Electric Vehicles

Does CR-V Hybrid mean an electrified Odyssey, Pilot on the way?

The Honda CR-V Hybrid plays into the company's larger plan to sell more electrified vehicles.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Earlier this year, the 2020 Honda CR-V made its debut with a new powertrain variant. Dubbed the CR-V Hybrid, the model will likely be able to go around 500 miles between fill ups, when optioned in its lightest variant in optimal driving conditions.

With the addition of the CR-V Hybrid and Honda's recent commitment to electrify two-thirds of its global automobile unit sales by 2030, it's reasonable to assume that the clock is ticking on electrified versions of two of the company's most popular U.S. models, the Odyssey and Pilot.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid red back rear tailgate trunk Honda has introduced the CR-V Hybrid for the 2020 model year.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

With electrification, there are a few ways for manufacturers to go. There's a more traditional hybrid, with a battery attached to one to four motors that uses mostly gasoline in combination with an electric power boost. There is also a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) powertrain, which allows customers to plug in their car's battery to an outlet and receive electric power to be used instead of gasoline while allowing the customer to retain their gasoline fuel tank for use for when the electric power runs out, or to supplement power availability at high speed.

Many futurists see PHEVs as being a good next step for buyers looking to have the best of the EV and gasoline-powered world.

"AutoPacific's data suggest that Odyssey customers would really respond to a plug-in hybrid powertrain," said Kim. "Our 2019 New Vehicle Satisfaction data show that 41 percent of 2019 Odyssey owners are willing to consider a plug-in hybrid powertrain next time, compared to just 24 percent of all new vehicle buyers this year. Honda has long had a reputation for powertrain efficiency and innovation, so a high-tech fuel efficient PHEV powertrain for Odyssey could make for an excellent brand fit."

2019 Honda Pilot Place your bets on Honda offering electrified powertrain options for the Pilot and Odyssey in the not too distant future. Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Honda builds the Odyssey, Pilot, Passport, and Ridgeline beside each other at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama. The current Pilot generation was launched first, in 2016. It underwent a facelift for the 2019 model year. The Ridgeline was re-introduced in 2017 and the current Odyssey generation debuted in 2018. Passport was added back to the Honda lineup in 2019.

Consumers are likely about three years away from seeing a redesigned Pilot and even further from a redesigned Odyssey, but could be closer to seeing new powertrain choices introduced as the company pushes hard to that 2030 goal. This would be a similar formula to what Honda has done with the CR-V, which had its current model introduced in 2017 and got a refresh this year.

"We are expecting a mid-cycle refresh for [Odyssey in] the 2021 model year," said Ed Kim, Vice President, Insights, AutoPaciifc. "We think the PHEV powertrain is likely to come out with the mid-cycle change, so a fall 2020 introduction wouldn't be impossible."

The Pilot and Ridgeline have a flat load floor that sits relatively high off the ground. This type of setup allows for slightly easier electrification design, because the battery pack can be situated along the bottom of the vehicle. However, the Odyssey only has 4.5-inches of ground clearance which, on the surface, seems like an impediment.

"A minivan actually makes really good sense for implementing a plug-in powertrain," said Kim. "Due to the lower sliding door tracks, the floor is a bit higher, and that leaves room under the floor for batteries. This is exactly what Chrysler did with the Pacifica Hybrid, mounting its batteries where its Stow-n-Go second row seats would normally go under the floor. It's easy to imagine Honda doing something similar with Odyssey; like the Pacifica, Honda should be able to incorporate a battery pack under the floor in a way that doesn't impede on interior space. And, in a minivan, interior space is of course extremely important."

Chrysler already sells a PHEV version of the Pacifica, the Pacifica Hybrid, so it makes sense that Honda would be exploring electrified versions of its minivan.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

There are significant fuel-saving and quickness advantages to driving hybrid or PHEV vehicle. Honda says that the 2020 CR-V Hybrid, "brings quicker off-the-line performance and is anticipated to achieve a 50 percent higher city fuel economy rating than the non-hybrid CR-V." These advantages are likely to carry over into any future Honda vehicle development.

It's important to note that Honda designs its vehicles unlike most manufacturers, from the inside out. This means that customers are likely to see benefits from hybrid or PHEV powertrain adoption rather than the sacrifices, like the higher-riding rear seats and diminished cargo space, some automakers force consumers to make should they want to choose an alternative powertrain. However, hybrid and PHEV models tend to come at a higher price than traditional gasoline-powered models.

Currently, Honda sells the electrified Accord Hybrid, Insight, and Clarity in the U.S.

When contacted about this story, a spokesperson for Honda said, "We don't comment on future products."

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New SUV

New Jeep Compass Coming Soon

The Compass gets a major update for 2022.

Stellantis/Jeep

The Chicago Auto Show is happening now, which means we've already seen a few new models and concepts. Just yesterday, Jeep introduced the new 2022 Compass compact SUV. It gets a new design inside and out, updated tech, and a load of new available driver aids. The Compass' refresh comes as new models from Ford, Subaru and others could cut into Jeep's off-road dominance.

As it was in previous model years, the new Compass is powered by a 2.4-liter "Tigershark" four-cylinder engine that makes 177 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. It's good for up to 31 mpg on the highway in 2WD models and can deliver a max towing capacity of up to 2,000 pounds in 4WD models. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard for Compass Sport and Latitude 4X2 models, while all others get a nine-speed automatic transmission that can handle the 20:1 crawl ratio setting in the Trailhawk model.

An all-new Latitude LUX trim joins the Compass lineup for 2022 as well. It features leather upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, an eight-way power driver seat, a seven-inch full-color gauge cluster, and the larger 10.1-inch screen.


2022 Jeep Compass The new Compass is more upscale than its predecessor.Stellantis/Jeep


The Compass comes with a class-leading 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen, but higher trims get an even larger 10.1-inch unit. It offers standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and runs Uconnect 5, a colorful, responsive infotainment system with advanced features and tech.

Several new safety features make an appearance, but most are added-cost options. The highway assist system offers a semi-autonomous driving feature, which Jeep says will become available later. Other tech includes traffic sign recognition, standard pedestrian/cyclist automatic emergency braking, a surround-view camera system, parallel and perpendicular parking assist, and a long list of more traditional advanced driver aids like blind spot monitoring and parking sensors.

The Compass lineup for 2022 includes five trims: Sport, Latitude, Latitude LUX, Limited, and Trailhawk. Pricing for the new Compass starts at $26,490, including a $1,495 destination charge. At the top of the lineup, the Trailhawk and Limited models both start at $32,890. It's expected to start arriving on dealers' lots in fall 2021.


2022 Jeep Compass New color schemes highlight the Compass' interior.Stellantis/Jeep

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The CX-5's styling is sharp and clean.

Mazda

Crossovers have clearly become the family vehicle of choice. Minivans and large sedans are far less common than they used to be as buyers opt for the relative plushness and more generous space offered by utility vehicles. That's not a bad thing, but many people will find the increasing levels of sameness in the crossover market to be off-putting.

Thankfully, Mazda is here to help keep things interesting. Its CX-5 takes a different approach than its rivals. Where vehicles like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V focus on comfort and efficiency over almost everything else, Mazda managed to jam in loads of vehicle feedback and engagement. Behind the wheel, the crossover feels and sounds much more alive and responsive than its competition. Jumping out of a larger vehicle and into the CX-5 felt like a shock at first, as the Mazda's steering wheel delivers real, actual feedback and transmits a picture of what's going on underneath the vehicle, which is something not often seen outside of expensive performance vehicles.


2021 Mazda CX-5 The CX-5's cabin is more upscale than its rivals. Mazda


Engaging Powertrains

The CX-5's base four-cylinder engine is fine, but the turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is where things start to get interesting. It bumps the standard mill's 187 horsepower to 250 and gives off a pleasing turbo whine under heavy throttle. It pairs almost perfectly with the six-speed automatic transmission and delivers surprising power and torque. My test vehicle's all-wheel drive gave the CX-5 a surefooted feel, and from experience I can say that it's worth the added cost if you live anywhere with legitimate winter weather.

There are a few tradeoffs that come along with the CX-5's level of driver engagement, largely related to interior space and noise levels. While the Mazda's cabin is comfortable and is in no way low-rent, a great deal of wind, road, and drivetrain noise make their way into the vehicle at all times. You could argue that this is just another expression of the CX-5's connection with its driver, and you'd be right in some cases. At many times, however, such as when taking the kids to school or just running to the grocery store, it gets tiresome. Your five-year-old won't care about how good the steering feel is when they have to keep asking you to crank up the volume on their podcast story. The noise level is most noticeable around town with the constant stop and go of traffic.

The other main drawback with the CX-5, at least for families (like mine) that don't travel lightly, is interior space. Thanks to its curves and beautifully sloped roof, the Mazda's cargo hold is not as spacious as some of its rivals, such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, Honda CR-V, or Toyota RAV4. That dramatic shape also makes the rear seat feel tighter than it reads on paper, but thanks to a friendly ride height and large rear door openings, parents will have no issues with loading kids in car seats.


2021 Mazda CX-5 A sloping roofline can make rear-seat headroom challenging for taller people.Mazda


Great Tech and Safety

Mazda bumped the CX-5's infotainment screen size from 7.0 to 10.3 inches across the board for 2021, but there's no touchscreen here. Instead, the system is controlled using a rotary dial and volume know that are mounted behind the gear shifter in the center console. It's a responsive and fairly straightforward process to use and control the system, but scrolling through long menus or trying to wade through several options using the rotary controller becomes tiresome and distracting at times.

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 was named a Top Safety Pick + by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). That award is due in part to the crossover's excellent performance in crash tests, but also comes thanks to its long list of standard advanced driver aids. All models get a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, lane departure warnings with lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, a smart brake support system, and high beam control. My top trim tester also got a driver attention alert system, front and rear parking sensors, and a 360-degree monitor.

It's hard to ignore the quality, value, and fun that the CX-5 brings to the table, even considering how good its competitors have gotten. With a price tag that maxes out under $40,000, the Mazda's driving experience and plush interior should put it at the top of shoppers' lists. Its few drawbacks don't spoil the overall package, and only really present a problem for families of four or more – like mine. Those people, myself included, should be shopping for a slightly larger vehicle, anyway, and for them, there's the Mazda CX-9.


2021 Mazda CX-5 The CX-5 is one of the most fun-to-drive crossovers on sale today.Mazda

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