A week with Honda’s flagship sedan
Big car roominess
It was 35 years ago this past May 7th that Honda launched the first-generation of a passenger car based on “Honda’s desire for accord and harmony between people, society and the automobile.”
Those very first Honda Accords weighed roughly 2,000 pounds and were propelled by a 1.6-liter engine that produced all of 68 horsepower.
My first drive in an Accord was twelve years later in 1988. By then, Honda’s largest vehicle had grown from 162 to 179.7 inches in length. Its wheelbase had also increased, from 93.7 inches to 102.4.
That gives us some perspective on the 2011 version. Since its inception, the Accord has evolved: first it was a compact, then a midsize and, finally in its eighth generation, it’s a full-size sedan. Between generations one and eight, it’s grown by nearly 33 inches in length, while its wheelbase has increased by 16.8 inches.
Because everything else on this vehicle is so right, I wonder why the stylists at Honda chose to make their flagship sedan look merely ordinary. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing offensive about the Accord. It just looks so yesterday when compared with the likes of Hyundai’s Sonata, Kia’s Optima or even Honda’s own Accord Coupe.
There are some flashes of style – especially when viewed head-on. But look past the front fenders and it quickly gets uninteresting. Not Toyota Camry-induced boredom, mind you, but the Accord sedan is a touch too “I can’t tell where it is in the parking lot” for my tastes.
But slide into the interior – especially one swathed in soft black leather like our Celestial Blue EX-L V6 – and it’s a whole new ballgame. The controls are typical Honda – smooth, intuitive and within easy reach of the driver.
Interior room of the Accord measures a spacious 101 cubic feet – enough to push the sedan from mid-size to large by the EPA’s yardstick. The two-tier dashboard also adds to the feeling of spaciousness, while wood trim adds an exclamation mark to the “L for luxury” EX-L.
Even the least expensive Accords come with a long list of standard features. Air conditioning, power windows, locks and doors, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, stability control, traction control and six airbags are all there. The steering wheel also includes controls for the audio and cruise control systems. Unlike many vehicles in this class, you’ll find no MacPherson struts anywhere on the Accord – the front is a double-wishbone setup, while the rear consists of an independent multi-link arrangement.
Step up to the EX, and in addition to a more powerful 4-cylinder engine you also get alloy wheels, power moonroof, automatic headlights, heated outside mirrors, a CD changer and rear HVAC controls.
The EX V6 adds a 3.5-liter 271-horsepower iVTEC 6-cylinder engine with cylinder deactivation along with fog lights and dual exhausts.
Pick the EX-L V6 and you’re treated to leather seats (heated) and steering wheel (with built-in controls for, a 270-watt audio system, Bluetooth, steering-wheel mounted phone controls and dual-zone automatic climate controls.
Tweener trim levels include the LX Premium (an LX with alloy wheels, security system and power driver’s seat, SE (an LX Premium trimmed in leather) and the EX-L (an EX-L with the big inline-4).
My week in Honda’s ultimate Accord sedan brought back memories of driving around in the company’s 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.
The 2011 Honda Accord starts at $21,380 for the entry-level LX equipped with a manual transmission. Our EX-L V6 including destination and handling charges of $750 topped out at exactly $11,000 more, with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $32,380.
The Bottom Line
I often take note of the fact that, when compared to the up-and-coming Koreans, Honda finds itself in the same position U.S. manufacturers were back in the 70’s when the Japanese first entered the American market – having to compete with them on price.
Honda does have one advantage, though – it’s had time to perfect the craft of building world-class sedans. What the four-door Accord may lack in exterior style, it more than makes up for in interior design and overall refinement.
So here, as I see it, is the bottom line: for those of you out there looking for a large sedan and willing to pay a premium for best-in-class refinement, the Honda Accord is more than ready to oblige.