Vehicle Overview
Last year, Honda’s strong-selling midsize Accord sedan underwent a massive redesign that included a new 240-horsepower V-6 and a more powerful four-cylinder engine. A five-speed-automatic transmission replaced the former four-speed unit. Early in 2003, a special Accord coupe with a V-6 and six-speed-manual gearbox joined the lineup.

For 2004, XM Satellite Radio is available in selected models, and the four-cylinder EX may be equipped with side curtain-type airbags. The sedan comes in DX, LX and upscale EX trim levels, as well as LX V-6 and EX V-6 versions. The coupe is offered in LX and EX trims and also is available with the V-6 engine.

At the 2004 North American International Auto Show, Honda announced that an Accord Hybrid with a gasoline/electric powertrain would go on sale around November as a 2005 model. Honda already offers two smaller hybrid vehicles: the Civic Hybrid and the Insight.

Honda designers said they used the cheetah as an influence when styling the latest Accord, because it runs low to the ground. As Honda put it, “even at rest, it appears to be ready to move.” The sedan’s styling features faceted corners and geometric headlights. Sculpted bodysides are accompanied by nearly flush window glass. The coupes and sedans share nothing other than their headlights.

Honda says the current 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. The EX V-6 coupe with a six-speed gearbox gets 17-inch tires. Sedan models ride a 107.9-inch wheelbase, while the coupe rides a 105.1-inch span.

All models seat five people and feature a relatively high belt line. A sliding center armrest is standard, and the driver faces a large round speedometer. Dual-zone climate control is optional.

All models have LED instrumentation, and a multifunctional key eliminates the need for a separate remote key fob. An optional DVD-based navigation system features Touch by Voice voice recognition and 3-D route visualization.

Under the Hood
Honda’s 2.4-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine develops 160 hp. In LX V-6 and EX V-6 models, the 3.0-liter V-6 generates 240 hp. A five-speed-manual or five-speed-automatic transmission can mate with Honda’s four-cylinder engine, but V-6 sedans come only with the automatic. The EX V-6 coupe uses a six-speed-manual gearbox. In California, four-cylinder Accords with the automatic earn a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) rating.

Antilock brakes, dual-stage front airbags and rear headrests for all seating positions are standard. Side curtain-type airbags are standard in the EX V-6 model. Side-impact airbags are standard in all V-6 models and the four-cylinder EX and optional in the four-cylinder LX. LATCH child-safety seat anchors and tethers are installed.

Driving Impressions
The Accord is solid, quiet and refined, and it makes a fine family sedan. Any Accord model is exceptionally pleasant in virtually every respect, but the sedan trails just a bit in ride comfort. Generally, the ride is smooth, but some bumps are bothersome.

The firm suspension pays off in confident handling — apart from slight steering deadness at the on-center position. Performance with the V-6 and automatic transmission also excels by delivering quick bursts of acceleration. Seat comfort and support are appealing, the brightly lit gauges are great, and the air conditioner is potent. Space is adequate or ample all around, but the cockpit feels cozier than those in some midsize cars.