It was 37 years ago this past May 7th that Honda launched the first-generation of a passenger vehicle based on a “desire for accord and harmony between people, society and the automobile.”
The very first Honda Accord model weighed roughly 2,000 pounds, had a 93.7-inch wheelbase and was equipped with a 1.6-liter engine that produced all of 79 horsepower and 92 lb.-ft. of torque. The 2-door hatchback was 162.4 inches long. Standard equipment included cloth seats, intermittent wipers, a tachometer, steel belted radial tires, rear window wiper, washer and defroster.
Since that first model, the Accord has evolved: first it was a compact, then a midsize and, finally, a full-size sedan. By 2012 in its eighth generation, it had grown by nearly 33 inches in length, while its wheelbase had increased by 16.8 inches. Weight was also up by 1400 pounds and, fortunately, horsepower in the base 4-cylinder had more than doubled.
After taking a hard look at those numbers, though, it appears that even Honda had some misgivings about how much the Accord had grown, for the ninth-generation model is actually a bit smaller. Overall length, at 191.4 inches, is down 2.7 inches, wheelbase, at 109.3 inches is down by 0.9 of an inch and its height, at 57.7 inches is down by 0.4 of an inch while its width, as well as front and rear tracks, are all up slightly (0.1, 0.2 and 0.1 inches, respectively).
Perhaps it’s because of a fear of taking too drastic a step with one of the best-selling vehicles in America that stylists at Honda chose yet another evolutionary step in their flagship sedan. Up front, the headlamp enclosures are narrower and each, on our touring model, contains a pair of squarish LED projector lamps resting above a band of LED running lights. The lower front fascia now juts out with the look of an aggressive under bite.
Along the side the lower character line is more sharply creased while the upper character line that was formerly an indentation is now a sharp crease that bisects both the front and rear door handles. In back the quarter panels feature a more pronounced shoulder line that flows into the upper portion of the rear taillamps. Separating the taillamps is a chrome strip that sits above the trapezoidal license plate surround, while the lower rear fascia features a prominent horizontal strip with a chrome trailing edge that separates the chrome dual exhaust tips.
Taken as a whole and in the context of being an Accord, the new look is a big improvement and definitely a step forward although it still has a long way to go when compared to the likes of Hyundai’s Sonata, Kia’s Optima or the new Ford Fusion.
But slide into the interior – especially one swathed in soft black leather like our Alabaster Silver Touring V6 – and it’s a whole new ballgame. The inside of the new Accord has been completely re-designed starting with a Lexus-like one-piece upper dashboard that encloses two binnacles – one that houses the fuel, speedo and tachometer gauges, while a second and central one surrounds the upper information screen.
Speaking of information, our tester was equipped with Honda’s Lanewatch system that uses a camera on the underside of the passenger-side mirror that, when activated by engaging the right turn signal, displays the right-hand flank of the vehicle on the center dash screen. The screen contains grid lines to help gauge distance and the first few times it activated I found the display entertaining.
But the fact is that, aside from the occasional shopping center parking lot island I’ve never really had a problem making right turns. In actuality, it’s the left-side blind spot that poses a greater problem for most drivers and it seems that a more conventional blind-spot monitor would be more effective in most situations.
The controls – that is those not relegated to the LED screen – are typical Honda – smooth, intuitive and within easy reach of the driver. And in an era in which the beltlines of even large sedans are rising resulting not only in claustrophobia but poor outward visibility, the view from the Accord’s driver’s seat both fore and aft as well as to the sides is excellent.
Although the interior room of the Touring model still measures a spacious 100.8 cubic feet (non-sunroof models get an additional 2.4), the smaller 15.5 cubic foot trunk has pushed the sedan from large back down to mid-size by the EPA’s yardstick.
Even the least expensive Accords come with a long list of standard features. The LX comes with either a standard 6-speed manual transmission or an available CVT automatic. Dual zone automatic climate control, power windows, locks mirrors, and doors, alloy wheels, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, stability control, traction control and six airbags are all there. The steering wheel also includes illuminated controls for the audio and cruise control systems along with controls for Honda’s Bluetooth HandsFreeLink which is now standard. Another new feature for all 2013 Accord models is a standard rearview camera with guidelines.
Step up to the Sport model and in addition to a more powerful 4-cylinder engine you also get larger (18″) alloy wheels, an available CVT with paddle shifters (the six-speed manual is standard), rear decklid spoiler, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar.
EX models lose the additional horsepower and come with 17-inch alloy wheels but gain a power moonroof, push button start with smart entry and the aforementioned LaneWatch camera.
Pick the EX-L and you’ll be treated to leather seats (heated) and steering wheel, a standard CVT tranny, forward collision and land departure warning, LED brake lights, Aha-enhanced HondaLink, a multi-angle rearview camera, two-position memory driver’s seat, XM radio and an audio touch screen.
The EX-L with navigation adds a satellite-linked nav system, an 8-inch, customizable, intelligent multi-information display (i-MID) with steering wheel-mounted controls and a hard disc drive with 16 gigs of audio memory.
The next two models – the EX-L V6 and EX-L V6 with navigation add a 278 horsepower 3.5-liter 24-valve SOHC i-VTEC V6 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, homelink and LED daytime running lamps.
The penultimate Accord sedan, our Touring, adds adaptive cruise control and the aforementioned LED headlights with auto on-off.
On the road the newest Accord offers a taught and well-balanced ride brought back memories of the company’s early big Acura models – it was that smooth and luxurious. The drive-by-wire steering gave just the right amount of feedback in all conditions and it allowed the Accord to track with laser precision.
Unlike previous Accords, there is very little road noise and the newest generation also exhibits good isolation from wind noise.
The suspension soaked up bumps both large and small, while cornering at practically any speed produced absolutely no drama. The transmission shifts smoothly and even at freeway speeds there is very little noise emanating from the engine compartment.
Speaking of engines, the V6 features Honda’s “variable cylinder management” for improved fuel economy. The EPA rates this setup at 21/34/25 city/highway/combined and we registered an impressive 26 mpg overall in mostly city driving.
The 2013 Honda Accord starts at $22,470 for an entry-level LX equipped with a manual transmission. Our Touring V6, including destination and handling charges of $790, topped out at exactly $11,750 more, with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $34,220.
The Bottom Line
I often take note of the fact that, as it’s faced with with the up-and-coming Korean brands, Honda is in the same position U.S. manufacturers were back in the 70’s when the Japanese first entered the American market – having to compete on price.
In Honda’s favor, however is that it has had the time to perfect the craft of building world-class sedans. In this case whatever the four-door Accord gives up in exterior style it more than makes up in overall handling and driving refinement.
So this, as I see it, is the bottom line: for those out there looking for a midsize sedan that are willing to pay a bit of a premium for best-in-class refinement, the Honda Accord is more than ready to oblige.