Armed with new engines and more refinement, the redesigned Honda Accord remains the midsize sedan benchmark
Moose have no regard for traffic. Nor, of course, do deer, elk, bear or any of the other small woodland creatures inhabiting Jasper National Park in Alberta, where at any time they might amble across the narrow valley roads on which our 2018 Honda Accord is travelling at great haste.
And if the majestic mountain views to the north and west remind us of how small and insignificant we all really are, the scenery on the inside of the new Accord is just as serene, revealing how far Honda has come since the first Accord was produced in 1976 — the first Honda model to be built in Canada, not in Japan.
Long a tall mountain of its own in the sedan class, the Accord enters its 10th generation with sharper styling, new engines — gone is the V6 — a new platform and an interior that, in the top line Touring, comes very close to matching the fit and finish of an Audi or BMW.
Lower, wider and riding on a longer wheelbase (but shorter in overall length), the new Accord maintains the tradition of looking elegant without being overdone or dull — a middle-class mode of transportation with upper-class aspirations. A blunt nose with Honda’s signature chrome wing may not be universally adored, but it sets off a series of appealing design elements that include sculpted sides and a smart looking, fastback-style rear that hints of an Audi A7. Others see reflections of the Chevrolet Impala. Laser technology now brazes the roof to the body side panels to clean up the transition and eliminate those cheap looking plastic strips that most cars have. LED daytime running lamps, turn signals and headlamps are standard, as are C-shape LED tail lamps.
More significant is what resides under its sculpted hood — or perhaps what doesn’t. No longer does the Accord come with a V6 engine; the power of turbocharging small blocks deemed superior to big displacement. Hence the Accord’s new 1.5-litre, direct-injected four-cylinder turbo with 192 horsepower and 192 lb.-ft. of torque – more than the old 2.4-litre engine – as the standard engine across the line. But there is also now a new 2.0-liter turbo-four – the same engine shared with the hot, 306-horsepower Civic Type R – tuned to 252 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque — the most torque ever in an Accord, and better than the 252 lb.-ft. from the outgoing 3.5L V6. A Hybrid model will be coming next year.
So, does cylinder count matter as much when there’s a turbo on board? The 1.5L pulls with enough force to satisfy all but the most demanding drivers, smooth off the line and strong through the mid range. While the small engine has to work hard when passing and can be a little loud under full gallop, it never feels inadequate. It’s also quite efficient, averaging between 7.2 and 7.9 L/100 kilometres in combined city and highway driving. It motivates the Accord easily and it can be had in all four trim levels – LX, Sport, EX-L and Touring.
The bigger 2.0L turbo-four engine, only available in the Sport and Touring, will of course be less efficient – the final figures are still not out. But it is, as expected, substantially far more responsive than the 1.5L and the V6 it replaces, because peak torque arrives as early as 1,200 rpm and continues all the way to 4,800 rpm – the sweet spot of typical driving. The 2.0 turbo is also tuned to run on regular unleaded. On a short drive of the 2.0L, the engine felt lively, able to perform smoky burnouts through the front wheels while charging hard to redline, but it lacked the character or the fun of the V6, as well as its snarl.
Opting for the 2.0 brings a 10-speed automatic or, in Sport trim, an optional six-speed manual. Long live the manual! That manual won’t leave drivers breathless, however, as the throws are longish, the slots a little lax, and the clutch somewhat stingy with feedback. But after all, this is not a sports car and it does give more control over the car and is simply more fun. We didn’t get the chance to sample the 10-speed auto and its push-button gear selector.
Accords with a 1.5-liter turbo will come with a continuously variable automatic (CVT); but in LX or Sport trims, the six-speed manual is optional. In the 1.5L Touring where we spent most our time, a pleasing gear selector and paddle shifters made it seem like there was no CVT at all, especially because the CVT felt almost like a six-speed at first. Not until the car is being squeezed for all its octane is there any noticeable driveline awareness, but the CVT was not objectionable and feels well-suited to the engine. We’d still take the manual, but if we wanted a 2.0L Touring with a manual, we’d be out of luck. Nevertheless, our Touring 1.5 felt tight and responsive, the variable-ratio electronic power steering quick to move the Accord in whatever direction desired. Visibility is good, especially out front, and the brakes felt firm.
The Touring, of course, is the only trim to get Navigation, a brilliant new heads-up display and on 2.0L models, an adaptive suspension that can firm up the ride whenever the driver desires. But all models get a sharp-looking, seven-inch TFT instrument screen that has good size type and easy-to-see menus. All models also get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 12-way power driver’s seat, a sunroof, Honda Sensing (which brings adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, traffic recognition), remote start and a high resolution, eight-inch touchscreen — with two knobs, one for volume one for tuning. It’s part of an overall interior improvement that is roomier in front and back (48 millimetres more rear seat legroom) and finished in higher grade materials with an emphasis on noise reduction. Trunk space, at 473 litres, is also up.
Some road noise was evident on the highway, of course, but the overall feel is one of solidity and soundness thanks to the use of some spray foam in the construction of the shell and a chassis with 32 per cent better stiffness. Nothing rattled, squeaked or felt cheaply assembled. A high degree of polish is evident.
With more than 870,000 units sold since its debut the same year the CN Tower was built, and despite a shrinking demand for intermediate cars as consumers shift to CUVs, the Accord is remains a key player for Honda, with sales of about 15,000 units per year forecast. Having now driven the new Accord, that number seems like an understatement because this is a damn fine car to drive and spend time inside. And it comes at a very reasonable price, starting at $26,490 and peaking at $38,790 — proving, once again, the Accord remains the benchmark.
(via: driving.ca )