A road trip to Nebraska was an ideal real-world test of Honda's Accord Hybrid, and I was impressed after clocking more than 400 miles on less than a tank of gas.
Rising gas prices have refocused attention on fuel economy, and gas/electric hybrids are ever more interesting. Because most hybrids can take advantage of electric power in city driving, their highway efficiency is not much better than regular gasoline vehicles.
The Environment Protection Agency estimates the Accord Hybrid's mileage at 25 miles per gallon in the city and 34 on the highway. On my trip, I averaged around 32 mpg while cruising at 70 mph.
The Accord Hybrid uses a slightly different approach from other gas/electric hybrids. It mates a 253-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 with the third generation of Honda's electric Integrated Motor Assist system and a rechargeable battery. The standard Accord V-6 has 240 horsepower.
The IMA is a 12-kilowatt, high-output electric motor that contributes more than 100 pound-feet of torque to the V-6 engine during hard acceleration and recaptures kinetic energy generated during deceleration and braking for storage in the IMA system's advanced nickel-metal hydride battery pack.
In addition, Honda's variable displacement system shuts down the rear three cylinders on the V-6 at cruising speeds or when full power isn't needed. Regenerative braking captures energy normally lost during coasting or braking and turns it into electricity that recharges the batteries.
The Accord Hybrid starts at $30,990, and the optional navigation system adds $2,000.
This is the second year for the Accord Hybrid, and it has been given a few improvements. Most noticeable are a new rear-end design, a power moonroof, revised interior styling and even lower emissions. Vehicle stability assist is also standard.
The Hybrid's performance is impressive. It is quicker than a regular Accord because the electric motor adds boost during acceleration. The gasoline engine shuts off at a stop and restarts the instant the driver releases the brake pedal.
Because Honda's air-conditioning compressor runs on both the gasoline engine and the electric battery, there is no drop in cold air, even when the engine is stopped.
Most of the time, driving the Accord Hybrid is no different from driving any other vehicle. The engine shudders slightly as it starts up and as the car moves away from a stop. Braking took some acclimation for me because the transition from regenerative brakes to regular braking is noticeable.
The Accord Hybrid is not just an economy car. The cabin is very nicely appointed, and it is equipped with premium features such as a leather interior, dual zone automatic hybrid climate control, eight-way power driver's seat, XM satellite radio and a six-disc CD changer. There are front, side and side-curtain airbags. Traction control and antilock brakes are standard also.
Honda's voice-activated navigation system is one of the simplest and easiest to use.
The base price of the test car was $32,990. The navigation system and freight brought the sticker price to $35,540.
Three years or 36,000 miles. The powertrain warranty is five years or 60,000 miles and the Integrated Motor Assist battery warranty is for eight years or 80,000 miles.
Engine: 3.0-liter, 253-hp V-6
12-kw electric motor
Wheelbase: 107.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,501 lbs.
Base prices: $32,990
As driven: $35,540
MPG: 25 city, 34 hwy.
At A Glance
Point: Honda's Accord Hybrid brings power and luxury to a hybrid vehicle. The V-6 and IMA electric motor accelerate to 60 miles per hour one-half second quicker than the standard Accord. The fuel economy is good, too. Inside, this Accord is loaded with comfort.
Counterpoint: The hybrid powertrain is very smooth, but you can feel the engine wake up as you move from a start. The brakes have a slightly different feel that takes some adjustment.