COAL: 2008 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD – A Wonderful Car, At The Wrong Time

In 2012 my life was still in the middle of a long stream of changes. The last (and certainly the most happiest event I’ve lived) was the birth of my only daughter. At that time me and my wife had been driving a 2009 VW Voyage Comfortline (see COAL here), a car that turned out to be way below my expectations, especially in terms of quality. So, then with a bigger family, we started wondering if that was something to be changed in the car department. The chosen vehicle was probably the best I’ve ever owned, and the first and only with a number of features, including being familiar to the North American public.

Reward four years, a friend who lived far away went to our town just to pick up a brand new 2008 Honda CR-V EX-L, fully loaded, for his mother. We run on it and fell in love with it. Two years ahead some close friends bought a used 2010 Honda CR-V EX-L, also fully loaded. We run and drove it a few times and guess what, we fell in love with it too.

At the time it seamed really unlikely that we would be able to buy one car like that. To me it was not only a matter of lack of economic capability but also one of being a somewhat superfluous good (relative to our standards of living).

Around that time I miscalculated a number of variables related to family income prospects. In other, straight words, I became an irrational optimistic about our future earnings, which inevitably delivered to some unsustainable consumption decisions. Then we got to know the CR-V purchased in 2008 by that friend’s mother was for sale. I changed my mind a bit about what was superfluous and considered that to be a excellent car for our family, particularly due to the huge amounts of space, lots of safety features and, of course, Honda quality construction. So I researched the market for a a number of important variables like chronic pitfalls (none!), consumption (not economic but tolerable), and some others, and decided that we should buy it.

The Mk3 Honda CR-V was launched in 2007. As some of you gear heads probably know, in USA, Canada, Mexico and presumably other markets it was available with the 2.4 l (code K24Z) 4 cylinder rated for 166 hp. But in Brazil the only engine was the 2.0 l (code R20A2) 4 cylinder rated for 150 hp, in order to avoid higher taxes on engines with displacement above 2.0l.

We got a good deal on the the friend’s mother CR-V, which had four years of use but only around 30 thousand miles and was in good shape (she had no kids and no pets). It was a gray 2008 EX-L AWD fully loaded (for Brazil specs), with a handful of airbags, ABS, EBD, ESP, power sunroof, black leather seats, automatic transmission (all of them first time for both me and my wife) and many other minor comfort features. Not that I cared about it but in Brazil they only had manual and not power adjustable seats, which in USA is probably fairly common for family mid priced cars.

I’ve driven other automatic transmission cars, but had never owned one. I must confess it is really nice for comfort and everyday town traffic, but my personal taste is still more on the manual transmission side. Even then, if I was to buy another CR-V or similar vehicle I’d certainly prefer an automatic, I think it feels just perfect on it.

For us, ever restricted to small sedans and hatchbacks, the CR-V was just about huge inside, with real 5 seating capacity and a huge trunk, not to talk about the flexibility to fold 1/3 and 2/3 rear seats. The front seats were huge too, at least compared to what we were used to. Being a big fan of pickup trucks, I felt very well sitting a little higher than on regular cars and not having to craw to get in to it or pick the million things on the rear seats children are used to leave behind at any time. I used to like the pass through front console-dash arrangement (Honda must have found not many people liked it, because the Mk4 CR-V had a regular console, fully integrated to the dash).

On our judgment the car was very nice to drive on good highways, which is the kind we generally ride on. We were surprised to it’s stability on curves and well behaved manners on short corrections. We took several rain storms on highways and felt very secure in it, only reducing speed because of precaution. But because of the not so good on torque 2.0l engine, hilly roads are clearly not that easy, especially if there’s slow traffic to takeover. Oh yes, the VTEC sound is awesome!

In town, at least in São Paulo, which is has many hills, narrow streets and too much traffic, the CR-V can feel a bit awkward to drive in the beginning, but is just a matter of learning about it’s true dimensions. To be fair, it’s not a long vehicle at all, with 177.9 in, not too much more than the 166,5 in of my ex-VW Voyage. Of course the big distinctions to our former small cars are on width (71.6 in) and height (66.1 in). Anyway, size is a pretty much a relative thing, as these crossovers are just regular sized cars (maybe even below average?) in USA but clearly above normal in Brazil.

I must emphasize we had zero breakdowns or failures of any kind on the CR-V during our ownership. But then why it’s not our current car? The answer is not exactly on the car it self but on economic context.

Unfortunately gas costs became too high for us when other expenses pilled up and our family income went backwards. Also knowing regular maintenance costs were coming right ahead, including new tires and parts which are imported (read expensive in Brazil), I had to capitulate and sell it. Me and my wife sure miss our first and only Honda. My daughter miss it too, in her case because of the sunroof.