Allow me to date myself. I remember when Honda was a hungry upstart and the Accord was first introduced. It was a two-door hatchback, about the size of today’s Civic. I wanted one because it offered bang for the buck, sporty looks (kind of), great fuel economy, decent driving dynamics and a hatch to swallow my keyboards and amp. I was in a band back then with a name so bad it will go unmentioned here. My girlfriend wanted me to buy the Japanese-made Honda in an odd minty green that I loathed.
Fast forward 30-some years. Never did buy that Accord, not enough paying gigs. I married a different girl (we disagreed on much more than just paint color), and my music gear sits collecting dust since all my time goes into this endeavor these days. I am a different guy and Accord is a different car. Unless you count the quasi-crossover Crosstour, the hatchback concept is gone. Accord is as mainstream as it gets and like many of us it is much larger than it used to be. In 2010 it was the fourth most popular vehicle sold in the US of A; made here now too.
The current generation was brought out in 2008, the 2011 model gets some tweaks. That’s important because the car that has been on Car and Driver’s Top Ten list a whopping 25 times now has some serious competition breathing down its redesigned decklid.
So, What’s New?
Accord remains conservatively drawn. There’s a fresh new front end that blends much better with the rest of the car. The back end gets a few changes with tail lamps (reflectors really) that extend into the trunk lid. V6 models get new alloy wheels but these are things only car geeks notice, nothing radical has happened here. With fuel prices rising, Honda’s ability to eek out more MPGs out of Accord’s drivetrain is very welcome. Inside, a couple of the many buttons that line the instrument panel have been reassigned to make operation a little more intuitive for the driver.
We Make it Simple
That was Honda’s slogan. These days it’s best to pay attention when shopping for an Accord sedan or coupe. Four-cylinder LX , LX-P and SE sedans make 171 horsepower. Moving up to the EX brings 19 more ponies to the party from the same 2.4-liter displacement. The standard gearbox is a five-speed manual, a five-speed automatic is optional.
Move up to the 3.5-liter V6 that makes 271 horsepower and the standard tranny is a five-speed autobox. This is what I’m driving and it is a fine powerplant. Smooth and powerful, the only thing missing is manual control over the gear selection (forget about paddle shifters, it’s not even available on the console selector). The six-cylinder has variable cylinder management that shuts down three of them for better fuel economy when cruising the interstate.
That said, sporty types that miss the Prelude will gravitate to the Accord Coupe. Order the V6 in the two-door and there’s the option of a six-speed manual. In this exclusive configuration there’s a retuned valvetrain, intake, and exhaust system that offers up better torque in the low to mid RPM range. However, it doesn’t get the variable cylinder management that the automatic gets. Got all that?
Do The Hustle
This machine moves. 0-60 in 6.7 seconds is very brisk, especially considering it’s a large full-sized sedan. The front-wheel drive Accord has always been known for crisp handling and that remains, just realize that the lighter weight four-cylinder version feels more nimble in the curves. That’s physics folks, more weight in the nose does that sort of thing. Accord’s V6 power is nice but most buyers will be perfectly happy with the quick four cylinder. Also, steering wheel tugging torque steer is felt more with the V6.
Ride quality is on the firm side for a family sedan. Road and wind noise are average in class. 2011s get a bump in fuel economy, made possible by a higher final gear ratio on the automatic, improved aerodynamics and some friction reduction in the engine. The V6 with automatic is EPA rated at 20 city, 30 highway. Go with the four-cylinder and the numbers are 23/33 with the manual, 23/34 for the automatic. The performance oriented V6/six-speed manual combo drops down to 17/26.
We’ve Met Before
The interior space is instantly recognizable, not an awful lot was touched here. In black the interior is a bit dark and the wood-like trim will fool no one. Wide heated leather seats with EX-L’s memory setting will accommodate most Americans and save marriages. Know that the competition is offering ventilated chairs, panoramic roof glass, keyless ignition and heated rear seats for less money. This Honda doesn’t have any of those features, getting only a standard sized sunroof. Door release levers have the same plastic-y feel found in all Hondas.
Phones and iPods are nicely supported, the top-line sound system of the EX-L is quite good. XM satellite radio with its grainy digital sound is on-board, no HD tuner (as a musician these things matter to me). The nav system and trip computer use Honda’s “big knob” interface or voice control (which doesn’t seem to like my voice). There’s Zagat rated restaurant reviews, traffic info, and weather forecasts.
Tall-Friend Approved Back Seat
Accord’s back seat is very spacious. If three of your friends don’t fit they’re probably in the NBA. There’s plenty of foot and legroom and the center tunnel isn’t intrusive to the middle passenger. There are map pockets on both seatbacks and the same plasti-wood door trim found up front (don’t laugh, some manufacturers eliminate it in the rear to save on costs). No 12V power port for the kids to charge their electronics. There is a lockable ski pass through. A big gripe is that Honda doesn’t split the rear seat back. Fold it down to expand the spacious trunk (a whopping 8 bundles in the Costco TP test) and all seating is lost. Think twice before bringing more than one friend to IKEA if you plan on buying anything big. The others will be bussing it home.
There’s little doubt that Honda will sell loads of Accords, their owners are the most loyal in the biz. The industry covets Accord’s legacy of reliability, safety and high resale and the updated 2011 model remains a solid and roomy choice, especially for the Honda faithful. However, Accord is no longer the slam dunk it used to be. The small tweaks made are minimal compared to Sonata and Optima, both of which have emerged as serious value and style propositions. They can’t match Accord’s reputation but they have the momentum and chutzpa Honda had so many years ago.
This Accord will be holding down the fort for the next few years and the competition is advancing at a rapid clip. Altima, Fusion, Regal and the Kia and Hyundai sedans are building sales momentum and a sleek new Malibu is on the horizon. That’s good for you and me. It will make the next few years very interesting for Accord.