2012 Honda Accord

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Short Take Road Test: 2008 Honda Accord EX Sedan

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2012.
By Steve Siler of Car and Driver

Here we go again. Honda's mega-selling Accord has undergone a ground-up redo after its usual four short model years, at no point during which it fell off our annual 10Best list. And as usually happens when Honda redesigns a car, there is more good news than bad, including more space, greater efficiency, more features, and more power for both four-cylinder and V-6 models, the latter now making a whopping 268 horsepower.

You know how this is going to end.

But what of this power thing? In any given car company's quest to keep its products ahead of the pack in horsepower and torque, if only for bragging rights, is there not a point at which a car ends up with too much power? Moreover, in the case where a car offers a less potent, more efficient alternative powertrain, is there not a point at which that smaller motor makes not only enough to please modest drivers but also enough to please enthusiasts? On both counts, we think so. And for proof, we submit the Honda Accord EX.

Four Is Enough
Now, this is not to say that the 3.5-liter V-6 Accord has too much of anything, really, but it's certainly way more powerful than any front-wheel-drive family sedan needs to be, especially since, at this level, it's hard to get that kind of power to the ground without the traction-control nannies beeping, blinking, and wrist-slapping during bursts of enthusiasm. Besides, to some of us, the six-pot's character is a touch too mature—almost luxury-car-like. Indeed, after driving several Accords with the hyper-potent six, our prevailing thought is that Acura dealers must be pissed; their base TL makes less horsepower than its much cheaper corporate cousin.

The Accord four-cylinder, on the other hand, is more casual and correct, reminding us what's so great about Accords in general: It's not that they offer an extraordinary amount of any one thing; it's that what they offer goes a long way to satisfy their drivers.

The Accord's 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder with i-VTEC actually comes in two calibrations. Accord LX models produce 177 horsepower and 161 pound-feet of torque. Our Accord EX tester came with a five-speed manual transmission—a rarity in this class anymore—and the more powerful of the 2.4s, capable of 190 horsepower and 162 pound-feet, with a 7100-rpm redline (300 higher than that of the LX four-cylinder or any Accord V-6), not to mention the same 22 city/31 highway fuel-economy rating as the LX. We were in love. Silky smooth throughout the rev range, just audible enough to arouse, and sufficiently powerful to invoke thoughts of the Acura TSX (powered by a slightly more potent version of this same engine, in fact), it made us rethink our power-hungry sensibilities.

Indeed, more than one of us preferred this engine to the big six, which not only crowds an extra 78 horses into the stable but also brings an additional 300-plus pounds along for the ride (an estimated 3600 pounds versus our test car's 3263 pounds). Some 60 pounds of that is due to the V-6's mandatory five-speed automatic, which is also available with the four but is something we're happy to live without since the manual tranny has delightful precision complemented by light clutch effort.

Drives Smaller Than It Is
As expected, the Accord's steering is splendid, if a bit light. With just 2.6 turns lock-to-lock, response is immediate yet predictable. The chassis is strong and the suspension comfortably firm, fostering a feeling of complete composure at all speeds. Part of this, frankly, comes from the four-cylinder engine's modest torque, which rarely challenges front-axle grip even as it rushes the sedan to 60 mph in a surprisingly swift 7.9 seconds. However, that's not quite as quick as the less powerful previous-gen Accord four-cylinder, which did the 60-mph deed in 7.5.

However, our Accord didn't want much to do with any spirited driving, its Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 tires howling in protest at any attempts at enthusiasm, so a middling 0.81 g on the skidpad (we've gotten the same performance out of a Honda Ridgeline pickup) wasn't a surprise. Neither was its longish 185-foot stopping distance from 70 mph. But, all told, it drives much smaller than it is.

Big on the Inside, Big on the Outside
Which brings up another point: The Accord is now officially big, so much so that it squeaks into the EPA's "large car" category, mixin' it up with the Toyota Avalon, the Chrysler 300, the Hyundai Azera, and the Buick Lucerne—all pricier proposals than the Accord. In fact, with a starting price of $20,995, the Accord is the least expensive full-size automobile available today. We're sure that's no accident, as size matters in America as it does in no other country in the world.

If only size translated into grandeur. When the Accord EX sedan rolled into our lot in Ann Arbor, its squared-off front fascia and upward-sweeping body sides were not met with universal praise. Some of us see it as a pleasant departure from the butter-knife-dull styling of the past two Accords, but others found it a bit too derivative. At one point, we actually parked it next to a new BMW 535i to see if the similarities in the rear quarters were real or imaginary (they're real). Whatever. In typical Honda fashion, the styling of Honda's bread butterer should stir few but offend even fewer. Want to add spice? Go to SEMA—the aftermarket tends to love anything with a block "H" on the hood.

The interior, on the other hand, is modern, fresh, and, yes, huge. Three six-and-a-half-footers fit comfortably in the back seat behind two such creatures in the front buckets. The multicontoured dash sweeps around like a mix of Acura TL and Honda Civic, dominated by a zillion-button center stack atop which a display is perched. The size of that readout depends on whether it is equipped with the optional voice-activated navigation system, but in either case, the graphics are almost clear enough for Grandma to understand. Well, almost. Although some of us thought the interior was just as risk-free as the sheetmetal, others of us thought the opposite: Especially in darker colors, the environment is rather cold and geometric, and we can imagine its starkness scaring mature buyers right back into their Avalons.

The Right Balance
Make no mistake: the Honda Accord is a terrific automobile no matter how it comes, but it also compels us to consider something we don't think about often: At what point does horsepower become truly superfluous? Especially as fuel efficiency and low emissions, both longstanding hallmarks of the Honda brand, become more important than ever before, we are looking for cars that are fun to drive and easy on the earth.

We just found one.

Performance Data

C/D Test Results:
Zero to 60 mph: 7.6 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 20.8 sec
Street start, 5–60 mph: 8.4 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 16.1 sec @ 88 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 130 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 185 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.81 g

Fuel Economy:
EPA city driving: 22 mpg

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BB05 - 9/17/2014 11:19:32 AM