2013 Accord – Honda Gets its MOJO Back1
The all new 2013 Honda Accord is Honda’s most important vehicle EVER. That’s right, EVER! It comes after lackluster reviews of the latest cost-reduced mind-numbing Civic. It enters the mid-size car product segment where the oldest high volume competitor was launched as a 2011 model in early 2010 (Hyundai Sonata) and each new model is more impressive than the one that came before it… Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat, Nissan Altima, the coming-soon Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu and next year’s Mazda6. Each new mid-size entry is better, more finessed, more technologically capable and available with a wider range of features than ever before. The question is “Did Honda bring their ‘A Game’ to the 2013 Accord, or is it another misstep like the Civic?”
Accord 4-Door Sedan: From a styling standpoint, the ninth generation Accord 4-door pushes the envelope a bit more than its eight predecessors. Nothing particularly controversial in the way the car looks, but it is modern and has pleasing lines. Early photography made the car look un-photogenic, but it’s not. The new Accord 4-door sedan is smaller than its predecessor. It is 3.6-inches shorter and has a 1.0-inch shorter wheelbase. Overall width is up a smidge. With this nipping and tucking of the exterior, the Accord’s interior is slightly larger than before and its cargo capacity is up by one cubic foot. Honda calls this “Man Maximum, Machine Minimum”. The other thing Honda didn’t do is sacrifice visibility for the sake of swoopy styling. Visibility was one of the key criteria when styling the new car and that likely drove the designers nuts.
Because of the generous sized cabin and glass area, ingress/egress to the Accord is excellent. No stooping or bending in unnatural ways.
The interior is more upscale and has better ergonomics than the eighth generation car. The audio and navigation systems in the previous Accord were somewhat inscrutable and the learning curve was steeper than ideal. The new Accord brings a STANDARD 8-inch display atop the center stack. Even cars without a navigation system gets the display. This hints at future capabilities where off-board devices like smartphones will provide all the information to a dumb screen and all data and apps live with the person. This is the holy grail and will take years to sort out. In the previous generation, the leather seats became hard as a board on a lengthy trip, but that has been sorted out in the new car. Seats are supportive and comfortable. The cloth seats in the lower grades of the new Accord are a bit too pillowy soft for my tastes.
Accord Features: To achieve class leading interior quietness, Accord uses Active Noise Control and Active Sound Control. Taking advantage of the center screen, Honda offers the “LaneWatch” display. When you actuate the right hand turn signal, a camera on the right hand outside rearview mirror activates and shows a two lane expanse of the road beside the car eliminating the blind spot. The viewing angle is 80-degrees showing practically anything near the right side of the car. Totally cool and totally safe. I want it.
Accord Coupe: Large Project Leader and Chief Engineer of the new Accord, Shoji Matsui, admits that “We made the coupe for US! For ME we wanted to develop the coupe”. I’ve always contended that developing a coupe is an ego trip for project leader looking for an exciting dot-point on their resume. But Matsui-san desire for a coupe, besides self-gratification, is that the Accord Coupe is a major part of the car’s production mix and sells pretty well even in coupe-shy America. He admits that a coupe is a “very difficult bodystyle” because the mid-size coupe segment is getting smaller.” Because coupes are dismissed as discretionary, impractical cars, Matsui-san claims his new coupe is “the most practical coupe in the world!” That is a bit of braggadocio, but the coupe is easy to live with, has excellent visibility for a coupe bodystyle and even has a usable rear seat (for some). The result of this development is a good looking car that will stand out in a good way on today’s roads.
Accord Powertrains – “Earth Dreams Technology”: Honda’s new powertrain technologies have been dubbed “Earth Dreams”. Enough of that.
The base engine of the new Accord is a 2.4L DOHC 4-cylinder with i-VTEC and direct gasoline injection. It has 185-horsepower in base trim and 189-horsepower in Sport trim. Maximum torque is 181 lb-ft which is 10% higher than previously. The base car has a CVT (continuously variable transmission) and also a 6-speed manual transmission available. Of course, in the USA the CVT will be by far the highest mix. When asked what the most difficult challenge was in the new car Yasuhide Sakamoto, the Powertrain Assistant Large Project Leader, admitted it was getting the CVT right. To get the CVT to feel right to drivers accustomed to a traditional automatic transmission, Honda adopted “G-Design Shift” which simulates perceptible shifts as the car accelerates. The Accord 4-cylinder gets 36mpg on the highway (2mpg shy of the Altima).
Unlike the Sonata, Optima, Altima, Fusion and Malibu, the new Accord is offered with a V6 engine optional (as is the Toyota Camry). The Honda 3.5L i-VTEC V6 has 278-horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque which tops the Camry V6 by 7-horsepower and the Sonata/Optima optional turbo 4-cylinder by 4-horsepower. Why a V6 when others are shifting to 4-cylinders and turbo-4s? Sakamoto-san explains that out of the millions of Accord owners in America, many have grown accustomed to the smoothness and power of a V6 and Honda could not disappoint them.
Later, Accord will add a plug-in hybrid version of the Accord. More about that in a later story.