Looking at the recently launched 2008 Honda Accord, it’s hard to believe that the Accord nameplate was first used on a little 2-door hatchback launched in 1976, powered by a 1.6 litre inline-4 engine. A sedan variant was added later, with the option for a 1.8 litre engine. The 1.8 litre engine made 72 horsepower, and was mated to a 2-speed automatic.
8 generations later, the Honda Accord is now a large executive sedan that is wider and longer (but shorter) than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. It’s largest and most powerful engine option is now 3.5 litres, and it’s automatic gearbox now swaps through five ratios.
I drove the new Honda Accord over a span of about 80 kilometers or so, part of a journey from Kuantan to Kuala Lumpur. Read my initial impressions of Honda Malaysia’s new flagship after the jump.
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Despite being a D-segment Japanese sedan and with that segment of cars not usually associated with sportiness, you can see previous generations of the Accord kitted up and modified for performance. The 5th generation Accord is a prime example, with many considering it to be a 4-door Honda Prelude, opting for H-Series engine transplants to make the car really go.
Back to the new Accord. Firstly lets look at the exterior. The car is large. It’s become one of those cars with such a large side profile that the designers had to add one of those swage lines to run across the side of the car to disguise how tall the doors are. Otherwise the car would look rather whale-ish like the Lexus GS.
On the overall, the car looks rather un-Honda as we are probably not used to this new “nose” that first made its debut on the Honda Stream. So you’ve got a W204’s swage line, a 5-series BMW’s rear three quarter angle, and a few other design cues mashed together. I really like certain angles, but certain angles look odd. The front overhang also looks longer than it really ought to be, but I suspect this may be a result of this being an American model as they have stricter pedestrian crash safety regulations.
Those rear lights you see on the bootlid are non-functional as they are only reflectors. They look misaligned because of the functional brake lamps which curve upwards towards the edge of the shoulder. The US Accord does not have these extra reflectors so I have no idea why Honda deemed these extra bits necessary for the Asian market (Japan, ASEAN, etc). Perhaps it is to make the car look wider.
On the interior, you have a dashboard design that is two-tiered like the Civic’s, but the instrument panel is a conventional one. The 7th generation 2003 Honda Accord (facelifted in 2006) had a three gauge design for the instrument panel with a large and grand-looking speedometer in the middle that was very brightly self-illuminated. The 2008 Honda Accord switches to a dual-gauge design similiar to the CR-V and the Stream. The self-illuminating design that can only be read when the electronics are turned on is also gone, with the meter and needle clearly visible anytime.
For the 2.0 litre model there is barely any wood or wood-lookalike in the cabin. The trim on the dashboard is some kind of painted silver, while the center dashboard area is some form of grey plastic instead of the wood that is found on the 2.4 litre model. The upper deck of the dash looks soft touch but the plastics are actually not soft, while the lower deck is an interesting “brushed plastic” texture that for the lack of words at the moment I can only describe as strangely feeling a little like fabric.
After sitting in the car and basking in the ambiance for quite some time, somehow the choice of interior design, material, seats, and trim makes the Accord – especially the 2.0 litre Accord interior seem more like a very large Civic rather than an Accord. I loved the previous Accord’s interior as it felt upmarket and in its class, but this one feels noticably a step lower in terms of that expensive feel. The front seats could do with abit more support – they feel kinda short somehow and the lumbar support for the passenger can get abit too pronounced to be comfortable – this is not an issue with the driver’s seat which is adjustable.
Another thing to gripe about with the interior are bits like the door handles which seem to be plastic with sprayed on grey paint. This will definitely not pass the test of time and anyone with long fingernails for that matter. I don’t see why Honda couldn’t give the Accord chrome door handles on the interior when the exterior handles are done in full chrome.
The steering wheel is light, perhaps too light. This is because it is not a speed sensitive steering wheel, but only adjusts ratio based on steering angle mechanically. This means that maneuvering the car through tight spots and parking is very easy, but driving at highway speeds can be unnerving as you have to consciously tighten up your own arms to keep the steering where you want it to point at fast speeds. It’s very nice to hold and turn though as its diameter is smaller than what you’d expect in a D-segment sedan.
In tackling B-roads, the Honda Accord seriously has alot more grip than you think. It’s amazing how they made the chassis of such a large monster so balanced. It just sticks flat and rolls gracefully without wobbling through fast corners with no noticeable understeer. Actually it’s no surprise as there is a performance European-model Accord but the new chassis and suspension settings of this new Accord it’s just such a huge improvement over its predecessor.
During the Kuantan drive I only managed to sample the 2.0 litre model, so 2.4 and 3.5 V6 experiences will come later. The 2.0 (R20A3 SOHC i-VTEC – 156PS at 6,300rpm and 189Nm at 4,300rpm) can be best described as just sufficient for the car. Any attempts to drive the Accord 2.0 spiritedly is quite tiring as the engine has to scream near the redline all the time without much shove. The car has a 5-speed transmission but because 2 of them are overdrive gears, there’s not enough ratios to keep the engine in its powerband while you are trying to get up to highway speed as fast as possible. However the engine does fine with a normal and comfortable driving style, helped out abit by the snappy and light throttle behaviour. Unfortunately the brake pedal feels light as well – something that feels more solid and substantial would be more appreciated here.
The 5-speed transmission itself will put a smile on your face – 150km/h cruising is achieved at such a low RPM due to the 5th gear’s second overdrive nature. A low engine RPM equals to less engine noise. You barely hear anything except for rolling tyres at legal highway speeds, and 150km/h and even higher highway speeds feel slow thanks to the low engine speed and the stable chassis. Your only clue is the steering wheel which needs conscious effort to keep pointed where you want it to because it is so light.
At first glance the Accord does its job well as a comfortable wafter and I bet its main selling points will be its imposing looks, balanced chassis and of course its humongous internal space whether the buyer needs it or not. Because when you’re spending over 140K for a car alot of people would rather get as much sheetmetal as they can!
Stay tuned for my write-up on the 2.4 and 3.5 V6 versions of the Accord which were test driven under normal day to day conditions.