EXPERT REVIEW

washingtonpost.com's view

I’ve long ignored the Honda Accord. There wasn’t much to say. It was a good car — built well, safe, reliable, all of that. But it had as much gut appeal as the average kitchen appliance. It is difficult to become excited or upset over a refrigerator.

But now I’m excited. At least, I’m very interested. In its 27th year of existence, the Accord has discovered sex. It’s hot. It’s taut. It’s nearly got me overwrought.

Look at the body of the 2003 Honda Accord EX V-6 sedan. It has a muscular, sloping front end. Fenders right and left are like the upper thighs of a powerful cat, packed with energy and ready to spring. The rear end completes the theme. It rises up where previous Accords tapered off in concession to the gods of mediocrity.

Old Accord styling attempted to please everyone by displeasing no one. It was a passionate embrace of the lowest common denominator. The new Accord simply embraces passion, and if that displeases you, well, go on and buy a Toyota Camry. Even in its supposedly new, flirtatious dress, the Camry retains the persona of an ascetic whose idea of fun is handing out religious tracts on a Saturday night.

But the new Accord wants to party, and that’s just fine with me. I like a car that can boogie, and this one, with its 240-horsepower V-6 engine, can boogie on down. The Accord EX V-6 is fast. I actually squealed the wheels on this one, although I had no intention of doing so. I tapped the accelerator expecting the usual Accord response, something akin to “Okay, we’re going.” I definitely did not expect “Yo, baby! Let’s get outta here!” But that’s what I got.

I also did not expect BMW 3-series-type handling. But that’s also what I got, and lots of it. I know that comment will generate hate mail from BMW lovers. So be it. I’m telling you like it is. If you want to spend $27,100 for a comparable BMW 325i sedan instead of $25,800 for an Accord EX V-6 (without the leather package), that’s your choice. It’s a free-market economy. Just don’t go around thinking that you’ve necessarily got something better because you spent more money to get it.

Honda has a winner here — an all-new Accord that outclasses the Toyota Camry and gives the Audi A4 3.0 V-6, BMW 325i, Volkswagen Passat and Volvo S60 a darn good run for the money.

Call it a miracle. Call it competition. Whatever. It seems that Honda just got tired of producing a nice, reliable, but not terribly exciting Accord and decided to do something about it.

Here’s the resulting difference: You buy a refrigerator because you need it. You’ll buy the new Accord because you want it. In doing so, you will fill most of your automotive needs — affordability, safety, fuel economy, interior comfort (via redesigned seats), passenger and cargo space — in the process.

That’s not bad, not bad at all.

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