Redesigning the second best-selling midsize sedan in America is no easy task. It’s also one that doesn’t happen very often for fear of getting it wrong. Still, even with all the bad press the new Civic received, sales have been booming. By all appearances this has not made Honda sit on their hands however when it came to the new Accord. Honda invited us to Santa Barbara to sample the all-new, smaller, 9th generation Honda Accord. This is a bold launch event with not just a new engine and transmission under the hood, but an all new hybrid technology on offer as well. If you want to know how it drives, or how much it costs, our Honda overlords have decreed our lips must be sealed until the 10th at 6AM Eastern. Set yourself a reminder then click-through the jump for part one.
The previous generation Accord suffered from some slightly cartoonish styling flairs, like “bulging” headlamps and a “Jaguaresque” sloping trunk. For 2013 Honda went back to a more traditional, some might even say sedate, exterior. In contrast to the swoopy styling from Hyundai and the “wannabe Camaro” tail on the Malibu, the Accord is simple and undeniably elegant. Compared to thew new Fusion, the Accord seems decidedly less sexy. In contrast to the other entries in this segment (apart from the Camry perhaps), the Accord is playing to the family demographic with low belt-lines for better visibility for kids and high roof lines for better headroom in the rear. There are of course the requisite minor front-end tweaks to the different Accord trim-lines for differentiation. Meanwhile, the all-new Hybrid accord wears a completely different, and strangely more aggressive front end with LED headlamps. While the sedate styling isn’t really news for Honda, the Accord’s dimensions are. Despite gaining both cargo and passenger room, the 9th generation Accord is nearly four inches shorter than last year and rides on a one-inch shorter wheelbase. Despite the right-sizing, suspension changes for 2013 result in a minor increase in turning circle to 38.1, notably larger than the Camry, Sonata, and even the Fusion.
As before the Accord will also be available as a large two-door coupé. Our time with the coupé was limited, but it impressed with an expansive trunk and rear seat. The options matrix is largely the same for the two-door Accord with the exception of the V6 and 6-speed manual combination which is exclusive to the coupé.
The interior of the Accord is likely to be its biggest selling point. Honda knows their audience well and it shows with a well featured, but simply laid out interior. For 2013 Honda hasn’t radically changed the interior design, opting instead for incremental improvements on the previous model. The new dashboard is soft touch and made out of one piece of plastic to reduce squeaks and rattles. The steering wheels have been redesigned for improved comfort and in most models are not trimmed in split grain leather worthy of Lexus. Joining these improvements is a much quieter cabin than before, a common complaint about the 2012 model. Honda achieved the quieter ride by not just adding more foam, but installing an active noise cancellation system in all Accord models. The system works much like the noise cancelling headphones you wear on an airplane.
As you would expect, seat comfort was excellent for my 6-foot, 190lb frame and thanks to a standard power driver’s seat and tilt/telescope steering wheel it was easy to find a comfortable seating position for a 2 hour drive. Also improved are the touch points on the dash, doors and center console to reduce fatigue on long journeys. Despite being smaller on the outside and having a smaller wheelbase than the outgoing model, legroom is up by a welcome 1.3 inches in the rear and the trunk has grown by 1.8 cubes to 13.7 total finally putting the Accord in line with the competition. Even base model Accords are well equipped with dual-zone climate control, auto headlamps, cruise control, backup camera, and a one-touch up/down window for the driver. Largely because of the comfortable seats and standard gadgets, “easy to live with” is a phrase that kept coming to mind.
Infotainment & Gadgets
The mid-sized sedan market is an interesting segment because shoppers want reliability and the latest gadgets, at bargain basement prices. Honda hasn’t announced pricing yet, but expect a hike of at least a few Benjamins on the base LX model. Countering the inevitable increase is a bevy of new standard equipment including an 8-inch infotainment screen with HondaLink. The new infotainment software is similar in function to Toyota’s Entune and Ford’s MyFordTouch systems allowing smartphone app integration and voice commands. Honda has also tossed in SMS text messaging integration for good measure. In an interesting twist the Pandora radio and a few other functions are restricted to Apple iDevices and SMS messaging to Android devices for the moment.
Stepping up to the EX model gets you Honda’s new “LaneWatch” system which puts a CCD camera in the side view mirror and displays your blind spot on the 8-inch infotainment screen. You also get keyless entry/go and a few more speakers.
Stepping up to the EX-L model or above gets you a higher resolution 8-inch screen and a 5-inch touchscreen LCD in the center of the dash that acts as the primary audio control interface. The addition of the second display allows you to see some audio information at the same time as the 8-inch display either shows you the navigation screen (if you’ve opted for it) or some other information source.
Honda’s new infotainment software is very responsive providing a sharp contrast to Ford’s sluggish touch screen interface. Compared to Toyota’s Entune system the Honda system is a little better thought out, more responsive and has a much larger library of voice commands. All three systems perform similarly when it comes to voice commanding tunes from your iDevices, USB thumb drive or (optional) hard drive music library. Of course the big news on the Honda front is that unlike Entune and MyTouch, HondaLink is standard.
Should your pockets know no depths, Honda will be happy to sell you the latest in driving aids like radar cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, LED headlamps and more.
No all-new sedan would be complete without an all-new engine, and no all-new engine would be complete without an eco-friendly name and a new transmission. Enter the Honda Earth Dreams 2.4L four cylinder engine and Honda’s all-new CVT. While I’m still not clear what Earth Dreams is supposed to mean, the new mill’s numbers are what are important. As you would expect from a Honda engine, 185HP arrives at a lofty 6,500RPM. What you wouldn’t expect is 181-lbft of torque arriving at a low 3,900 RPM. Should you need some V6 love, the EX-L V6 and the new Touring model come with a lightly re-worked 3.5L V6, good for 278HP and 252lb-ft of twist. Like last year, the V6 continues to feature Honda’s “variable cylinder management” system which will turn off the rear bank of cylinders when cruising at highway speeds. Honda has tweaked the system for 2013 removing the four-cylinder mode and expanding the range that the three-cylinder mode operates in. While the new 2.4L engine can be mated to either the 6-speed manual or the new CVT, the V6 is only available with a new 6-speed automatic in the sedan while the 6-speed manual is available in the coupé. If fuel economy is what you need, the CVT is the best choice delivering 27 city, 36 highway. The 6-speed manual drops economy to 24/34 and the V6 is the thirstiest in the bunch at 21/34 with the 6-speed automatic.
All-new hybrid system
The previous Accord Hybrid was an odd duck. Instead of improving fuel economy, Honda used their IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system to improve performance. The system’s lack of electric only operation and 40% lower fuel economy than the Camry Hybrid made shoppers scratch their heads and buy something else before Honda euthanized the model in 2007. For 2013 Honda went back to the drawing board and created an entirely new hybrid system from the ground up. The system starts with a new 2.0L, 137HP four-cylinder engine that uses Honda’s VTEC system to switch between an Otto and an Atkinson profile making this the first engine I have ever heard of capable of switching between these two cycles. The engine is directly connected to a motor/generator that is used to start the engine and generate power (motor one). Meanwhile, the wheels are connected via a reduction gearset to a 166HP electric motor (motor two).
If this setup sounds similar to the Volt, let me throw a wrench in here. The Volt is more like a Prius since they both use a planetary gearset as a power splitting device. The Accord does not have a planetary gearset at all. At speeds below about 40MPH, motor two is driving the wheels solo drawing power from either the lithium-ion battery pack or from the engine via motor one acting as a generator. As you accelerate, at around 40MPH, the car will engage a clutch pack that directly connects motor one and motor two together allowing power to flow directly from the engine to the wheels. Once this clutch pack is connected the system is capable of delivering a combined power output of 196HP.
Want to know how the Accord drives? Want to know how much it costs? Check back with TTAC on the 10th at 6AM Eastern time when the embargo lifts. (Oh, and we’ll have a video with more details then you’ll ever need about the Accord Hybrid)
Honda paid for airfare and two nights at a swanky resort, travel expenses to the resort came out of my own pocket since I drove.