The 2015 Honda CR-V has gotten a few tweaks for this model year. In addition to the new front and rear fascias and a more torquey engine, Honda has also swapped out the 5-speed automatic in the 2014 model for a continuously variable transmission in the 2015. The CVT does not have any fixed gear ratios. Instead, through what one can only assume is engineering magic, the CVT has infinite gears. The transmission is able to select an engine/wheel speed ratio that is the most efficient.
And these days, efficiency is the name of the game.
This test model is the AWD version of the CR-V, and EPA fuel ratings are 26 mpg in the city, 33 mpg out on the highway, and 28 mpg combined. The 2.4L 4-cylinder engine is only good for 185 hp and 181 lb/ft of torque. Those numbers combined with the CVT make the EPA predictions seem probable.
The CR-V features Econ, Drive, and Sport modes. The Econ mode is nearly intolerable if you want to get anywhere without yelling at the vehicle, “Come on! Let’s go! No guts no glory!” and most consumers will find themselves in Drive or Sport mode.
The CVT certainly does live up to its reputation for being a fuel efficient transmission, at least in terms of keeping the rpms low. While driving in town, it seems that the goal of the CVT is to drop the tachometer to 1200 rpms as quickly as possible. This puts the transmission just at the edge of bogging down. It’s like it’s skirting the cliff edge between efficiency and stalling out. Of course, it never stalls, but to anyone not used to a CVT, or is used to rowing their own gears, the feeling is disconcerting.
Even at higher speeds, the CVT keeps those rpms low. At 55mph the engine runs at 1500 rpm, and at 65 mph it runs at 1800 rpm. Sport mode bumps things up a little bit. 55 mph holds the engine at 2900 rpm, 65 mph at 3100 rpm.
Acceleration from any of these points means the CVT will up the rpms to a loud, whiny howl until the driver lets off the gas pedal. Again, if you’re not ready for it you may think your transmission is about to drop right out of the vehicle.
While the CVT is programmed for efficiency, the best average mpg I have seen in my first few city driving excursions is 21, far from the claimed 26.
It will be interesting to see how fuel efficient this CR-V is in the coming week. In the meantime, take a look at a future Honda model, the 2016 HR-V.