Test the tech: Canine Recreation-Vehicle
With its combination of smart styling and functionality, we figured that the 2007 Honda CR-V would be an ideal car for an urban dog owner. To test out our hypothesis, we enlisted the help of Dogs in the Fog, a local dog-walking firm in San Francisco. Our plan was to load up a bunch of dogs in the back of the car, take them for a walk, and then take them home again. We set out on a sunny Friday morning to join the firm's proprietor Andy Vevers at his house, where we loaded in what would be the first three of eight dogs that make up the morning walk. To ensure that all our canine passengers would fit, we folded down the CR-V's second-row seats, giving us 73 cubic feet of space.
The 2007 CR-V comes with 60/40 folding rear seats that tumble forward with the pull of a strap on each of the three segments. With the first passengers--Moe, Ella, and Rosie--successfully installed, we set out to collect the remaining quintet. Driving the CR-V around the hilly residential streets of San Francisco, it felt nimble and responsive for its size. In the course of picking up our remaining passengers--namely Oscar, Rhet, Dobre, Moby, and Jiggy--we had to perform multiple 3-point turns and reversing maneuvers, which were made considerably easier by the CR-V's backup camera. With everyone onboard, we set out towards Buena Vista Park, where Andy takes his charges every morning, rain or shine. As we made our way through traffic, the whining, snorting, and panting from the backseats served to remind us that there was over 500 pounds of dog onboard. It is difficult to describe the experience of driving with eight dogs in the back of a car, but "pandemonium" is pretty close.
As well as giving us a good impression of the storage capacity of the CR-V, our friendly cargo also helped out in the review process. For example, when a couple of the more adventurous dogs tried to join us up in the front seats, they demonstrated that the rear seats do not lock into place. Good work, boy.
The 2007 CR-V does away with the previous-generation model's side-opening cargo door with a top-hinged hatchback. This will make it a lot easier for mall shoppers to access their grocery bags and will allow general access to the whole cargo area; however, it does not lend itself well to controlling the flow of eight eager dogs upon arrival at their walking spot. Consequently, Andy let our passengers out one at a time via the CR-V's side rear door. Following the walk, we set out to return the dogs home, but not before getting a mug shot of all the daytrippers at the end of their morning exercise.
In the cabin
The cabin of the CR-V is stylishly appointed for an under-$30k crossover SUV. The EX-L boasts leather (and heated front) seats, aesthetically-pleasing cabin materials, and a stylish red-and-blue trimmed, electroluminescent instrument panel. Most engine-related details, including fuel level, gas mileage, engine temperature, and average fuel economy, can be seen at a glance via an intuitive white-on-black digital display nestled between the speedometer and the tachometer.
Honda's fabled voice-command system works as well as ever in the 2007 CR-V, but for some reason the system is not hooked up to the air conditioning, so drivers will have to suffer the indignity of having to set the dual-zone climate control with their bare hands. Fortunately, the navigation system can be programmed without moving anything other than the larynx and the left thumb, which is used to depress the Talk button on the bottom of the steering wheel.
Destinations can be entered by calling out the city, street, and house number of the required location. Other voice commands let you zoom in and out, change the orientation of the map, and cancel the voice guidance. Destinations can also be entered manually using either the in-dash LCD's touch screen (although there is no one-touch maps scrolling), or by using a small joystick control at the top right-hand side of the display. We are usually opposed to joysticks as programming interfaces for navigation systems, on the grounds that they are generally fiddly and liable to tip over when attempting to make a selection. The one on the CR-V is more robust than many we have used, but the main problem is its placement--those without very long arms are going to have to stretch a long way out of the driver's seat to use it.