First Drive: 2012 Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V has been a consistent leader in the entry CUV market category for years. This category is exploding in popularity and more carmakers are introducing crossovers to compete in this space. With the all new 2012 model Honda has updated the CR-V and this fourth generation should help the company hold on to its leadership position. We traveled up to Michigan on a crisp November day to test drive the new CR-V and came away very impressed.

Exterior

As you can see from the photos, the updated design looks great. The front grille and wrap-around headlights are a nice improvement over the previous model. The overall look is more aerodynamic which also improves performance. The lines of the vehicle are much more aggressive and dynamic and should be a hit with buyers.

Interior

The most impressive feature of the interior would be the new one touch fold-down rear seat. The Honda engineers have crafted a clever method that has the 60/40 rear seats automatically fold down simply by the pull of a cord at either the side of the seat or a lever at the top of the seat. The lower seat cushion automatically pops up and the headrests and backside of the seat fold down and disappear below it. The result is a best in class cargo area.

I really liked the center stack and the overall feel of the dash. The new CR-V also has new high-tech features as all models include a Bluetooth HandsFreeLink phone interface (previously an available feature), a full-color intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID), a multi-angle rearview camera and an SMS text messaging function. Honda has also introduced Pandora Internet Radio as well. Many more features like the nav system are available as options.

Performance

The new CR-V sports a more efficient engine design with improved horsepower and torque, along with an all-new Real Time All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) with Intelligent Control System™. It’s powered by a 2.4-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower and 163 lb-ft. of torque and has a standard 5-speed automatic transmission. As I drove the CR-V through the back roads in Michigan I was consistently impressed with the performance and handling. The vehicle has good acceleration and responsiveness and zips around corners with ease.

The CR-V also features best in class fuel economy with 23/31 MPG for the two-wheel drive and 22/33 for the AWD. Another interesting addition is the white-to-green ambient light on the dashboard. As the light moves to green the driver knows that the current driving patterns are resulting in better fuel economy.

Overview

The new CR-V is fun and functional, so I expect it will continue to have very broad appeal, with active singles and young couples being primary targets. It goes on sale on December 15th and you should check it out.

  

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Mazda unveils new CX-5 Crossover SUV at Frankfurt Motor Show

Mazda invited us to join them in Frankfurt as they unveiled the new CX-5 Crossover SUV at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The crossover market is exploding, and this new vehicle gives Mazda with a strong entry in the small crossover segment. The CX-5 is a completely new vehicle for Mazda from the technology to the design language. Mazda CEO and President Takashi Yamanouchi proudly introduced the new vehicle at the auto show along with Chief Designer Masashi Nakayama and Program Manager Hideaki Tanaka.

As you can see from the photos above, the styling on this all-new crossover is sporty and aggressive. CX-5 becomes the first production model to feature Mazda‘s new design theme, “KODO – Soul of Motion.” Chief Designer Masashi Nakayama explained: “With the CX-5, our focus was on expressing a strong sense of vitality and agility. We looked at videos of cheetahs; their agile footwork and how they use their entire body as a spring to accelerate rapidly and change the direction instantly. They emanate great energy throughout their entire body. Inspired by their efficient yet beautiful movements, we aimed to push the SUV appearance to new levels with KODO design language.” The prominent front and rear fenders and sculptured body sides give the CX-5 a distinctive look, and we’ll start seeing the new front grille and face of the vehicle showing up on other Mazda cars.

The CX-5 will be introduced progressively to global markets beginning early next year. This is the first Mazda developed completely around its new SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY, which includes all-new gas and diesel engines, manual and automatic transmissions, body and chassis. North American president and CEO Jim O’Sullivan explained to us that the CX-5 was truly a clean-sheet design from the ground up using this new technology, and all of these elements will start appearing in other Mazda models in years to come. This approach on the CX-5 also allowed Mazda the opportunity to achieve significant weight savings as well which will have a significant impact on gas mileage.

With this particular vehicle, Program Manager Hideaki Tanaka explained: “We aimed to develop a vehicle with a long-term appeal that would delight owners and make them proud for years to come. I think that these were the most important values we had to embody in the CX-5. We wanted to deliver the best of all worlds in order to suit the various lifestyles and life stages of our customers, and satisfy their high expectations over the long term. Specifically, we focused on providing pleasure through the CX-5’s appearance, its precise handling, its insightful functionality, and its long-term appeal. By aiming to achieve the ideal in each area, we pursued the innovation of driving pleasure.”

The company clearly nailed the styling on this one and it should appeal to single buyers along with consumers with small families. The interior room and functionality was impressive. I’m anxious to drive the CX-5 once it’s ready for production as Mazda consistently delivers on vehicles that are fun to drive.

  

Infiniti JX Concept introduced at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

Infiniti invited Bullz-Eye out to Pebble Beach for the annual Concours d’Elegance and the introduction of the new Infiniti JX Concept crossover. The new vehicle was unveiled last night at an elegant reception at the famed Lodge at Pebble Beach.

The Infiniti JX Concept is a preview of a new 7-passenger/3-row luxury crossover that joins the Infiniti lineup in spring 2012. The JX Concept was unveiled by Senior Vice President and Chief Creative Officer Shiro Nakamura: “The JX Concept advances the Infiniti design language, sharing design cues of the Infiniti Essence concept, yet interprets those elements in ways suitable to the needs of a family luxury crossover. From the dramatic front grille and headlight design to the crescent-cut D-pillar and greenhouse shape, the JX Concept shines as a fresh, bold alternative to the many flavors of vanilla currently dominating the three-row luxury crossover segment.”

As you can see from the photos above, the JX Concept stands out with aggressive styling. The accessibility and comfort of the third-row seating will also be a major selling point. “With the JX, you will even be able to leave a child seat latched to the 2nd row while getting in or out of the 3rd row – just one example of the vehicle’s inspired flexibility and versatility,” explained Infiniti Americas Vice President Ben Poore. “The 3rd row isn’t the typical penalty box either, with adult-sized room for all occupants and five-and-a-half inches of 2nd row forward-back adjustability.” Learn more about this and other Infiniti vehicles at the Infiniti Facebook page.

Check back as we will be posting more updates from the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. This event is one of the premier celebrations of the automobile as only the most beautiful and rare automobiles are invited to appear on the famed eighteenth fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links each year.

  

Nissan JUKE makes a splash in New York

nissan_juke_09

Crossovers have been fueling the rejuvenated car market, and now Nissan is pushing the envelope with the new Nissan JUKE, a compact crossover with bold styling that was unveiled last night in New York City at Rockefeller Center.

We were able to attend the event in New York so we got an up-close look at the new vehicle. It’s definitely targeted at the youth market with it’s sporty design, and it will fit in nicely with consumers who have an active lifestyle. The bold design inside and out draws on a number of active lifestyle influences including motorcycles and rally cars. It’s also roomy as hell for a compact vehicle.

If you’re looking for a sporty vehicle that makes a design statement, check this one out.

Disclaimer: Nissan provided my airfare, hotel stay and drinks to come check out the new Juke. Special thanks to Nissan!

  

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