Goodbye, CR-V

After 9 or so years and over 100,000 miles, I have totaled my mother’s 2010 Hon­da CR-V — the car I drove cross-coun­try for the first time at sig­nif­i­cant dis­tance (St. Louis to Wash­ing­ton, D.C. in essen­tial­ly one sit­ting,) and once com­pli­ment­ed for being the best pos­si­ble aes­thet­ic com­pro­mise of its near-uni­ver­sal­ly and aggra­vat­ing­ly-com­pro­mised breed. It was my her first 1st own­er expe­ri­ence, which is frankly a bit of a shame. If I’m com­plete­ly hon­est, my late stepfather’s deci­sion to out­fit this utter­ly util­i­tar­i­an vehi­cle with enough kit to break the $30,000 with­in a seg­ment that has always clung to the 20s as one of its tru­ly com­mu­ni­ca­ble advan­tages feels less-than-ide­al in ret­ro­spect, but what can I say, real­ly? It was not exact­ly a proud thing, but it did trans­port a lot of young fam­i­lies and shel­ter us as we’ve nav­i­gat­ed more bliz­zard-like con­di­tions than should be the norm for what is, essen­tial­ly, an expen­sive, extend­ed Civic.

As per some par­tic­u­lars of my upbring­ing, I tend to get almost alarm­ing­ly attached to vehi­cles, but it’s hard to say I’m sad to see the CR-V go from all but the most sen­ti­men­tal sens­es. Objec­tive­ly, it’s sim­ply not as high-val­ue or as com­pe­tent a vehi­cle as it and its con­tem­po­raries are still made out to be by auto­mo­tive media, pop cul­ture, or the pre­sump­tions in the aver­age consumer’s dis­course. Though it was nev­er intend­ed to be lux­u­ri­ous, the result­ing auto­mo­bile end­ed up cost­ing real lux­u­ry mon­ey.

The Event

It’s odd to have been dri­ving so long with­out inci­dent (pret­ty soon I’m gonna be able to say “I’ve been dri­ving for twen­ty years, bitch!) and then sud­den­ly find one­self at fault for the acci­dent which claimed the life of the sin­gle most sub­lime, defin­ing object in his exis­tence. This inci­dent, though, was entire­ly the fault of the oth­er dri­ver. My best friend and I were North­bound, cross­ing the inter­sec­tion of Sta­di­um Boule­vard and Rock Quar­ry Road at pre­cise­ly the point where it becomes Col­lege Avenue, where we were t-boned direct­ly on the CR-V’s driver’s side rear wheel by a mid-2000s Maz­da 6 that decid­ed to run the red light. It’s hard to guess the speed of impact, but the driver’s side side airbags deployed (as you’ll see from the attached pho­to­graph,) and the CR-V was spun near­ly 270 degrees around the axis of the front wheels. Nei­ther of us nor the 6’s dri­ver was injured, but both of our vehi­cles are sure­ly totaled.

This image should be much less com­i­cal than it is.

Third-Generation CR-V Ownership

Two or three years ago, I record­ed some (not par­tic­u­lar­ly con­clu­sive or infor­ma­tive) thoughts with my iPhone as I drove the old engorged Civic to the gro­cery store, when ends abrupt­ly after I said “I think one time I did try to go fast.” Like most sur­viv­ing crossover name­plates, though, the nar­ra­tive began with a gen­uine­ly good idea: Hon­darize and mod­ern­ize the Suzu­ki Side­kick tem­plate on top of the Civic’s plat­form and charge just a bit more for it — and like the rest, too, the con­cept has soured tremen­dous­ly as both crossovers and the com­pact sedans upon which they’re based have grown and fat­tened under their ever-increas­ing bur­den of safe­ty and con­ve­nience fea­tures. (I say “bur­den” and not “expec­ta­tion,” specif­i­cal­ly because I know a grand total of zero informed peo­ple who are at all thrilled about increas­ing gross weights across every indus­try seg­ment.)

This CR-V was my mother’s first and only crossover fol­low­ing a three-car line of one or two-own­er-used, well-equipped V6 Accords in her garage — the lat­er two from the era when Honda’s mid-sized sedan became a sur­pris­ing­ly dynam­ic dri­ving machine as advances in dri­ve­train per­for­mance inter­cept­ed a point in the devel­op­men­tal time­line just before gross weights spiked up toward their cur­rent safe­ty and elec­tron­ic equip­ment-bloat­ed fig­ures. (In oth­er words: in the sweet spot when engines were grow­ing more pow­er­ful but just before the Accord and its peers got fuck­ing fat.) In 2010, the CR-V was almost attrac­tive look­ing as specced by my step­fa­ther: the com­bi­na­tion of the roof rack, bon­net bra, and EX-trim 5-spoke alloys man­aged to resolve most of the dis­crep­an­cies in the shapes I’ve seen from oth­er exam­ples, but it also drove its price above the $30,000 mark. To be fair to Hon­da, this deci­sion could almost be con­sid­ered a sortof breach of func­tion con­sid­er­ing the CR-V’s orig­i­nal ultra-mass-pro­duced, util­i­tar­i­an pur­pose.

Interior

Nei­ther the leather nor the nav/infotainment sys­tem has aged very well, but it should be said that the lat­ter is still 100% func­tion­al in 2018: it inter­faces well with my iPhone 8 Plus with only the occa­sion­al “this device is not sup­port­ed” hic­cup (eas­i­ly resolv­able by sim­ply re-boot­ing the con­nec­tion, in my expe­ri­ence.) I’m not sure how aston­ished I should be by the fact that the GPS still offers reli­able routes 99% of the time, albeit through a user inter­face design that seems to grow more and more dat­ed by the pass­ing few sec­onds one may have to wait for it to cal­cu­late. Accom­mo­da­tion remains about as uncom­fort­able as it was on day 1: thanks to its hard leather and the super-upright seat­ing posi­tion com­mon to crossovers, I must con­tin­ue to insist that oper­at­ing this car is a whol­ly unnat­ur­al expe­ri­ence, but its inte­ri­or sur­faces shall always place well in a con­test of robust­ness and longevi­ty, as they cer­tain­ly should.

Drivetrain

Per­haps the great­est let­down of this mod­el year (2010) is its lega­cy four-speed auto­mat­ic trans­mis­sion, and I assume the next year’s inclu­sion of a brand-new five-speed unit dras­ti­cal­ly improved its dri­ving expe­ri­ence. The spe­cif­ic regret one feels when such a devel­op­ment arrives a year after buy­ing any new car is one my step­fa­ther still didn’t deserve, yet he was not spared. How­ev­er, if you, the read­er, can­not be dis­suad­ed from buy­ing a CR-V of this gen­er­a­tion for what­ev­er god­damned rea­son, know that you must choose an exam­ple from 2011-onward if you want to retain your san­i­ty. No, ye olde four-speed wasn’t quite as bad as the trans­mis­sion that vir­tu­al­ly ruined Dodge’s new Dart sin­gle­hand­ed­ly, but it cer­tain­ly shows its age even for the most inat­ten­tive or mer­ci­less dri­ver. With­out it, I would vouch for the 2.4L four-cylinder’s per­for­mance as ade­quate, but its con­tri­bu­tion was and for­ev­er shall be let down by the aging transmission’s devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s. Sim­ply put: they are an unac­cept­ably mis­matched team.

Though I shall for­ev­er argue that part-time all-wheel-dri­ve is almost nev­er actu­al­ly jus­ti­fied in nor­mal use — and yet inad­e­quate for any “extreme” use, for that mat­ter — Honda’s hydraulic “Super-Han­dling All-Wheel-Dri­ve” did indeed aid our CR-V’s way in a hand­ful of cir­cum­stances through­out my mother’s own­er­ship, though nei­ther of our mem­o­ries of these are robust enough to cite specifics. The sin­gle no-bull­shit bliz­zard we expe­ri­enced was the same type I man­aged to nav­i­gate years lat­er in a sub-com­pact Chevro­let (the small­er of the Son­ic or the Spark — I can nev­er tell them apart) to reach MagFest 2016, if per­haps less intense. I would spec­u­late that the sys­tem increas­es mechan­i­cal drag — and there­fore fuel con­sump­tion — to a degree that couldn’t pos­si­bly jus­ti­fy what lit­tle aid it has offered in our use, at least.

Help­ing my moth­er look for a new car has been espe­cial­ly edu­ca­tion­al regard­ing exact­ly how good of a machine one can buy for $30,000. Though either of us have yet to dri­ve one, I think a two or three-year-old sin­gle-own­er Vol­vo S60 Estate would be the opti­mal choice for her, but like many Amer­i­cans, she seems unable to escape long-eclipsed cona­tions of the “Wag­on” vari­ety. I wish that I had the posi­tion, knowl­edge, and through-and-through con­vic­tion it would require to con­front this mas­sive­ly expen­sive under­stand­ing among the buy­ing pub­lic, but at the moment, I con­tin­ue to come up short. If you’re still with me, I must say only this: crossovers are a scam, and you should put the minis­cule effort required to recheck the fig­ures behind the assump­tions you’re using to jus­ti­fy pur­chas­ing one. If and only if you accept that what­ev­er gain in car­go space, foot room, and over­all inte­ri­or vol­ume come at an extreme­ly high pre­mi­um in almost every sin­gle case and are still insis­tent on mak­ing the leap… Well, it’s your mon­ey.