The fourth generation CR-V did not take six days to build. In fact, you can trace its ancestry back to a time when dinosaur-sized competition ruled the highway and through the time when the meteorite-like impact of rising fuel prices made those dinosaurs recede. This latest version of the Honda's smallest SUV hosts numerous updates that, when taken apart, might seem minor and inconsequential, but together they make for a vehicle that's more fuel-efficient, more powerful, and larger inside. It's the product of meticulous changes from its creator, unlike us damn dirty apes who drive it.

The improvements appear in a range between zero and 5. The 2.4-liter inline-four has 5 more horsepower and 2 more lb-ft of torque, but we challenge you to spot the difference from the driver's seat. AWD models get a fuel economy improvement of 1 and 3 mpg city/highway, thanks to a longer final gear ratio and efficiency increases throughout the powertrain. Weight has been shed in small amounts everywhere, adding up to an 139-pound decrease relative to its predecessor. The result is a CR-V that carries 1.3 fewer pounds per horsepower.

The fourth generation of honda's smallest suv hosts updates that make for a vehicle that's more fuel-efficient, more powerful, ...

These incremental changes return likewise incremental performance benefits. Our loaded EX-L tester reaches 60 mph in 9.1 seconds, or a tenth faster than the best time we recorded from the previous generation. The difference shrinks to zero at the quarter mile, and there the CR-V is traveling 83 mph. Its 28.8-second figure-eight lap time also matches the previous gen, but most impressive is the CR-V's accurate steering, front-end response, and lift throttle-induced rotation.

Honda's decision to stick with a five-speed automatic becomes more apparent on the road. Lengthening the final drive (from 4.50 to 4.44) in the name of fuel economy does reduce engine speed at freeway cruising, but it also extends the ratio spread. While choosing one of the five long gears goes by unnoticeably in most instances, other functions -- like passing traffic or merging onto the freeway -- highlight the need for more options. The ratio spread provided from a six-speed transmission would seem a better solution, one some competitors are already using.

While Honda has added more sound-deadening material, engine noise still rings through the cabin during sustained heavy-throttle applications, as in the aforementioned on-ramp experience. The sound is traditional Honda, and it's one enthusiasts might enjoy, but that your mom probably won't. Both will agree to avoid the green Econ button. When engaged, climate controls come on less frequently, and you have access to what feels like a quarter of the gas pedal.

Similarly questionable is Honda's infotainment system, which is divided into a main 6.5-inch screen in the center of the dash and a 5-inch screen not far above. The main screen contains the navigation functions (when so equipped), audio controls, and so on, while the smaller screen shows fuel-economy data, as well as audio information and turn-by-turn prompts. While our initial response to this setup was positive ("Small Stuff," January 2012), the longer we stared at that second screen, the more it felt redundant. Why can't a larger, single screen do everything? In the Civic, the second screen is driver-oriented, sitting in clear view to the right of the speedometer. In the CR-V, it is recessed in the top center of the dash, giving the impression that it might disappear in a fight-or-flight scenario.

The rest of the interior packaging is clever. While exterior length and height have decreased, total passenger volume has increased 0.6 cubic feet and cargo volume behind the second row has increased 1.5 cubic feet. Dropping the rear seat to access that space takes one hand: Pull the strap and the bottom flips forward and the seatback drops, giving access to the rear cargo area. In another update, the outer edge of the driver's sideview mirror has a wide-angle partition, providing easy view of the blind spot.

The design of the new CR-V proves largely intelligent. We can offer only minor complaints about some odd mutations, but we can levy the same niggles at wisdom teeth. Questionable (and evolution-relevant) mutations aside, the CR-V remains a solid car in its element, a careful and mostly well-executed update of an already popular and successful product that should carry it far beyond the prehistoric age.

Prehistoric Costars: Location courtesy of Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center. www.jmdc.org


2012 Honda CR-V EX-L
POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS
DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front engine, AWD
ENGINE TYPE I-4, aluminum block/head
VALVETRAIN DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT 143.7 cu in/2354 cc
COMPRESSION RATIO 10.0:1
POWER (SAE NET) 185 hp @ 7000 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET) 163 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
REDLINE 7000 rpm
WEIGHT TO POWER 18.7 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION 5-speed automatic
AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO 4.44:1/2.51:1
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
STEERING RATIO 16.7:1
TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK 3.2
BRAKES, F;R 11.7-in vented disc; 12.0-in disc, ABS
WHEELS 6.5 x 17-in, cast aluminum
TIRES 225/65R17 102T M+S Continential CrossContact LX
DIMENSIONS
WHEELBASE 103.1 in
TRACK, F/R 61.6/61.6 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 178.3 x 71.6 x 65.1 in
GROUND CLEARANCE 6.7 in
APPRCH/DEPEART ANGLE 28.0/21.0 deg
TURNING CIRCLE 37.3 ft
CURB WEIGHT 3451 lb
WEIGHT DIST, F/R 58/42%
TOWING CAPACITY 1500 lb
SEATING CAPACITY 5
HEADROOM, F/R 38.0/38.6 in
LEGROOM, F/R 41.3/38.3 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R 58.6/56.4 in
CARGO VOL BEHIND F/R 70.9/37.2 cu ft
TEST DATA
ACCELERATION TO MPH
0-30 3.2 sec
0-40 4.7
0-50 6.8
0-60 9.1
0-70 11.7
0-80 15.4
0-90 20.2
PASSING, 45-65 MPH 4.7
QUARTER MILE 16.9 sec @ 83.0 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 126 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.78 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.8 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH 1900 rpm
CONSUMER INFO
BASE PRICE $29,105
PRICE AS TESTED $30,605
TRUE CAR TRUEVALUE PRICE* $29,662
STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL Yes/yes
AIRBAGS Dual front, front side, f/r curtain
BASIC WARRANTY 3 yrs/36,000 mi
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 5 yrs/60,000 mi
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE None
FUEL CAPACITY 15.3 gal
EPA CITY/HWY ECON 22/30 mpg
ENERGY CON, CITY/HWY 153/112 kW-hrs/100 mi
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.78 lb/mi
RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded regular
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