A new CR-V is waiting in the wings for an introduction later this year, but the current model, one of the leading entry-level SUVs, still has a lot going for it. That's especially true with the 2006 Special Edition, which pairs popular options and special features.

Honda usually creates Special Editions to give vehicles a boost, often in the latter stages of a vehicle's model life.

The 2006 CR-V Special Edition, which has a list price of $25,400, has heated leather seats, side airbags, side-curtain airbags, vehicle stability assist, steering wheel audio controls and 16-inch wheels as standard equipment. The SE also has body-colored bumpers, side molding, door handles and a hard spare tire cover. Integrated keyless remote entry is standard on all CR-V trim levels.

The SE is the top of the line, but a front-wheel-drive LX starts at $20,395, and the popular all-wheel-drive EX with an automatic transmission starts at $23,750. The EX is also available with a manual transmission, although in very limited numbers.

Some might lament the lack of a third seat or a V-6 engine, but the CR-V excels without either of these. The standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 156 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque at 3,600 rpm. By producing maximum torque at a reasonably low rpm, the CR-V's engine has the drivability of a small V-6, and in fact it feels quicker than the small V-6s of some competitors. The engine is smooth and relatively quiet.

While the base CR-V is available with front-wheel drive, most buyers will opt for all-wheel drive for added security in rain or snow. All-wheel drive is standard on the SE. A cam-driven all-wheel-drive mechanism replaces the previous pump-type system on all models, improving acceleration and hill climbing performance. There is no way to lock the system into permanent all-wheel drive, something that would be handy on rare occasions.

The five-speed automatic transmission spreads the power nicely and has a gear for nearly every situation.

The Special Edition CR-V is impressive because it has the fit and finish one expects to find in a more expensive vehicle. The doors close with a resounding thunk, panel gaps are fairly small and the interior has a surprisingly upscale look and feel. Varied textures on the instrument panel and door panels add visual interest and a touch of sophistication.

Most of all, the CR-V is practical. The Environmental Protection Agency rates it at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway with all-wheel drive and an automatic transmission. Real-world mileage will be about 10 percent less, but even that is pretty good for a vehicle whose interior is almost as large as many midsize SUVs.

Aside from the fuel mileage, the CR-V is also practical because its cargo space is quite tall. It easily holds two upright bicycles without front wheels, and loading through the side-opening rear door is a cinch. Some reviewers don't like the fact that the rear door latch is on the driver's side, but I prefer that.

The tailgate glass can be opened separately if you need to carry fly rods or long pieces of wood, although it not wise to drive for any distance with the rear glass open because fumes can come back into the vehicle.

The 60/40 split-folding rear seat also reclines. The seats tumble forward, and that limits the length of items that will fit. Honda Element seats fold to the side, but take up valuable width. I would rather have those of the CR-V.

A folding table between the front seats functions as a console and cup holder, yet it folds down when you need the space between the seats.

The CR-V is built on the chassis of the Civic sedan. The independent rear gives a comfortable ride without sacrificing on-road handling.

Even with all-wheel drive, the CR-V's off-road capability is limited to rough gravel tracks, but that's OK because most CR-V owners will use their vehicles like a small station wagon, and it shines in that role.


The base price of the test car was $25,400. Destination charges brought the sticker price to $25,950.


Three years or 36,000 miles.

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Engine: 2.4-liter, 156-hp 4-cyl.

Transmission: Automatic

All-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 103.3 inches

Curb weight: 3,494 lbs.

Base price: $25,400

As driven: $25,950

Mpg rating: 22 city, 27 hwy.

At A Glance


The CR-V is an amazingly useful SUV. It has almost as much room as many midsize SUVs, yet it drives with the maneuverability of a small sedan. The SE adds convenience items such as heated leather seats, vehicle stability assist and side-curtain airbags. Counterpoint: The texture on the side of the cargo compartment scratches easily and the tires can be noisy.