New gas-electric model brings power and economy.The Honda Accord may be the best midsize car sold in America today. That's in spite of fierce competition and the introduction of several all-new models for 2005. The Accord simply does everything well. It may not be best in class in every single area, but we can't think of anything it does poorly. It's available as a four-door sedan or two-door coupe. Each offers a choice of four-cylinder or V6 engine and there's a range of interior trim levels. All those choices make the Accord suitable for many different types of drivers. For these reasons and others, the Honda Accord continues to be one of the best-selling cars in the U.S.
Honda redesigned and re-engineered the Accord for 2003. The big news for 2005 is the introduction of the Accord Hybrid, which achieves excellent fuel economy and generates almost no emissions. Even more impressive, the Hybrid delivers improved performance as well, thanks to its hybrid gas-electric powertrain. And, no, you don't have to plug it in.
The Accord sedans combine high technology and high quality with everyday economy of operation and keen attention to detail. The popular LX and EX models are terrific cars with comfort and convenience features that make for great daily drivers. Order the leather interior, and the EX becomes an affordable luxury sedan. The four-cylinder VTEC engine is powerful and responsive, delivering strong acceleration performance for passing. The Accord is also available with a powerful V6 engine, which adds another level of sports appeal.
A gorgeous coupe is available, featuring sporty styling that's unique from the sedan. The LX Coupe starts at less than $20,000 and makes for a quick, no-hassle, high-quality, sporty, two-door coupe that's great for commuting. Add the V6 and leather and it's an executive expressmobile for fast trackers. For enthusiast drivers, there's the Accord Coupe EX V-6 MT, equipped with the V6 and a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox that will blow your preconceived notions about the Accord right off the road. If that isn't enough, a Factory Performance Package is available for the V6 Coupe.
Safety has been enhanced for 2005: All Accords are equipped with side-impact and curtain airbags. Otherwise the Accord lineup is relatively unchanged for 2005.
Model Lineup The Honda Accord comes in nearly three dozen combinations when all the engines, body styles, transmissions and trim levels are taken into account. Choosing one is easier than it may sound. The first choice is to decide whether you want a two-door coupe or four-door sedan. The second choice is whether you want a V6 or four-cylinder engine and whether you want a manual or automatic transmission. The third choice is whether you want cloth or leather upholstery.
Sedans are available in DX, LX, and EX trim. The DX ($16,195) comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Buyers can choose the standard five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission ($16,995). The LX ($19,675) and EX ($22,100) sedans add a higher level of standard equipment. The EX is available with leather upholstery, a DVD navigation system, and XM Satellite Radio at extra cost. The LX V-6 ($23,800) and EX V-6 ($26,700) sedans come standard with the V6, automatic and more luxury equipment. Leather is standard on the EX V-6.
New for 2005 is the Accord Hybrid sedan. The Hybrid combines a V6 gasoline engine and an electric motor to provide significantly more power: 255 horsepower vs. 240 for the gasoline-only V6. It also gets substantially better fuel economy: 30/37 miles per gallon City/Highway vs. 21/30 for the standard V6.
Coupes are available in LX ($19,775) and EX ($23,000) trim and come standard with the four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. An automatic transmission is available. The LX V-6 coupe ($23,900) comes with the V6 and automatic. The EX V-6 coupe ($26,800) is a performance-oriented model, and comes with either the five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission as a no-cost option; it also has leather seating surfaces.
Six-speed coupes also come with a cross-brace between the front shock towers. The new Factory Performance Package for the EX Coupe V6 combines a lowered suspension with an aero body kit and a chrome exhaust extension, all dealer-installed. For automatic models, the package includes the same 17-inch wheels and tires that are standard with the six-speed manual.
Safety: Anti-lock brakes are standard on all Accord models. EX V6 models come with traction control. As mentioned, side-impact and curtain airbags are standard on all 2005 Accords, in addition to the required dual front airbags.
Walkaround The Accord is bigger than the pre-2003 models, yet it looks lower, thanks in part to its sleeker, raked-back windshield. The sharpened noses of the Accord sedan and coupe are reminiscent of an Acura RSX. The corners and sides of both bodies are carefully sculpted with a combination of concave and convex surfaces, in an attempt to achieve a muscular and agile look, with subtle and unique three-dimensional window glass, also intended to reduce wind noise. The aerodynamically efficient side-view mirrors are one of the results of wind tunnel testing. The sedan's drag coefficient (a measure of how easily it moves through the air) is 0.30, which is quite slippery. The Accord Hybrid sedan is even more aerodynamic, with a 0.29 Cd, thanks to its rear spoiler and angled antenna.
The Accord sedan and coupe share no sheet metal, although their faces do look alike partly because they both have angular headlamps. The coupe is a completely different beast from the sedan, however. Its flanks and rear deck are more shapely, flowing naturally and gracefully from the roofline. It yields a very aerodynamic 0.29 drag coefficient.
The Accord's doors are built using a unique method that makes them light and strong. You can clearly hear the quality in the sound when you close them. You feel quality, also, in the light touch required to open the trunk.
Honda engineers are particularly proud of the fact that all Accord models achieved five-star safety ratings for driver and front-seat passenger in the government's frontal crash test. Additionally, the coupe earned a five-star rating for front- and rear-seat passengers in the side-impact test, even without the optional side-impact airbags.
All Accord coupes and the majority of sedans are assembled in Honda's Marysville, Ohio, plant, though some of the sedans come from Japan and Mexico.
Interior The Honda Accord's interior is smooth, firm, and quiet. For starters, it comes with great seats.
The seats in the sedan are generously wide and tall, with springs and urethane padding designed to reduce vibration. The driver's seat provides a one-with-the-car feel with good side support. It features a manual height adjustment or power adjustments on premium models. It jacks up plenty high for even the shortest drivers and offers good headroom for taller drivers. Front legroom is generous. A tilt-and-telescope steering wheel comes standard.
The seats in the coupe seem a bit different and feel even better than those in the sedan. You sit lower in the coupe. The side bolsters are more aggressive providing a more secure fit at the torso. The cloth looked classier in black; the light-colored cloth looked like it would show dirt over time. The leather is nicer than the cloth.
The sedan's bench seat is roomy and comfortable, especially for two people with the center armrest flipped out. The back seat offers decent support, though it's fairly flat. Rear-seat legroom is slightly better than in the Nissan Altima, but the Toyota Camry offers an inch more.
The Accord's trunk is smaller than that of other mid-size sedans, but the flat trunk floor makes loading easy. The Accord's trunk measures 14 cubic feet (though only 11.2 for the Hybrid version because of its extra computer and battery pack), compared with the Camry's nearly 17 cubic feet and the Altima's 15.6. The coupe's trunk is slightly smaller than the sedan's, holding less than 13 cubic feet.
The instrumentation is excellent, comprising large, clear analog faces with LED illumination, the latter a feature associated with higher-priced luxury cars. A big speedometer in the center dominates the instrument panel. The switchgear, primarily three big dials located in the center of the dash, is simple, if not particularly attractive. And automatic dual-zone climate control is available on EX models.
Honda's interior fit and finish is good. The available bird's-eye wood grain plastic trim looked interesting, the faux carbon fiber trim looked nice, and the brushed aluminum trim wasn't bad either.
Interior space is used efficiently, with the audio, climate and optional navigation system controls integrated into a single unit. This frees up space for exceptional cabin storage, including a good-sized glovebox, a big center console, a bin under the audio system that will hold 12 CDs, and door pockets deep and wide enough for a purse.
Attention to detail shows in every corner: coinholders, cellphone cord hooks, grab handles over every door, console lights, power outlets, sunglasses holders, sliding armrests for different-sized arms, convenient and versatile access to the trunk from the rear seat. The remote can open or close all four windows on LX and EX models. Up to eight cupholders are provided; a couple of them are big enough to hold a liter-sized water bottle yet feature spring-loaded prongs that can grip a paper coffee cup. But if you could distill this attention down to one example, it would be the solid, pleasurable and unique sound of the turn-signal click.
Three sound systems are available. LX V-6 models and above come with a six-disc in-dash CD changer, a 180-watt amplifier, and four twin-neodymium speakers with polypropylene cone woofers and soft dome tweeters. But here's the real-world test: We took the V-6 coupe six-speed on a flat-out blast through the Malibu hills, engine revving to redline, windows wide open, CD celebrating Bob Marley, and even with all that exterior noise, max volume on the sound system wasn't necessary for the full effect.
The available XM Satellite Radio is a great feature to have when traveling, because the stations don't change as you drive across the country. You still get ads, but fewer and less obnoxious ads than what you hear on FM. XM Satellite Radio is nice to have around town, also, for listening to the 24-hour news and sports broadcasts, or for staying tuned into your favorite types of music (classical, jazz, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s).
The navigation system is programmed with some 8 million destinations. It offers a voice-activation feature. Say, Find nearest Japanese food to the dashboard, and it will guide you there. Even better, if you know the phone number of a business establishment you're trying to reach, it will take you there. Better still, you can press the buttons and avoid one-way conversations with your car. Packaged with the navigation system is Honda's new intelligent dual climate control, which factors date, time, latitude, longitude, and vehicle direction into its calculations, to keep both driver and passengers as cozy as possible.
Driving Impressions From a driving standpoint, you're getting an outstanding automobile whether you choose a cloth Accord sedan four-cylinder automatic, a sporty V6 coupe or anything in between.
We think the four-cylinder Accord sedan is the best car in its price class. It strikes a perfect balance between ride and handling. The Accord rides more smoothly and more comfortably than the Nissan Altima. Yet its handling is controlled. The Accord handles better than the Toyota Camry yet it rides well. Its suspension smooths out bumps and ripples in the road, but isn't so mushy that your back-seat passengers get motion sickness. When pushed hard, it's balanced and fun to drive. We found it inspired confidence at high speeds on winding roads. It's smooth, poised and supremely stable.
The four-cylinder engine is smooth and powerful, with a high-quality, mature feel. It's strongest at higher rpm, but never gets buzzy. This 2.4-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine delivers 160 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 161 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. It's equipped with Honda's i-VTEC valvetrain, which means the valve timing is continually adjusted according to demands for strong torque over the entire rpm range. (Torque is that force that propels you away from intersections and up hills.) In short, it's responsive at all engine speeds. Yet it delivers excellent fuel mileage: 24/34 mpg City/Highway with the automatic. It gets even better mileage around town when equipped with the manual, earning an EPA-estimated 26/34 mpg. And it qualifies as a LEV-2 low-emissions vehicle.
The five-speed automatic transmission is incredibly smooth. The drive-by-wire throttle is programmed to cut the gas during upshifts, and its timing is perfect. It's not often that the performance of an automatic transmission is so tight that it stands out. The five-speed manual gearbox is especially wonderful. The gear ratios are perfect and the shifting is buttery smooth. It shifts beautifully, and seems to love aggressive downshifts. Acceleration with the automatic transmission was decent. With the five-speed manual, acceleration was strong, although you still need to downshift to keep the revs above 4000 if you want to accelerate quickly.
The V6 is light and powerful. This 3.0-liter V6 is rated 240 horsepower and 212 pound-feet of torque. Equipped with Honda's VTEC, its torque range broad and begins at relatively low rpm. The V6 gets excellent fuel economy: 21/30 mpg with the automatic transmission.
The Accord is a carefree car. Both engines run on regular gas, and there's no scheduled maintenance for at least 105,000 miles, except for oil changes, and even those are required only every 10,000 miles. It's also a clean car: LX and EX four-cylinder automatic sedans are available in California, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine that are rated as PZEV cars ($150), for Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle, which emit almost no evaporative emissions.
The Hybrid combines exceptional fuel economy with even better performance. With 255 horsepower and 232 pound-feet of torque, the Hybird beats the regular V6 sedan from 0 to 60 miles per hour by half a second, but gets much better gas mileage and has a range of 633 miles, 120 miles more between fill-ups than the Accord sedan with a gasoline-only V6.
The Accord Hybrid doesn't shout environmentally friendly to those inside or outside the car. A small rear spoiler and a small HYBRID badge on the trunk lid barely hint that this car has a different powertrain. Inside, the only change is the addition of a bar graph below the speedometer that lets the driver know when the batteries are recharging and when the V6 engine is in its three-cylinder mode. Yes, you read that correctly: When cruising or in other light-load situations, the engine is designed to operate on just three of its six cylinders, though while driving you do not feel it make that transition. The engine also shuts off completely at stoplights, restarting instantly when the driver releases the brake pedal. A separate compressor keeps air conditioning blowing cold even while the engine is in its temporary off mode.
Driving enthusiasts will find the EX V-6 MT coupe particularly enjoyable. The smooth six-speed gearbox shifts beautifully and loves aggressive downshifts that would cause many other gearboxes to cry abuse. Obviously, Honda spent great attention to detail in designing the gear ratios and synchronizers. This model also features a special resonator in the intake system, put there just for your listening pleasure. Stand on the gas and the engine responds with an enthusiastic growl that's music to the ears. With its spirited performance, the V6 coupe redefines the Accord.
The Accord's double-wishbone suspension, front and rear, has been engineered to reduce fore and aft body motions under acceleration and deceleration, and to provide flat cornering. It's also been tuned to deliver a sporty, European feel.
ABS is standard on all models with four-wheel-disc brakes with EBD (electronic brake distribution) standard on all but the DX and LX. (ABS helps the driver maintain steering control under hard braking by preventing skidding; EBD distributes braking force to the tires with the best grip, improving stopping performance.) The V6 coupe stops nicely, and the pedal feel is firm and sensitive. The brakes faded on us after driving hard on a twisty section, however. (Fade occurs when brakes get hot and results in diminished braking performance.)
Summary The Honda Accord delivers high levels of quality and performance and ranks at the top of class among mid-size, medium-priced cars.
The four-cylinder models deliver everything that has made the Accord the best-selling car of the last decade, while raising the level of what it means to be a modern four-cylinder sedan. Accord V6 models deliver sporty performance. The new Accord Hybird combines the sporty V6 engine with the fuel efficiency of an electric motor.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Larry Edsall reported on the Accord Hybrid from San Diego, with Sam Moses reporting from Hollywood and Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles.