HONDA CR-V 1.6L SX DIESEL: An almost autonomous test drive

    Honda CR-V 1.6L SX Diesel
    Honda CR-V 1.6L SX Diesel

    by Gregory E. Bautista & Deriq T. Bernard

    ALMOST two years after it was launched, Honda’s new top-of-the-line CR-V will finally be touched by our greasy hands. There is an advantage being last in the long bee line of test drivers for the iconic people mover—we got a fully broken-in car—and at 54,000 plus kilometers on the odometer, we were expecting squeaks and creaks, bad fuel economy and excessive vibration from that 1.6-liter diesel burner.

    We were wrong.

    What we found instead was a well put together piece of engineering.

    More stylish, more luxurious in this trim level—the 1.6 SX DSL—with everything but the kitchen sink. A quick scan of the specifications list also shows that in every measure it has more cupholders per square foot of plastic than any SUV we know today. Cupholders reflect attention to customer needs, as does USB sockets. Child seat mounts and multiple airbags, in turn, speak about keeping passengers always safe and secure even in the most horrible conditions.

    Honda Cars Philippines Inc. disrupted the crossover scene with the all-new CR-V. And it has had immense success in its class—aside from racking up awards, it also soaked up the market it had once already lost and rightfully earned back its crown.

    Every motoring writer has written glowingly about the CR-V. So, when we wrote this article my editor decided that it was not going to be about how fast it was, or how great it soaked up the bumps. The seven-seat configuration was tested bringing around my mother’s college classmates—all six of them with my dad driving—with the sunroof open and the middle-aged ladies giggling like little girls to the panoramic view of the sky that particular rainy day. Chuck up one point for the sunroof!

    When announced the CR-V with a diesel engine—which is a first for Honda in the country—and possibly anywhere in the world. The 1.6-liter i-DTEC produces 118hp and 300Nm of torque. Connected to a 9-speed automatic transmission—which was tested well in this review.

    The base model is powered by a 2.0-liter i-VTEC gasoline engine with 152hp and 189Nm of torque mated to a continuously variable transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard but the SX Diesel we drove gets all-wheel drive.

    And to quickly summarize what one gets, for sticker price of P2.138M, here is a rundown.

    The SX version gets, over and above the other four variants in the line-up; 1) a power tailgate, 2) a sun-tanning panoramic sunroof, 3) rut clearing 208mm ground clearance, 4) an All-Wheel Drive Torque indicator (which also means it has a multiple settings for power delivery), 5) an 8-way powered driver seat with 4-way lumbar support, and the point of this test drive, what the Japanese car maker calls “Honda Sensing.”

    Now Honda’s Sensing is by far the most sophisticated safety system we’ve tried on a Japanese car.

    It is Honda’s global safety concept which revolves around the simple motto “safety for everyone” and aims to realize a collision-free society.

    According to Honda’s engineers, based on the analysis of global road crash trends, Honda developed “Sensing,” a driver-assist system that keeps the car in a safe distance from other cars, ensures the car drives in a straight line and not straying from its lanes. Analysis shows that many fatal road accidents are caused by cars straying from their lanes, including those which involve pedestrians.

    The system once fully operational, practically drove the car on the straights and even did what could be considered motorcycle and pedestrian avoidance. The “Adaptive Cruise Control with Low Speed Follow” kept kept the car along the whole stretch of the San Pablo-Lipa Access Road practically driving itself. When presented with a tricycle in front, the car kept a distance and followed it, with about a 2-car distance, and with feet off the pedals, the SX accelerated and braked itself.

    Since Honda Sensing operates to detect and take a specific course of action to avoid situations such as one-car accidents, collisions, pedestrian injuries, and missed road signs it has a variety of inputs back to the driver. For example, the “Lane Keep Assist” and the “Lane Departure Systems” work to keep the car straight but in two different ways. Lane Keep gently corrects the steering and Lane Departure vibrates and alerts the driver to correct the direction.

    Using the Collision Mitigation Braking System aids in avoiding collisions with oncoming vehicles, and anything (vehicles or pedestrians) ahead, and mitigates any damage in case of collisions—including with motorcycles, since it uses a millimeter-wave radar and monocular camera to detect vehicles and pedestrians.

    When the system determines there is a risk of collision, it provides the driver with audio and visual warnings, and vibrates the accelerator pedal. We tried driving fast into an orange barrier. The system detected an impending collision and it automatically applied the brakes. Combine this with the adaptive cruise control and it practically drives itself. Practically.

    In this whole exercise—at the SLEX with cruise control and low speed follow working, we kept at 80 kilometers per hour on the middle lane perfectly on course and on the drive to Manila, all the way to Nichols Toll Plaza with nothing but the systems driving us, and the only inputs we provided were for steering.

    With Honda Sensing on, counterflowing is practically nor possible because when the vehicle strays into an oncoming lane, and there is a risk of collision with oncoming vehicles, the system vibrates the steering wheel to alert the driver, and applies the brakes when it determines a collision cannot be avoided. How’s that for total OC control?

    By the way, the CR-V does not have a traditional gear shifter—which helped in the autonomous driving “mindset.” A couple of big buttons to select the gears huddle in the middle console where a shifter should have been. Remember that’s a 9-speed transmission right there, and with the electronic connections between engine and Honda Sensing safety systems, at 100 percent cruise control running 54 kilometers the CR-V delivered 18 kilometers per liter with 70 percent highway and 30 percent city driving.

    Arriving in Intramuros, we still kept relying on the system to drive into the Walled City and with all the systems in operation, the CR-V went all the way to parking bay. At this point, we took over and parallel parked—it was the last day parking was available there. Yorme Isko has ordered no parking along those specific places in Intramuros.

    We predict that the next CR-V will definitely have more than self-parking capabilities to complete its portfolio of smart driving features. Could it be real semi-autonomous driving?