Mountain Wheels: Style meets crossover versatility on a Honda excursion to the Carolinas
If this week’s automotive column seems a hard, weird, game of connect the dots, I apologize in advance — as it involved an unconventional mixture of new Honda products, the grand prize in HGTV’s annual home giveaway contest, and bucolic Hilton Head Island, South Carolina — in the middle of winter.
We spent a couple of days in the Low Country snowbird paradise tooling around in both the new 2020 CR-V and the Passport I wrote about late last year, escaping the frigid temperatures and loading up on shrimp and grits, and more grits.
But the real business at hand, besides the impressively revolutionary work that’s transformed CR-V from a smallish, occasionally generic crossover into an accomplished automobile now also available as an up-to-40-mpg hybrid, was a night at this season’s equally impressive HGTV Dream Home.
The do-it-yourself/home envy TV network has been doing the home giveaway routine for nearly a quarter century, and this year’s home, located in the Windmill Harbor area and near the South Carolina Yacht Club, was again quite the showcase for southern designer Brian Patrick Flynn and his blues, coral and peach colors.
If you’re a fan of the channel, you’re probably already making your two entries a day for the $2 million 3-bed, 3.5-bath home (my guess was a similarly-sized new-build project in Breck, plus land, would easily go for about three times that amount).
But the winner also gets a new Honda Passport (hence my and a few other car writers’ involvement) so I wish the lucky winner all the best of luck with the tax bill and the summertime swelter you’ll likely find on that part of the Atlantic coast.
I spent the week in shorts and had an equally delightful mix of experiences in that vastly refreshed CR-V, plus a drive over to nearby Savannah, Georgia and back to Atlanta in the Passport.
The Passport, as I’ve noted before, represents a sporty alternative to the three-row Pilot, and offers a size upgrade from a CR-V. But CR-V feels almost as roomy and substantial as a mid-sized SUV when you compare it its to not-so-long-ago shape and size. The CR-V also remains America’s top-selling crossover, having moved more than five million units over the past 22 years.
For 2020, CR-V’s major upgrades are a mix of mechanical and stylistic. The standard engine in the non-hybrid model is a 1.5-liter VTEC turbo, which might sound more suitable for a Civic, but actually provided pretty decent pull and cruising power for the not-tiny CR-V.
It’s rated at 190 horsepower and up to 34 mpg on the highway; pricing begins at $25,050 for the LX model and reaches a starting point of $33,250 for the Touring model, and all four grades are available in both two- and four-wheel drive. The AWD models mostly defer to front-wheel-drive mode but can instantaneously reposition torque to the back for more grip.
This year’s model also comes standard with the suite of Honda Sensing safety technologies, the most interesting of which was Honda’s revised variation of lane-keep assist. Turn it on and the car’s cameras and computers will rather smoothly keep you in lane with less of the wheel-grabbing or ping-pong lane-to-lane bounces found in competitors’ systems. A little alarmingly, it will also totally steer for you for as long as 15 seconds before requiring more wheel input, which seems like enough time for you to make a sandwich. The future, again, is pretty weird.
Aesthetics have also been tweaked as the CR-V is into the fourth year of its life cycle, and for 2020 that includes chrome under-bumper treatments that do not in any way look like those on a Chrysler Pacifica, a new grille and fog lights, plus darkened chrome trim and smoked tail lamps.
The cumulative effect, again, makes the vehicle seem much larger and substantial than you might expect, and comfortable enough for real excursions. Inside, you get a wireless phone charging pad, easier-access USB ports and a pleasantly stylish cockpit design.
The CR-V hybrid will appear at dealers in March and is powered by a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle engine, with the promise of a very short all-electric range and mileage in the 40 mpg ballpark.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Greeley. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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