Popular for VG reason

It was too good an opportunity to miss.

The early morning mist had risen from the bonny banks and the rising sun was starting to do its business over the Argyll hills, so there was only one place to head for — those very hills, and particularly the stunning Rest and Be Thankful.

It’s been rarely out of the news lately for all the wrong reasons — closed by a series of landslides which forced locals and tourists alike into a 70-odd mile detour to and from Inverary.

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But on this particular day there was no such problem and the hillside was, as far as I knew, solid and secure.

I was in this neck of the woods thanks to Honda, who’d chosen Loch Lomondside to reveal the fourth generation of its SUV, the CR-V.

Continuing the acronymic theme, I replied PDQ with an RSVP to their invitation to drive the car ASAP because this has been a significant vehicle since it first appeared in the UK 15 years ago.

There’s some discrepancy about what its name actually stands for, ranging from Compact Recreational Vehicle to Comfortable Runabout Vehicle, but it’s proved incredibly popular with satisfied buyers who’ve put more than five million of them on the world’s roads.

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What’s particularly satisfying is that cars for the European market have come from the company’s plant at Swindon over that time.

The last update was in 2007, but the latest version comes for the first time with a choice of both two and four-wheel drive.

So, handed the keys to what will be the most popular model, the 2.2-litre diesel, with-four wheel drive and a manual gearbox, I headed out to one of the best roads in the area, the fast track A817 over to Gare Loch. It’s only nine miles long but has a great surface with long sweeping bends and undulating straights.

It was built in the late ’80s by the military for construction traffic when the Navy submarine base at Faslane was extended for the new generation of Trident missiles.

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Cut through virgin countryside, it was originally intended only to be used by the MoD and then dug up again and the land restored. That decision was later reversed and the road was upgraded and opened to the public in the mid-1990s.

Which I’m very pleased about because it’s a great test track to put any new car through its paces.

Just a mile or so from Faslane, at the highest point of the road, I spotted one of the nuclear subs being manoeuvred out from its berth in the currently much-debated base below, so I pulled into a layby for a better look.

Less than five minutes later, an anonymous white pick-up pulled up alongside me and the two camouflaged squaddies inside gave me the once over.

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I wasn’t sure if they saw me as a potential terrorist or were more interested in the new CR-V, but after a couple of minutes of uncomfortable glances, they were on their way.

And then so was I, the torquey and flexible diesel engine a delight on the rollercoaster road alongside Loch Long to Arrochar, performing less like a 4x4 and more like a perky hatchback.

The engine is not only cleaner and more efficient, the car’s body is more aerodynamic, with flat floor underbody and deeper sculpting of the bodylines to improve airflow.

The result is a very pleasant and secure ride, helped by improvements in the suspension, increased body rigidity and the electronically activated four-wheel drive system which keeps the whole thing firmly on the road, whatever the conditions.

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All too soon I was at the top of the Rest and didn’t need to be Thankful.

The road was clear, the car had coped easily with the dramatic hill and the view from the top in the crisp, clear morning was stunning.

In the layby at the top, I took in the car’s new looks, with reduced height and length but no loss of interior space, and the determined stance from the Honda family look at the front end. The back end reminds me a little of the Volvo XC60 and XC90 but that’s no bad thing.

Inside, build quality is first class as we’ve come to expect from Honda and the SE version is crammed with equipment yet everything in the cockpit is clean, efficient and a delight to use.

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What seems like a hefty purchase price actually amounts to a terrific deal when you add up the total specification.

I also tested the two-litre petrol version with automatic gearbox but found it sluggish in comparison and fitted with the larger 18-inch wheels of the EX spec, for a harsher ride. Honda has done a great job in improving an already successful and popular car.

The new CR-V gets top marks. You could say it’s VG.

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