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The 7-percent solution: for the third generation of the CR-V, Honda threw away the box and the idea that entry-level SUVs have to be boring or basic.

The question is simple, the answer is hard to fathom, and yet Mitsuru Horikoshi, the Large Project Leader on the 2007 Honda CR-V--he has been involved with the CR-V from the first generation--is adamant. "Only 7% of the structure is common between the Acura RDX and the CR-V." How is that possible? Both are small SUVs with transverse four cylinder engines, all-wheel-drive (the Honda also comes in a front-drive version and has "Real Time" 4WD versus the Acura's "Super Handling" AWD), a five-speed automatic transmission, four doors, seating for five, and so on, yet little is shared between the two? When the inevitable question--"How can you do this without going bankrupt?"--is asked, Horikoshi answers with a comic's timing and smiling delivery: "Very well, thank you."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

As it turns out, the structures of the two vehicles are related, but the RDX's and CR-V's different external dimensions mean only 7% of the parts can be carried over unmodified. However, much of the basic CAD/CAE work was shared before being modified for each vehicle, and the hard points used to move the bodies-in-white through the assembly plant are similar. Getting the third-generation CR-V to production, however, was an even more confusing task for Horikoshi than keeping these two vehicles straight. He was juggling the addition of a diesel powertrain to the second-generation CR-V at the same time development was starting on the third generation. "Sometimes," he says earnestly, "I'd go home at night unsure of what I'd just done that day because the two were so different."

BODY

High-strength steel use in the unibody structure is up 24%, and changes made to the rear cross member, damper gussets, hatch opening, front underfloor and cross member, and dash top member increases bending rigidity by 84%, torsional rigidity by 3%, and reduces body vibration 6 dB at idle. A new hatch design replaces the former the side-opening rear door with a top-hinged design that has elongated L-shaped hinges to distribute forces across a longer section and minimize opening and closing efforts. Rather than hang it from the hatch, the full-size spare tire now sits in a well beneath the load floor where it contributes to most of the 3.7-in. reduction in the CR-V's overall length. And, though passenger volume is down 2.2 ft[.sup.3] compared to the previous model, cargo volume with the rear seat up increases by exactly the same amount.

CHASSIS

The suspension is a MacPherson strut front/multi-link rear combination that looks similar to the old layout, but is much different in its execution. For example, the front suspension has higher friction damper bearings (10.4 lb-ft vs. 3.1), more anti-dive (5.92[degrees] vs. 2.75[degrees]), symmetrically wound springs to reduce torsional forces on the steering, higher caster (3.04[degrees] vs. 1.75[degrees]), higher trail (0.79-in. vs. 0.44-in.), larger compliance bushings, and a longer suspension stroke. The multi-link rear suspension gets greater anti-lift geometry (16.9[degrees] vs. 14.5[degrees]), stiffer hubs with integrated wheel bearings, larger compliance bushings, and a 6% stiffer anti-roll bar. It may seem like a lot of detail work, but Honda is hoping the reach of the new CR-V extends beyond the young families and empty nesters that buy the current model to include young professionals in need of a comfortable, stylish small SUV.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

POWERTRAIN

"We use a version of the Accord's 2.4-liter engine," says Horikoshi, "with valve timing and intake tuning optimized to the needs of the CR-V." In this guise, the engine produces 166 hp @ 5,800 rpm, 161 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm, and is mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox driving either the front or all four wheels. Gone is the manual gearbox. The four-wheel-drive is a fully automatic system with multi-plate clutches and a one-way ball cam to improve response as well as give a 20% increase in the torque that can be transferred to the rear wheels. Horikoshi insists a V6 never entered the equation because, like the addition of a third-row seat, "It would have fundamentally changed the character and intent of the vehicle, and divided the customer base." What he would not speculate about was inclusion of Honda's 2.2-liter i-CTDi diesel engine--Honda has stated it will have a diesel-powered vehicle in the U.S. market in 2007--in the CR-V lineup, though he admits it would be "a good fit" for the market.

The last CR-V was designed to be the equivalent of a multi-purpose hiking shoe, and celebrated its simple, boxy shape. With this generation of Honda's original SUV, however, the jungles are as likely to be urban and suburban as they are remote, and another reason for the emphasis on comfort and refinement.

By Christopher A. Sawyer, Executive Editor
COPYRIGHT 2006 Gardner Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:The INDUSTRY; sport utility vehicle; Honda Motor Company Ltd.
Author:Sawyer, Christopher A.
Publication:Automotive Design & Production
Date:Sep 1, 2006
Words:800
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