Following the opening of the order books for it as well as previews in Penang and Kota Kinabalu, the 2017 Honda CR-V has now made its press debut, the fifth-gen SUV being shown to the media in its local specification for the first time yesterday.

The event, held at a secured location, wasn’t the usual drive session. Aside from a short acceleration/braking test and slalom course run between the current fourth-gen model and the new one, there wasn’t much in the way of evaluating the new CR-V in terms of performance, so the full report on it will only come about after the launch of the car, which is expected to be sometime next month.

The event was meant to showcase the workings of the Honda Sensing suite of safety technologies, which is making its debut locally on the CR-V, and of these, three were highlighted through a brief sampling. Two variants of the CR-V were on hand at the event, both 1.5L VTEC Turbo models – one equipped with Honda Sensing and the other, the previously-unseen Turbo 2WD. All interior shots of the new car have however been embargoed until launch, so we can’t show you what it looks like inside.

As reported earlier, the 2017 Honda CR-V will be available in 1.5L VTEC Turbo and 2.0L i-VTEC versions, with four variants confirmed. Of these, three are equipped with a 1.5 litre turbo, with a sole 2.0 litre normally-aspirated unit known thus far.

The turbocharged line-up consists of a 1.5L Turbo Premium 2WD with Lanewatch and Honda Sensing, followed by a 1.5L Turbo AWD and a 1.5L Turbo 2WD. As for the NA, the 2.0L i-VTEC 2WD represents the baseline model for the new SUV. An AWD version of the 2.0 litre is looking unlikely, and so the Malaysian CR-V line-up is set to be that as reported above.

All the 1.5L VTEC Turbo variants use a 1.5 litre direct injection turbocharged VTEC engine with 193 PS and 243 Nm of torque from 2,000 to 5,000 rpm, while the NA is powered by the existing R20 naturally-aspirated 2.0 litre i-VTEC motor with 155 PS and 190 Nm. The entire CR-V range is equipped with Honda’s Earth Dreams CVT transmission, replacing the five-speed auto seen in the outgoing fourth-gen.

The event also confirmed that the complete fifth-gen CR-V range sold in Malaysia will be five-seater versions. Apparently, a survey showed buyers in the target market don’t really look at extra seating as a primary point of consideration, instead placing space and features ahead of the additional seats, and so the decision was made to retain the familiar five-seat layout.

A quick recap of Honda Sensing and its available suite of safety technologies. It groups six items under its umbrella, these being Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM). Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), the last working together with a Low Speed Follow (LSF) function.

The LDW, as its name suggests, monitors the vehicle’s lane position using a monocular camera (positioned between the windshield and rear-view mirror) and alerts the driver if the vehicle is veering out of the lane. It operates at speeds from 72 km/h up to 180 km/h on straight and slightly curved roads, and remains on standby at speeds within the operating range with the turn signals not engaged.

As for LKAS, the system uses the monocular camera to “read” lane markings and, working with the electric power steering system, actively adds corrective steering torque to maintain its position in the centre of the lane. It’s advanced enough to identify painted lanes, cat-eye markers and Botts’ dots and is available at speeds between 72 km/h and 180 km/h.

The RDM also employs active steering input to keep the car in its intended lane, but the system focuses more on preventing drivers from unintentionally leaving a road altogether. When the camera detects the CR-V veering too close to the edge of the road, it vibrates the steering to alert the driver.

If the car leaves a lane marked by a solid line, the system engages braking assistance (via the Vehicle Stability Assist) to provide moderate braking to slow down the car and adds corrective steering torque to bring the car back to the lane.

While the workings of RDM and LKAS sound similar, the Honda Sensing engineers present at the event explained that RDM is a safety function (it works only for about five seconds to get the car back in line), while LKAS is a comfort feature, working unobtrusively in the background.

Next, FCW, which utilises the monocular camera as well as a millimetre wave radar, which has an operating range of around 100 metres. If it detects a risk of collision, the system creates visual and audible alerts to prompt a driver to react to the situation.

Should a driver still fail to react to the impending collision, then the CMBS system can apply the brakes autonomously (in varying levels of brake pressure) to reduce the vehicle’s speed in an attempt to prevent a collision or mitigate the effects of one.

The system can tell the difference between a vehicle and a pedestrian, but in the case of people, is only able to detect adults – it isn’t able to pick up forms under one metre in height, which also means it won’t engage if faced with something like a traffic cone.

Finally, ACC with LSF, which again combines the workings of the millimetre wave radar and the monocular camera. In the case of ACC, it allows the CR-V the capability of autonomously maintaining a desired speed and distance relative to the vehicle ahead, and can be set to operate from 30 km/h up, working up to 180 km/h.

The integration of LSF to ACC allows the system to continue functioning even in start-and-stop traffic situations. Available from stop (or 0 km/h) up to 100 km/h, it automatically adjusts the CR-V’s cruising speed when the vehicle in front changes speed, maintaining a set speed and safe distance from the vehicle in front.

The event saw demonstrations of the LDW and RDM as well as ACC and LSF functions, run over a 500 metre-long straight. For the first, the CR-V was set on cruise to 80 km/h, and once the car had accelerated to 75 km/h, the exercise involved simulating a concentration lapse and steering slack, allowing the CR-V to veer off the lane.

The triggering of LDW was then followed by corrective steering being performed by the system, bringing the car back quickly but neatly into the lane. The workings shown through the exercise weren’t aggressive, and the system itself looks to be rather intuitive – any significant driver input will override the system. On one run, corrective steering input upon first deviation off the lane from the driver meant that RDM didn’t engage.

As for ACC and LSF, the system should prove to be a boon in traffic jams with plenty of stop-start and slow moving conditions. The sampling had the new CR-V following a lead vehicle through a series of stops and starts, with different movement speeds each time. Engaged, the CR-V maintained movement and braking seamlessly.

A note about the distance between cars provided by ACC/LSF. On the move, the distance between vehicles is adjusted based on speed, spacing out (in four distance gradients) as it gets faster, which is reassuring. It’s the space made during stops that will take getting used to, given Malaysian traffic and its drivers.

To maintain safety, the system halts the car at a distance of around four metres from the vehicle ahead each time, but with local conditions and opportunistic drivers, expect that space to provide more than enough leeway for another car attempting to slip in ahead. A more complete trial under normal traffic conditions should see how many times this plug will happen over the course of a jam.

Based on the short sampling, the autonomous system looks thoroughly capable, but drivers will need to orientate themselves to trust the system and resist any urge to press on the brake pedal – any such intervention disengages the system and brings control and input back to the driver.

Aside from the Sensing-based exercises, there was also a short course offering a glimpse of how the new car shapes up against the current in terms of acceleration, braking and agility, with the 1.5 litre Turbo 2WD going up against a fourth-gen 2.4 litre variant.

It’s not light and day, but the turbo offers better pace off the line, and it sounds quieter at that. As for the CVT, first impressions are good – it feels smooth and responsive, with very little rubber banding being evident.

In terms of braking aspects, the performance in terms of stopping distance is about the same, at least from that offered over repeated runs during the brief test, but there’s less diving under hard braking, with noticeable less nose pitch on the new car.

The same can be said about agility aspects, which was demonstrated over a short slalom course, the new CR-V coming across as more planted and with less body-roll evident, though the latter is more pronounced viewed from outside rather than in the vehicle. Finally, a note about the steering – that on the new car has a better feel in terms of weight and response. The new interior also looks and feels much more premium.

The full road test of the SUV at some point post-launch should answer all the questions performance-wise as well as provide the means for a more complete insight into the workings of the Sensing suite, which has been benchmarked against that from Mercedes-Benz, according to the Honda engineers.

No longer a novelty, the raft of driver- and safety-assist tech, but it remains to be seen how much of a premium it will cost. Now that it’s here, the question is, will Malaysian buyers pay for it? The answer, in due course.

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5L VTEC Turbo 2WD (fifth-generation)