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What turbocharging does for 2017 Honda CR-V performance

We’ve had more than one reader question the benefits of turbocharging Honda’s best selling compact crossover/SUV. How does turbocharging makes 2017 CR-V a superior drive experience.


Granted, the current 4th generation naturally aspirated CR-V can be rather sport-like for a compact SUV, so why change the engine and transmission option? There’s a couple of answers to that question, the foremost being combined fuel economy, and the second, taming the search and high rev tendencies of CR-V’s continuously variable transmission (CVT.)

Best average MPG in segment

For 2017, Honda CR-V beats Toyota RAV4 and all contenders in the compact crossover class with a segment topping combined 30 MPG in front wheel drive turbocharged trim, 4 MPG higher than a comparably equipped normally aspirated RAV4, and +2 City MPG / +1 Highway MPG when compared to the normally aspirated 2016 CR-V FWD. Granted, an added 1 to 4 MPG will not make or break a purchase deal in today’s low cost fuel environment. So, let’s look to Honda’s turbocharged 1.5 Liter fuel injected VTEC engine for a performance improvement or two.

It’s where the torque comes on that makes the difference

When I first experienced the substantial torque on demand difference that is Honda’s low displacement turbocharged engine of choice was behind the wheel of the reinvented 10th generation Civic. It’s not so much the measurable increase of torque over that of a normally aspirated engine, but where the turbocharged torque comes into play, and stays through the rev-range. Read my 2017 CR-V first drive impression here.

Through advanced turbocharging, the engine’s maximum torque output kicks in just above 2,000 RPM (launch) and stays in play throughout the engine/transmission shift cycles. In the case of a CVT transmission, the ever-available peak torque eliminates much of the CVT’s tendency to “high-rev” while pairing to the engine’s output.

With high-torque on demand, driving hills and grades require little to no shifting. With fewer changes in RPM, less fuel is consumed. While there’s quite a bit more to the engineering magic than that, In effect, a turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine seamlessly performs more in line with a greater displacement V6.

Enter CVT Transmission G-Shift Logic

The evolution of CVT transmission technology continues with the advent of (segmented) G-Shift Logic. For 2017 Honda greatly improves on a fuel saving shift technology with G-Shift ™ Logic. By effectively ‘segmenting the CVT into a more conventional automatic transmission shift pattern, Honda effectively tames the high-winding CVT, making for a quieter drive and ride experience.


William Graff (not verified)    December 8, 2016 - 6:49PM

I occasionally drive in the Utah Mountains (9000+ feet above sea level).
With a turbo, I would expect less of a power fall off with increasing altitude compared to a normal aspirated engine.

Bill mee (not verified)    December 9, 2016 - 8:49AM

With the 2.7l ecoboost in my 2015 f150 i can appreciate the turbo effect. Especially since my friend has the same truck w a 5.0 my truck makes 50% more power at cruising speeds from review of the dyno charts at 5 star tunning. But more interestingly we put our trannies in manual dropped to 50mph in 5th gear and my truck just destroyed his on side by side rollon performance. Validating the dyno curves. So in the honda the same will hold true. Day to day driving and throttle tip in can produce better performance at lower revs. Long term reliability not withstanding. Ive driven the new civic turbo and found the cvt and turbo to be a good match. I could even produce a tiny bit of wheel spin in certain conditions further proving the torque availability. I have also driven the cvt crv and its currently a disaster. The soft computer controlled launch completely removing all driver interaction to the transmission. Foot flat to the floor or part throttle tip in both resulting in the same uninspiring bland launch. Our 2012 crv is thrilling to drive in comparison. Sport mode on the f150 is also very enlightening. The same engine and transmission becomes a different vehicle w a push of the button. Why honda cant provide the same snotty boy racer driving experience is a shame. Better yet why not provide a factory computer program tunning tool at dealerships for customers to customize their sport programming. For a fee of course. Now that would be fun. Honda would have access to the programming and then mass compile the averages in a new mass market program. Free enginnering

Rod (not verified)    September 21, 2019 - 12:45AM

In reply to by Bill mee (not verified)

Bill, enjoyed your comment on what a dog off the line these new 1.5 turbo CRV’s are. I can’t recall driving any car that’s slower for the first 60-80 feet. I didn’t realize this, till after I bought our 2019 last month! During the test drive I was really impressed with the acceleration at 60 mph, great passing power! I’ve never been a fan of CVTs, but Subaru has had them, also turboed, and I’ve heard they’re pretty quick all around. Research shows that this CRV has a really low 5.64 axle ratio and a 2.64 first (lowest) gear. That is almost a 15:1 total low gear ratio, which should really snap your head back on launch! It feels like it’s actually starting in “third” gear, plus the turbo can’t do much at 2,000 rpm! This thing REALLY needs a launch upgrade. I’m a firm believer that maximum WOT performance is my human right. Not only is it fun but can get you out of a dangerous situation at times. I’ve driven the new Mustang 4 cylinder turbo and it is a blast! Why can’t Honda do the same?