Honda CR-V’s 4WD system is not working – again

Teknikens Värld is testing the four-wheel drive system in Sweden’s 20 best-selling SUVs. Honda CR-V proves once again that its system doesn’t deliver what it promises.

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This article is also available in Swedish

Honda CR-V 2,2 i-DTEC 2014 registreringsbevis

The car’s Swedish registration certificate. Click to enlarge and view all.

Last year Teknikens Värld tested the 4WD system in Honda CR-V. We then discovered that Honda’s 4WD system didn’t perform well at all. The system overheated when the surface was slippery. The CR-V wasn’t able to drive uphill when the traction was poor. The front wheels were just spinning and the rear wheels were not moving at all.
Honda explained that is was a built-in functionality to spare the mechanical parts of the system. But Honda did listen to our criticism and they shortly after offered all their customers in Sweden a software update to eliminate the problem.
We then tested the CR-V again with the updated software and the problem with the 4WD system was gone. CR-V was now able to run up the hill on the slippery surface.

We have now performed the same test again, now with Honda CR-V model year 2014. As you can see in the movie above the problem is back. The CR-V is not able to climb uphill when the front wheels have no friction. The rear wheels are once again not moving. After 15-20 seconds the CR-V instead slides off the low friction rolls.

Our test method with low friction rolls was approved by Honda last year. The method, which is very realistic, has also been adopted by some automakers, such as Subaru.

Reply from Honda Sweden

The Honda AWD system uses a compact, lightweight and fuel-efficient rear differential. The design requires a certain torque limitation for the device to be able to work effectively in real conditions, but at the same time, it must not exceed the total capacity of the AWD drive.
In real conditions, regardless of the surface, there is a certain amount of friction always available for both front and rear wheels. The AWD system benefits therefore torque between front and rear wheels in order to achieve optimal driving force.
In the roll test non-existent grip is simulated in the front and maximum grip at the rear.
If all the available torque required to move the vehicle forward would be transferred to the rear differential then the limit for the torque of the unit would be exceeded.
If the vehicle continues to run in this state (the front wheels spinning and the rear wheels standing still) the system senses the high speed variation and that the differential clutch slips and reduces the available torque to the rear wheels to prevent overheating. That is why the vehicle moves backward in the video.

In real conditions a scenario like the roll test with such a high difference in grip between the front and the rear wheels is highly unlikely.

In other words Honda does not see that the roll test fairly highlights CR-V’s AWD performance. Teknikens Värld has done a winter test where CR-V was tested on icy roads, as well as steep paths such as a ski slope.
Honda believes that these tests in real environments should be enough to show that the CR-V is a great winter car and would like to stress that there are no known customer complaints on the CR-V’s traction from the Swedish market or in other markets with similar conditions.

On Teknikens Värld’s question whether the update is made, we can with measuring instruments upon request show that for both customers and media.
Since it is important for Honda that customers feel safe and have confidence in ourselves we did an update of the software of all CR-Vs for the Swedish market.
CR-V customers were able to get the software, free of charge, updated at our dealers from April 15 and in production from July 8 in 2013.
Honda CR-V is a global car and has sold over 5 million copies. It is the world’s best-selling SUV* and the sales in Europe is growing steadily, 6 percent in comparison with last year. The CR-V therefore has many satisfied customers around the world.

Maria Johansson, head of communications

* First quarter 2014