Honda claims that its midsize Accord, which ranked as the top-selling model in the United States in 2001, has undergone the most dramatic change in its 27-year history. On sale since Sept. 9, the Accord can hold a new 3.0-liter V-6 engine that produces 240 horsepower, which represents an increase of 40 hp. The new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine gained 10 hp and now puts out 160 hp. A five-speed-automatic transmission has replaced the former four-speed unit. Early in 2003, a special Accord coupe with a V-6 power plant and six-speed-manual gearbox will join the lineup.
Not only is the styling said to be more distinctive in the redesigned version, but the Accord coupe and sedan share nothing other than their headlights. Additional standard equipment this year includes antilock brakes and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Honda claims the Accord now has greater room in the front seats. All models get LED instrumentation, and a new multi-functional key eliminates the need for a separate remote key fob.
Side curtain-type airbags are available for the first time on EX V-6 models. An optional next-generation DVD-based navigation system features Touch by Voice voice recognition and a new split-screen design with 3-D route visualization. Sedans come in DX, LX and upscale EX trim levels, as well as LX V-6 and EX V-6 versions. Coupes are offered in LX and EX trims are are also available with the V-6 option.
Designers say they used the cheetah as an influence when styling the latest Accord, because it runs low to the ground. As the Honda puts it, even at rest, it appears to be ready to move. The sedans styling features faceted corners and geometric headlights. The fenders and sculpted bodysides use a unique combination of straight lines and organic curves and are accompanied by nearly flush window glass, according to the company.
The new unibody is 27 percent stiffer in torsional rigidity, and the double-wishbone suspension has been modified. In addition, Honda says the chassis is tuned for a sportier, more European feel by using larger, more performance-oriented tires: 15-inchers for the DX and LX sedans and 16-inchers for the EX and V-6 models.
Dimensions have changed a little. The sedan rides a 107.9-inch wheelbase, which is 1 inch greater than that of its predecessor. In addition, the four-door model is a hair longer and taller than before and 1.2 inches wider. The coupes wheelbase is unchanged at 105.1 inches.
According to Honda, new, larger seats promise greater comfort and support, as well as increased rear knee room. All models seat five occupants, with a higher belt line than before. A sliding center armrest is standard, and the driver faces a large, clear, round speedometer. Dual-zone climate control is optional.
Under the Hood
Hondas 2.4-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine develops 160 hp. In the LX V-6 and EX V-6 models, the new 3.0-liter V-6 generates 240 hp. Either a five-speed-manual or the new five-speed-automatic transmission can mate with Hondas four-cylinder engine, but V-6 models come only with the automatic gearbox. In California, four-cylinder Accords with the automatic earn a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) rating. Second-generation traction control is integrated with electronic throttle control in the V-6 models.
Antilock brakes and dual-stage front airbags are standard. A side curtain-type airbag is optional for EX V-6 models. Side-impact airbags are standard in all V-6 models and the four-cylinder EX and are offered as optional equipment in the four-cylinder LX. Rear headrests are installed in all seating positions. LATCH child-safety seat anchors and tethers are also installed.
The Accord is exceptionally pleasant in virtually every respect, but it trails a bit in one surprising area: ride comfort. An early drive in one V-6 sedan revealed considerable body motion on all but the smoothest surfaces and thats somewhat more unyielding than in past Accords. Hard bumps transmit harsh reactions. Specific tires could be the culprit.
On the plus side, the firm suspension pays off in confident handling apart from a slight steering deadness at the on-center position. Performance with the strong V-6 engine and automatic transmission also excels by delivering a quick burst of energy for passing. Seat comfort and support are appealing, brightly lit gauges are great, and the air conditioner is potent, but a few controls are unclear. Space is ample all around, but the cockpit feels cozier than some.