Comparison Test/Review: Third Place: 2009 Honda Accord LX

William C Montgomery
by William C Montgomery
comparison test review third place 2009 honda accord lx

This morning I rolled out of bed, performed my morning ablutions, downed a bowl of Raisin Bran, dropped my sons off at school and started my stop-and-go commute to work. A never-ending stream of blinking taillights precedes me up and down the interstate through the pre-dawn din. Wannabe comedians inanely chatter and squawk through my radio. Finally my exit arrives: a lightly traveled mile-long arcing two-lane spur that connects interstate to turnpike. In a brief burst of adrenaline energy that widens my bleary eyes, I break away from the gridlock and shoot up the ramp. In third gear I push up to 80 mph as my car confidently hunches down and steers precisely through the sweeping turn. By the time I join the turnpike I coast down and assimilate into the flow of the traffic. These brief thrills make me glad that I opted for a sportier, nimble handling family sedan. But I drive an ’01 Accord. The 2009 Accord LX is no fun at all.

I make this assessment in the context of a four-car comparison, including the Toyota Camry, Mazda Mazda6 Sport, and Nissan Altima 2.5. [NB: domestic comparo to follow.] In these trying times, economy is the word. So I selected economical base model four-door four-banger examples rather than up-optioned V6 variants. In keeping with the family-hauler theme, the only options I insisted on were A/C, power door locks and windows and an automatic transmission, all of which are now standard fare at dealerships.

When it comes to the battle of the bulge, the Accord takes the cake– and eats it. At 194.1” in length and 72.7” in width, the ’09 Accord edges out the new supersized Mazda6 as the biggest of the bunch. This is a distinction that philosophically clashes with Honda’s long standing reputation for minimalist restraint.

Also in conflict: the Accord’s styling. Designers clearly wanted to project solidity and practicality. At the same time, they seemed desperately intent on avoiding pejorative blandness. Throw in a dash of Bavarian me-too-ism and you end up with a bad case of Japanese angst. The new grille takes on the blockier form motif lifted from the new Pilot. Meanwhile, deep but narrow cuts scar the car’s lateral lines.

Yet, the longer I look at the new form, the more it grows on me. Honda fans can take some solace in the fact that the new Accord is much easier on the eyes than arch rival Camry.

A large exterior allows room for a large interior, of which Honda takes full advantage. The Accord gives passengers an extra four cubic feet of space to inhabit. All Accord trim levels get radio controls placed on the steering wheel and an auxiliary audio jack under the center arm rest for your iPod. But the stereo itself fails to impress; it’s the thinnest sounding system amongst this family sedan grouping. It’s a deficit the Accord can ill afford; the Accord does the worst job of our quartet at silencing road noise.

The Accord’s large and easily navigated buttonry arrayed up the dash’s center stack lacks the same qualitative look and feel of prior generation Accords. No, Honda hasn’t fallen to Chrysler levels of cheapness when it comes to component plastics. Not even close. But it’s a disturbing trend.

What looks good on paper doesn’t always translate well in the real world. The Accord LX is a perfect example. Honda claims 177 hp, the most highly horsed sedan of the bunch. A 3,289 lbs., it’s the second-lightest. Yet it drives like it is 500 lbs. heavier than any of the others. Punch the engine at 50 mph and the journey to 80 mph is slow and ponderous. Even the Camry seems to move with greater alacrity. Blame this on the low torque engine, which ties Camry for weakest twist at 161 lb-ft @ 4300 rpms. Peak horsepower doesn’t eek-out until hitting a screaming 6500 rpms.

Unlike the Toyota, however, the Accord manages to keep its composure through high speed cornering. That weighty feeling returns when you stomp on the brakes, though. Hop on the pedal and the rear end bucks upward like a mad brahma. The standard four-wheel disk brakes are much improved over prior LX iterations, but softness still contributes to the illusion of heaviness.

At the end of the day when I drove home I listen to an old Police favorite:

Another working day has ended,

Only the rush hour hell to face,

Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes,

Contestants in a suicidal race,

Daddy grips the wheel and stares alone into the distance…

Any characteristics that the Accord once had that could infuse some excitement into a bleak commute have been engineered away. Comfortable yes. Satisfying no.

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  • Rebelsnoopy Rebelsnoopy on Jul 23, 2009

    "ACAR : May 2nd, 2009 at 11:32 am Honda Accord goes corpulent… mainly because Honda uses the same platform for the Acura TL. The TL needs a strong V6 and decent room to compete in the near luxury segment so Accord has to follow." This kind of makes sense. Honda wants to compete with Camry, Taurus, and the 300, and can't do it if the Accord is not much bigger than the Civic. Americans haven't been sold a true Accord in 10 years. We are actually driving rebadged Honda Inspires which share the same platform as the Acura TL. I'm guessing this has to cut into Acura TL sells if people could tell the difference, and payed less to get an Inspire/Accord. The Japanese/Euro version Accord is actually smaller and better for their markets, and more of what we are used to during the 90s. Perhaps they should sell the home market Accord here, and sell the larger Inspire in the states to compete with the midsize segment.

  • Accs Accs on Aug 02, 2009

    Hmmm.. Its totally by accident that Accord is going to compete against 300 / 500 / Taurus. Its staring at Crown Vic / Avalon / ES. Getting to the point where Accord is too big to be a midsizer.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion:
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?