling sport utility vehicle is Honda’s CR-V crossover SUV. The 2015 Honda CR-V looks pretty much like the 2014. Same profile. Same doors. Same window openings. What’s the big deal? The front end looks more butch, more SUV-like. It has really cool running lights below the headlamps. Likewise, the rear end looks stronger. The effect is that the CR-V looks a little bigger even though it isn’t. Ah, the story is pretty much beneath the skin. Honda calls it a MAJOR minor model change. Clever.
Engineering Story – Earth Dreams Powertrain This is an engineering story. The 2015 Honda CR-V gets a new engine – an Earth Dreams direct injection 2.4L 4-cylinder engine with 185-horsepower (same output as 2014). Torque is up by 18 lb-ft or 11% to improve driving feel especially at lower speeds. New transmission – now a CVT to achieve better fuel economy. The new engine and transmission combination substantially improves fuel economy for both 2WD and 4WD versions – highway fuel economy up about 10% better for both leading Honda to claim class leading fuel economy for the 2015 Honda CR-V.
Finesse and Value In addition to better performance, Honda has finessed the vehicle giving it a quieter cabin making it more pleasant to drive. The instrument panel has been upgraded as has the center console. For buyers coming down from larger, more heavily equipped SUVs the 2015 Honda CR-V will not disappoint. Honda has added a slew of standard and available features that will make tech savvy customers feel warm and fuzzy. There are a couple of new features standard like rear air conditioning vents on the rear of the console and a sliding driver’s side sun visor. The big news is in the high volume EX model where $1,400 worth of equipment has been added for only a $200 price increase including: heated front seats, Honda Lane Watch, display audio, smart key start, 10-way power driver’s seat.
New Touring Model Has Available Honda Sensing System At the top of the trim lines is a new Touring model that checks most of the features boxes. This is where the Honda Sensing system comes into play. Honda Sensing is a safety system developed by Honda R&D that combines several technologies to help drivers avoid crashes. This collision avoidance system includes: adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking and Honda Lane Watch. John Turley, Honda R&D Americas principal engineer says, “Honda Sensing is a stepping stone to a fully autonomous car. With a couple more big overlays of technology, Honda can have a self driving car by 2020. One of those technologies is longer range radar and inter-car communications that can provide warnings up to 1500 meters around the car up from about 250 today.” The government and car makers are working to develop regulations and standards that will help cars of the future connect with each other seamlessly.
It has long been said that Honda is first and foremost an engine company and everything it does is really just to sell more engines. It sells everything from motor bikes and generators to jet planes with cars in between. Honda engines can be as small as 25 cubic centimeters used in lawn and garden equipment. The engines we are interested in are Honda engines powering their cars, minivans and crossover SUVs. The new evolution of Honda’s car and truck powertrains is “Earth Dreams Technology”. Earth Dreams includes a range of engines and engine technology, CVT transmissions and hybrid powertrains and EV technology. It is a comprehensive approach to updating Honda’s automotive powertrains in response to looming United States and global emissions regulations.
Engines for Every Application Focusing on Environmental Friendliness and Fun The engine line-up goes from 660cc (in foreign markets – N-One and N-Box) to 1.5L, 1.8L, 2.0L, 2.4L and 3.5L. In the USA, we find these engines in Honda’s lineup from Honda’s Fit (1.5L 4-cylinder) to Accord and from Acura’s ILX to RLX. Earth Dreams technology improves efficiency with better fuel economy, and lower emissions while still providing fun-to-drive performance.
Three Sport Hybrid Drive Systems There are three unique extra cost hybrid systems: one-motor, two-motor and three motor systems. Honda refers to them as “Sport Hybrid” systems. The one-motor system uses Intelligent Dual-Clutch Drive (i-DCD) that combines a 1.5L DOHC i-VTEC Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder engine with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The two motor system is found in the 2014 Accord Hybrid using a 2.0L DOHC i-VTEC Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder engine with a CVT. Honda calls this two motor hybrid Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD). Coming later in the Acura RLX is the Super Handling All Wheel Drive three motor hybrid system. Honda claims this “unique system achieves both fuel economy and superior driving performance at a whole new level by combining a new V6 3.5L direct-injection engine and a newly-developed 7-speed DCT system with a built-in motor, while enabling free control torque distribution to the right and left rear wheels through the use of two motors installed in the rear.” From a company only having mild hybrids before, this onslaught of Earth Dreams hybrids in such a short period of time is impressive.
Continuously Variable Transmissions Coming with the new engines and hybrid systems are new CVT transmissions. Honda engineers state that the toughest challenge when developing the 2013 Accord was getting the CVT right. It is used on all 4-cylinder Accords. The key is to make the CVT feel more like a conventional automatic transmission with noticeable (but smooth) shift points rather than the rubber band feeling that many CVTs provide. Honda says their new CVTs are 5% more efficient than other CVTs on the market today and 10% more efficient than a 5-speed automatic (who is using those anymore?).
Earth Dreams Electric Vehicle There is even an EV in the Earth Dreams portfolio found in the Fit EV.
PHEV Accord We can’t forget the 2014 Accord PHEV introduced earlier in 2013. This top of the line Accord plug-in hybrid has stretched the technology in the Honda brand lineup by adding an EV system that provides an all-electric range of 13-miles and an MPGe fuel economy rating of 115MPGe. EPA fuel economy ratings are 47/46/46 (city/highway/combined). The recently launched Accord Hybrid (not PHEV) gets 50mpg in the city.
Powertrain System Naming Becoming the Rage Earth Dreams may sound a bit hokey to customers, but Honda is not alone in naming their powertrain technologies. Ford has EcoBoost. Toyota has Hybrid Synergy Drive (for its hybrids). Mazda has Skyactiv. Nissan has Pure Drive. Chrysler has Hemi.