I tried really hard to keep the small green circle in the center of the display. Sometimes I lurched the car forward a bit too fast thanks to a few jackrabbit starts and sometimes I didn’t brake appropriately (call it a jackrabbit stop).
With apologies to all jackrabbits, these are not the best driving habits. I know this because, in the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid, the display above the steering wheel shows you how you’re driving at all times. I’ve tested around 700 cars in 10 years (mostly for a TechRadar.com column that ended recently) and I’ve never seen a gauge that was quite so helpful, clear, and obvious in terms of actually helping me drive differently.
One reason for that is that it’s just fun. When you accelerate too fast, you see a green dot pull back like you are playing a video game. With a quick glance, you can ease off and try to maneuver the green dot back into the optimal position. The reward is that, over time, you will not only help save the planet but save on the cost of fuel as well.
I’m somewhere in the middle of that camp, by the way. I like being eco-conscious. I also like to visit the gas station less often. I also really like fast cars. There have been many times when I wished my personal car was a hybrid for this reason — you feel better about how you are impacting resources on the planet but also save actual dollars when you drive — we’re talking at least a few hundred dollars per year or more. The CR-V Hybrid is rated at 40 MPG on the highway compared to 34 MPG for the non-hybrid version, which is a pretty significant savings. Oh, and it’s super fun to drive. The electric motor provides some nice pop for highway merges.
From a tech standpoint, Honda has outdone themselves. The CR-V can switch between a series hybrid and a parallel hybrid depending on driving conditions. I’ll let this Honda description stand on its own since it is quite helpful: “The majority of the time, the CR-V Hybrid operates as a series hybrid, its 181-horsepower propulsion motor driving the wheels directly while the gasoline engine (connected to the electric generator/starter motor) functions as an on-board electrical generator, supplying power to the hybrid battery and/or the propulsion motor. Under certain driving conditions, such as steady-state cruising at highway speeds, the system can switch seamlessly to parallel hybrid operation, the gasoline engine to the front axle via a clutch, and vehicle speed is proportional to engine speed (rpm).”
Another nice perk with the CR-V is that it uses mechanical AWD instead of the more typical electrical AWD so common in sedans these days. Instead of merely a computer adjusting for tire slip, mechanical AWD provides the right balance of power and torque to the wheels. I’ll be curious about testing this vehicle come winter in my area of Minnesota to see how that works. Avoiding tire slip is nice but my guess is that the CR-V can actually plow through snow.
As is usually the case with me, there’s always one standout feature, and that green driving display was the highlight (it is also available in the Honda Accord Hybrid sedan). All I can say about it is that it worked for me, helping me adjust how I drive in real-time and adding actual miles to the range during several days of testing. Maybe technology has a gee-whiz component at times and looks cool, but in this case — it made a big difference.