After I got my Beetle, it was not long before my wife needed her own car. She was in America, and wanted what she felt was a “big SUV”, and we settled for a Honda CR-V.
It was a metallic grey four year old model that we bought at Carmax sight unseen.
She drove it much more than I did, but because it was more spacious than the Beetle (which can at best be described as a 2+2 coupe) it was also the car we ended up using for long distance trips when the family was around. Being a Honda, it was reliable (it never let us down) and intelligently designed, but it was also propelled by a engine which was totally out of character for a SUV – at the same time peaky and underpowered – making those trips a bit of a chore.
Derived from the Civic, the CR-V was Honda’s first in house designed cross-over. The engine was a 2L, 16 valve DOHC 4 cylinder unit, producing 126 hp at 5400 rpm and 133 lb⋅ft of torque at 4800 rpm. Yes – 4800 rpm. The car was relatively light at 3,200 lbs, but with a 4 speed auto, the drag of the 4 wheel drive system and the frontal area of a SUV, it was challenged on the freeways, and it really suffered on the highways on long uphill sections. When we were still learning about the car, we pushed it too hard on our way to Charleston, SC, and had to stop on the shoulder of the I20 to let the transmission fluid cool down for a long while – not great, in particular with my in-laws on board.
At least Honda had given a real thought about the practical side of things. The floor of the cargo area was in fact the top of a picnic table, and the tailgate, composed of a vertically-lifting glass hatch and a sideway-opening lower gate was convenient. Thanks to the column shifter, there was no need for a console between the front seats – Honda had installed a little retractable table instead. The build quality was also excellent (except for the black strip surrounding the door windows, which was already peeling), and the service department of our dealer did not have much to do. The most expensive repair was when a plastic shopping bag wrapped itself around the U-joint linking the drive shaft to the rear differential. They had to remove the drive shaft to clean the mess, but it was just labor – no part needed to be changed.
The car was also solid – it was rear-ended once in slow traffic – and not only did the spare wheel absorb the energy of the impact, but it also returned it to the sender with a vengeance – the poor other car (I don’t remember what it was, a Pontiac, maybe) lost its radiator in the process and had to be put on a flat bed.
When a friend proposed to sell us his almost new 2007 Toyota RAV4, we drove it and were mostly impressed by the engine – it was night and day compared to the CR-V. We had driven that car for four years, we were not particularly attached to it, and as the big 100,000 mile service was approaching, we felt it was the right time to let it go. I listed the Honda on CraigsList. I received the first call a few minutes after the ad went on-line, and had a deal. The car was gone a few hours later. The buyer was a prudent father who wanted “a slow car for his young daughter”. After the test drive, he sure knew he had found what he was looking for.