Related: Automotive Engineering
During his presentation on the 2002 Honda CR-V, chief project leader Takahiro Hachigo never lost an opportunity to stress the vehicle's "right size" for the entry-level SUV market. "The external dimensions are about the same as the current CR-V," he says. "The nose is 49 mm shorter. The wheelbase is the same, and the overall length is only 25 mm longer."
Yet interior space is up by 8.0 ft3 (to 106 ft3), thanks in part to the CR-V's 30-mm greater width, 7.0-mm larger overall height, and the flat floor found in all of Honda's Global Compact Platform (GCP) cars. "It's not magic," says Hachigo, "it's good engineering."
Each side of the split rear seat in the new CR-V can slide fore and aft nearly 7 in. When maximum cargo capacity is needed, these seats can be flipped down and folded forward so they fit flush against the back of the front seats. As a result, the CR-V has a larger interior than either the Toyota RAV4 or Ford Escape, and comes darn close to the carrying capacity–in everything but width–of many larger SUVs.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is unusual for a Honda powerplant in that it produces more torque than horsepower, 162 lb.-ft. versus 160 hp. It also has a solid output of 66.7 hp and 67 lb.-ft. for each liter of displacement, while meeting proposed 2004 LEV2 emission standards. Like the engines in the Acura RSX lineup, the CR-V motor has i-VTEC valve control, an aluminum block with cast-in iron liners, and has been rotated 180° to place the catalyst closer to the exhaust manifold. Unlike the RSX's engines, however, the CR-V motor uses a balance shaft integrated with the oil pump to keep NVH under control. It works. Why no V6? Simple. A Honda version of the Acura MDX is coming.
Safety, handling, and ride are important to the CR-V buyer. In order to make improvements in these areas, torsional rigidity of the monocoque body structure increased by 50%, and bending rigidity increased by 30%. "We paid particular attention to improving the torsional rigidity of the rear end," says Hachigo, "without affecting luggage space." Honda claims the CR-V can carry 72 ft3 of cargo with the rear seat folded down, making it the volume leader in its class.
Reinforcements at the C- and D-pillars distribute suspension loads and enhance stability. Large longitudinal members tie into the side sills through large cross-section cross members, and distribute crash loads throughout the entire structure. "This limits cabin intrusion and protects the passengers better," says Hachigo. By analyzing each frame component and its connection to the overall structure during the design phase, Hachigo claims Honda engineers were able to effectively place the high-tensile steel, additional welds, and cross members without adding excess weight. Despite a higher equipment level, the 2002 CR-V weighs only about 100 lb. more than its predecessor.
The front structure was another area of keen study for the CR-V engineers. The upper strut gussets were strengthened, and connected through the use of a cross-car strut. Plus, the front subframe and side rails were kept low to prevent the CR-V from riding up over the front crash structure of a passenger car. In addition, the front bumper beam was located at passenger car height to reduce low-speed damage.
Not surprisingly, Honda expects the 2002 CR-V to exceed all government safety standards and achieve Five Star ratings for front and side impacts. To guarantee this result, dual-output front airbags and seat belt pre-tensioners are standard on all models, while the EX model gets standard side airbags. In addition, the front headrests have been moved forward 21 mm to meet NHTSA's proposed 2004 whiplash standard, and braking is enhanced through the addition of four-wheel disc brakes as standard equipment. A three-channel ABS system with integral electronic brake distribution (EBD) is standard on the EX, optional on the LX.
On-road safety was another area of concern for Hachigo and his crew. The suspension is similar to the CR-V's Civic and RSX stablemates, with toe control link struts up front and double wishbones in the rear. Hachigo says this is central to the CR-V's ability to complete the ISO 3888 double lane-change test at 66 km/h with a driver and instrumentation on board. On the short course, the CR-V sailed through at 40 mph, similarly equipped. North American CR-Vs will be built in Japan and the U.K., though Tom Elliott, executive vice president of American Honda, says any plant producing a GCP platform vehicle can add the CR-V within 60 days. Given its $19,000 to $23,000 price and Honda's expectation that the entry-level SUV market will grow 98% by 2006, he may find it necessary to test that theory.