Over the years, automakers have put some interesting features in their cars in the race to be number one. Some were more convenience-oriented, like the time Mercedes-Benz added a perfume dispenser in the cabin. Others, such as the automatic seatbelt, seemed ideal but eventually phased out of existence. The Honda CR-V tried something new when it debuted in 1997.
And though the CR-V’s frivolous feature certainly had people talking, it eventually died, too.
A look back at the 1997 Honda CR-V
Honda introduced its first compact crossover — the CR-V — in 1997. And consumers loved it. The Honda CR-V is still in production today and serves as one of the longest-standing choices in this SUV class.
But compared to today’s model, the 1997 CR-V was pretty basic. It came with one trim level, five seats, four doors, a 2.0-liter inline-four engine, and a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. According to Autotrader, the CR-V’s measly 126 hp, capable of 0 to 60 mph at a snail’s pace of 11.3 seconds, was acceptable in the late ’90s.
MotorTrend recently visited Honda’s “semi-secret museum.” The automaker wanted to show off one of its most iconic rides, the 1997 CR-V. Puzzled at first, a MotorTrend journalist agreed to visit and take a 20-plus-year-old vehicle for a spin. He immediately remarked at just how far quality and technology have come in vehicle production. And he was equally surprised when he flashed back to this frivolous feature that was a first for Honda.
The Honda CR-V tested the waters with a new feature
Honda may not have spent a lot of time trying to impress consumers with the CR-V’s engine performance. But the automaker did have functionality in mind and maybe even went out on a limb with a new feature. There, in the back, upon opening the side-swinging tailgate, you’d find it.
The cargo floor doubled as a picnic table. This fanciful gimmick seemed useful and kind of fun, considering Honda hadn’t offered such an amenity hadn’t before.
Did CR-V buyers like it?
Consumers embraced the Honda CR-V, but probably not because of the picnic table. As a crossover, it was a great contender and ideal for families and drivers looking to haul gear.
The fuel economy was reasonable. And the price point was right, too. It started at just $19,400, Cars.com reports.
The last model year you’ll find with this frivolous feature
The picnic table may not have been popular, but it didn’t hurt vehicle sales either. It was a frivolous extra that was cool to have, even if no one really ever used it. Honda kept the nifty table in the lineup for almost 10 years and eventually phased it out in 2006.
But the picnic table wasn’t the only strange feature on the Honda CR-V. According to HotCars, the automaker tried installing a shower that consisted of a plastic hose, water jug, and showerhead. It ran on a 12-volt socket and was marketed as a great extra to hose off muddy boots or rinse off the family dog. The Honda CR-V shower also eventually fell off the roster as a no-longer-needed amenity.
If you want to see how one of these picnic tables works today, you can still find older Honda CR-V models with it. You’ll probably have an easier time locating a mid-2000s model. The 1997 models are pretty rare and worthy of an exhibit at a car museum.
The picnic table may not have been the groundbreaking feature Honda hoped it would be. But it’s a feature that paved the way for new, ingenious, and functional extras that almost every automaker today strives to innovate.