As the second-best-selling car in the U.S., the new Honda Accord is one of the most significant introductions of the 2008 model year. The Accord gets an extensive redesign that includes all-new styling inside and out, a spacious rear seat for the sedan, more standard safety features and more-powerful engines, including an optional V-6 with advanced fuel-saving technology. Competitors include the Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry.
Offered in sedan and coupe body styles, the two Accord styles are now more distinct than ever; they share no body panels or glass. The coupe has a chiseled look that's highlighted in front by a narrow mesh grille and bulging front fenders. Both have a more upright front end than the previous-generation Accord, which featured a pointy nose.
The sedan, meanwhile, is a bit anonymous from certain angles. It's as assertive as the coupe when viewed head-on, but it loses some presence as you move around to the sides and rear. The rear-quarter of the car has a remarkable resemblance to BMW's 5 Series, with a kink in the C-pillar and taillights that wrap around the side of the car.
The base LX sedan has standard steel wheels with hubcaps, while the LX-P trim comes with 16-inch alloy rims. If you step up to any of the EX sedans, 17-inch alloy wheels are installed. The base LX-S coupe starts off with 17-inch alloy wheels, but choosing a V-6 coupe brings 18-inchers.
The new Accord's cabin treads ever-closer to the domain of Honda's luxury brand, Acura, with its use of high-quality materials, good fit and finish and the adoption of an optional knob-based navigation system in place of the car's previous touch-screen setup. The knob controller is not too hard to get used to, but there will be people who lament the loss of the touch-screen. The EX's faux aluminum trim has a nice matte finish, but its appearance is not very convincing.
Cloth seating surfaces are standard, but the EX-L model has a leather-covered steering wheel and leather seats. Additional standard features include air conditioning, cruise control, a CD stereo with an auxiliary input jack for portable music players, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio buttons, and lighted vanity mirrors. Optional electronics include Bluetooth-based cell phone connectivity, XM Satellite Radio and a premium audio system that includes a subwoofer.
The front-wheel-drive Accord can have either of two 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines rated at 177 horsepower and 190 hp, or a new 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 268 hp. When paired with the automatic transmission, the V-6 comes with Honda's Variable Cylinder Management, a fuel-saving cylinder-deactivation technology that's in use on versions of the company's Odyssey minivan. The performance-oriented V-6 coupe with the manual transmission doesn't get VCM.
In both the coupe and sedan, the four-cylinder engines can team with either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 sedan is only available with a five-speed automatic, but the V-6 coupe can have a six-speed manual instead of the automatic.
The Accord has six airbags, including side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags. Honda's Vehicle Stability Assist electronic stability system, all-disc antilock brakes and active front head restraints are standard.
The new Accord's ride quality is an improvement over the outgoing model because it offers softer tuning that should appeal to more family-sedan buyers while still delivering the sporty driving feel the car is known for. Honda has found the sweet spot here, with a driving experience that rivals the sporty characteristics of the Nissan Altima, without the Altima's stiff ride on rough surfaces. It also equals the Toyota Camry's ride smoothness without its floaty, unsure responses on winding roads.
While the V-6 makes smooth power, it doesn't feel as strong as its 268 horsepower rating would suggest. Acceleration in the city and on the highway is acceptable, but you're left wondering where the last 40 horses are hiding; it doesn't blow you away with its power the way the Toyota Avalon's V-6 can. The five-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and will quickly kick down a gear or two if necessary. Honda's integration of VCM is exceptional; it's nearly impossible to tell when the car is running on three, four or six cylinders.
The four-cylinder EX trim level is the high-volume Accord; it's expected to account for half of all Accord sedan sales. Its 190-hp four-cylinder has more-than-adequate power, though its high-speed passing performance isn't as strong as the V-6's. The engine is also notably louder than the V-6, and its automatic isn't as smooth; upshifts can be a little jerky at times. Still, if it were my money, I'd opt for the four-cylinder because the premium for the less fuel-efficient V-6 isn't worth the so-so performance.
Brake pedal feel is reasonably linear, but in the V-6 sedan I had to push pretty hard to get adequate stopping power.