The 2008 Honda Accord V6 My, see how it has grown !
The latest Accord is bigger and more powerful, but will that keep it ahead of pesky rivals that keep getting better too?
Right out of the womb, so to speak, the Honda Accord became the darling of the auto-enthusiast press. Born in 1976 as a compact hatchback, it evolved and grew through eight generations into today's full-size sedan, all without ever seeming to put a foot wrong.
But is the Accord really that good? Or has the automotive media succumbed to an acute case of herd-think?
With the arrival of generation eight, it's time to take a step back. Time to examine with clear eyes and an open mind what Honda has wrought on the sedan (and its coupe sibling) that has become the poster car for automotive family values.
To recap the basics, the 2008 Accord sedan is larger and roomier than ever - roomier enough, in fact, to earn the official industry classification of Large Car, as opposed to the Midsize designation that applied to its predecessor and still fits the most obvious rivals.
Safety for you, and you too
In accord with Honda's Safety for Everyone philosophy, a comprehensive portfolio of safety technologies - six airbags, active head restraints, ABS, Brake Assist and stability control, to name but some - is standard on every trim grade.
A 2.4-litre "four" remains the base engine (on the LX) but it now makes 177 hp; a new 190-horse version of the 2.4 motivates the EX and EX-L (for leather) models. The EX and EX-L trims are also available with a V6, which grows to 3.5 litres and 268 hp from last year's 3.0 litres and 244 hp.
Transmissions are five-speeds across the board - manual or automatic on the four-cylinders, with automatic standard on the V6.
The above applies to the sedans. The coupe comes only in 190-hp four-cylinder EX and EX-L versions (manual or automatic) or as an EX-L V6. And unlike the sedan, the V6 coupe can be had with manual transmission - a six-speed, to boot.
How many cylinders?
Versions of the V6 paired with automatic transmission feature a new generation of Honda's Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) technology, which saves gas in appropriate driving conditions by de-activating two or even three cylinders.
According to government tests, this places the Accord V6 sedan among the segment's fuel-economy leaders, with ratings of 11.0 L/100 km city, 6.7 L/100 km highway and 9.1 combined.
I wasn't able to conduct my own measurements on the V6 sedan test car, but after a week of mostly-urban, late-November driving, the trip computer was claiming 11.2 L/100 km. In contrast, I measured 8.5 L/100 km in a V6 manual-transmission coupe that was used almost entirely for long-haul highway duties.
On the sedan, you can feel when VCM is activated - the engine relays a slight gravelly tingle through the toeboard. Even when all six cylinders are at work, the larger engine is not as turbine-smooth as its predecessor. The underhood sound track is a little gruffer, more aggressive. But it's certainly not unpleasant. Arguably, it's a good fit with the new Accord's sportier persona.
One gear short of a full set
Several rivals now have six-speed automatic transmissions, giving them a more relaxed highway stride than the Accord's 2,600 rpm at 120 km/h. Not that engine noise is an issue in fifth gear - it's tire roar that dominates when you're cruising. Another absentee from the transmission is any form of quasi-manual sequential shift mode.
We haven't yet put a stopwatch to the V6 sedan, but considering its weight, power and transmission ratios, you can expect its performance numbers to be near, but not quite at, the top of its class. Which, these days, means 0-100 km/h in about 7.5 seconds - quicker than anyone really needs in a family sedan. The V6 coupe with manual transmission recorded 0-100 km/h in 6.6 seconds.
Variable-gear-ratio (VGR) steering is a technical novelty on the '08 Accord. Not to be confused with variable power-assist (which Accord also has), VGR steering is engineered to respond less directly to small inputs around the straight-ahead position, and more directly to larger amounts of lock. Hence the steering requires less wheel-twirling for parking and negotiating tighter turns, yet avoids nervousness at higher speeds.
Light on its feet
It works well - maybe even too well. There's no problem with the bigger-input reactions; in most street-legal cornering activities the Accord feels taut, balanced and nimble, like an overgrown Civic. The downside (though it's not a big deal), is that in contrast to the low-speed agility, the built-in stability at higher speeds can leave the off-centre response feeling a little soft and lazy.
If the driving dynamics have, on the whole, shifted a notch or two towards the sporty end of the scale, it hasn't been at the expense of the passengers. Ride quality has a firm, crisp edge to it, yet is consistently comfortable.
And the rear cabin is as remarkable for the shapely supportiveness of the seat as for its roominess. Lanky occupants should note, though, that every trim grade except the base LX has a sunroof, stealing 60 mm of headroom in front and 32 mm out back.
The coupe clearly isn't as roomy as the sedan, but it's still a five-seater with enough rear head- and kneeroom for most sizes of adult.
The sedan's trunk volume is unchanged at 397 litres (14.0 cu. ft.) which is at the small end of the spectrum among its peers. Surprisingly, the fold-down rear seatback - which can only be released from inside the trunk -- is a one-piece, not split.
All Accords come with tilt-and-telescopic steering, plus (on all except the LX) an 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat. The wheel seemed a bit close even when it was adjusted as far in as it would go, but otherwise there should be enough adjustability to suit all but the most unusual body types. My own perfect body type was sitting pretty.
A dash of flair
Fit and finish are as impeccable as we expect from Honda. The admittedly elegant dashboard, however, shows evidence of an uncharacteristic form-before-function design ethos. This produces a couple of oddities.
A potentially painful one is the way the outer ends of the dashboard jut out into the door openings, waiting to crack the kneecaps of the unwary as they enter the car.
Another glitch affects Accords with the optional navigation system. Their unique dash layout divides the climate-control buttons between two separate mini panels, one handy to the driver on the left side of the centre stack, the other a foot away over on the passenger side. Strange.
So the 2008 Honda Accord isn't perfect. It is still, however, very much a force to be reckoned with; you couldn't possibly make a mistake by buying one. Then again, the opposition isn't standing still, and Honda can't afford to be complacent. Leadership of the pack is not its natural-born birthright.
Here are the salient points and overall rating of this new model, as established by our reviewer:
Overall rating: 9.1 / 10
Roomy, comfortable rear cabin
Competitive performance and fuel economy
Agile yet stable handling
Rather a lot of tire noise
Fold-down rear seatback is not split