Review: 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid
According to Rush Limbaugh, we’ve got plenty of oil. So I’m not really bothered about a given car’s fuel economy, from a “we are the world, we are the stars with air-conditioned mansions” perspective. More to the point, TTAC’s weekly test cars arrive with a full tank of gas. Of course, I’m not completely insensitive to working class priorities, or my profession’s desire to promote an anti-oil agenda. So I’m always up for a good hybrid bashing– I mean review. Only things didn’t quite turn out as I’d planned…
Picture the scene: I’m cruising down a wide open highway at 80mph. The tachometer reads 2200rpm, the flashing “eco” light tells me three out of six cylinders ain’t bad, and the computer says I’m doing 31.2mpg. If I was an rainbow warrior, mileage nerd or cheap bastard, I’d have every reason to feel smug.
But I’m not; I’m a throttle jockey. So I flex my foot and discover, huh? Urge. You know: thrust. In fact, that right pedal is a bit touchy. Twitch your toe and the Accord do go. And now God has placed a beat-up Chevrolet Silverado pickup in my path, telling me to test the limits of this newfound power. (Satan’s troopers are nowhere to be seen.) Although a gentle pedal squeeze disappoints, kickdown unleashes the real deal.
The Accord leaps past the flat-out flatbed– and the ton– like a large displacement sports sedan or a highly-strung sports car. The Japanese hybrid doesn’t exactly provide Porsche-level propulsion, but it doesn’t hang about either. The fact that I’m rocketing past an eight or nine mpg pickup in a car that’s [now, still] getting 20-plus miles per gallon of dead dinoflagellates is deeply impressive. But screw that. It’s the whole Q-car “what the Hell was that?” thing that makes me howl with laughter.
Think about it: what’s the last car on earth you’d expect to blow your doors off? A hybrid. And yet Honda’s gas – electric four-door has the goods to shut down many an aspiring competitor. To wit: the sprint from zero to sixty miles per hour takes just 6.7 seconds. That may “only” be .3 seconds faster than a top spec gas-only Accord, but c’mon, we’re talking about a clean-running, morally invincible hybrid! Compare that stat with the tree hugger’s current favorite whip, the Prius. Toyota’s Oscar-loving hybrid ambles to 60 in a decidedly lethargic 11.3 seconds. Honda’s hot rod hybrid leaves it for dead.
Honda pulled-off this cake and eat it thing by plumbing their electric motor/battery thingie into the Accord’s sweet-spinning six. The company’s patented “Integrated Motor Assist” adds an extra 16bhp and 100ft.-lbs. of torque to the powerplant, starting at an entirely useful 840rpms. Unfortunately, the recharging battery set-up also adds weight. Fortunately, Honda put the Accord on a diet: aluminum for the hood, bumper beams and rear suspension; magnesium for the intake manifold and head cover. They also deleted the sunroof from the options list and ditched the spare tire in favor of a sealant can.
The resulting four-door is still about 200lbs. heavier than a gas-only Accord. And the hybrid Accord is still a slightly nose-heavy front driver, prone to torque steer from a standstill stomp. Bah! Excepting its slightly rough ride over broken pavement, the hybrid inherits the base model’s perfectly evolved road manners. Dump those plus-sized Michelin Energy tires for some sticky summer rubber, and the Accord hybrid would give German sedan lovers a little something to think about.
Trade-offs? When you stop, so does the engine. When you take your foot off the brake, the battery judders to life, and the car moves forward. The lurch isn’t sudden or violent enough to launch you into a rear bumper, but it can catch you out. Otherwise, the transition to and from internal combustion is silky smooth– which is more than you can say for the electrically-assisted steering system. The helm is almost as bad as BMW’s recent efforts: notchy, over-assisted and, occasionally, notchily over-assisted. The hybrid’s tiller isn’t conducive to smooth cruising OR dicing. So what’s the point?
In general, the point of the Honda Accord hybrid is, as Car and Driver put it, to “haul ass and save gas”. Sure, it would take you a couple of years to “buy back” the $3k purchase premium at the pumps. But you can’t put a price on the satisfaction that comes from knowing that you’re helping reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil, and doing your bit to eliminate the political and military adventurism that this energy dependence engenders.
Did I just say that? Oh man, this car is dangerous.
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