BOSTON It seemed somehow fitting that Honda chose to unveil its eighth-generation Accord to auto writers in the town that hosted the Boston Tea Party and the beginning of the American Revolution.
In many ways, the Honda Accord has waged an American revolution of its own since its inception in 1976. Thats the year Honda, in the form of the Accord, took its first baby steps upscale. The original Accord was stylish, well-equipped and more sophisticated than the economy-car Civic, and Honda has sold nearly 10 million since 1976.
Eight generations later, the 2008 Accord continues that upward path, but now it is a spacious four-door sedan whose size makes it technically a large car according to the Environmental Protection Agencys measurements, although it will still be marketed as a midsize. The 08 sedan goes on sale Sept. 12 and the coupe on Sept. 20.
Compared to the 2007, the 08 Accord sedan is 3 inches longer, 1.1 inches wider and 0.9 inches taller.
Although many families are switching from sedans to crossovers and SUVs, Honda believes that midsize sedans remain the heart of the market. Honda said its main competitors are the Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry.
The styling of the Accord sedan is tight and trim. The car has the tidy lines and lean cut of a well-tailored suit, and it contains hints of the Acura TL. The 2008 Accord speaks quality with a soft voice rather than a shout. The look is pleasing and elegant, but the Accord is not as radically sculpted as the Civic sedan. The coupe is sleeker than the sedan, and its good looks will be important when it comes to attracting a younger audience.
Befitting a car targeted at a wide audience, there are three engines from which to choose. The 2.4-liter, four-cylinder is available in 177-horse and 198-horse versions with either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. A 268-horsepower V-6 is the top-of-the-line engine. It is available with an automatic in the sedan but it can be fitted with a six-speed manual in the coupe.
Honda said the base LX with the 5-speed manual transmission will be priced at ,360, slightly less than the outgoing model. The LX is a pleasingly competent sedan whose price wont break the bank. The ride is tight and purposeful, the interior is comfortable without being gaudy, and the engine gives brisk performance while using the least possible gasoline. A fully loaded, top-of-the-line EX-L V-6 with Navigation will set you back ,260.
The four-cylinder engines meet the lowest emission standards without sacrificing power. To achieve such low emissions, one exhaust valve is deactivated below 2,500 rpm, and that creates a swirl effect in the combustion chamber. Above 2,500 rpm, both exhaust valves open for optimum performance.
The V-6 can run on three, four or six cylinders depending on the load. The rear bank shuts down when the system is running on three, but cylinders three and four shut down when the engine needs to run on four.
Special engine mounts absorb the vibration inherent in this cylinder shutdown mode, and dual microphones - one in the headliner near the overhead console and the other near the rear overhead light housing - are designed to pickup low-end frequency noise entering the cabin from the drivetrain. This audio signal is sent to the Active Noise Control electronic processor, which creates and sends a precisely timed "reverse phase" audio signal to a special amplifier. In turn, the amplifier drives the door speakers to cancel the original noise signal. ANC reduces noise entering the cabin by an impressive 10 dB eliminating much of the booming sounds emitted from the exhaust.
Cruising on the highway, I felt a minor shudder as the engine switched cylinders on and off. More time in a production model will give me a better sample of how smooth the cylinder shut-down works.
The 2008s interior is nicely styled from the base model to the EX-L V-6. The fanciest model has woodgrain trim (but only on the beige interior), voice-activated navigation system and Bluetooth connectivity. The navigation system lists restaurants by Zagat rating and will allow you to plot a route to the restaurant of your choice. A back-up camera is available as a dealer installed accessory and will display through the navigation screen when the transmission selector is placed in reverse. The dealer suggested price for this important safety feature is 4 not including installation.
The seats are deeper and wider, and provide excellent support. The base model has no adjustable lumbar support.
Honda improved rear-seat legroom by expanding the wheelbase to 110 inches. The trunk is big, but the rear-seat pass-through is fairly narrow. The rear seat can be folded by using release levers in the trunk.
The steering is nicely weighted and very direct. Steering wheel controls for audio and cruise are standard on all models. The ride is tight and firm, and the brakes are strong and sure.
Safety items include dual-stage front airbags, side airbags in front and side-curtain airbags. Anti-lock brakes, tire pressure monitoring, vehicle stability control and traction control are also standard.
Warranty: Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Standard Equipment LX (partial list)
177 horsepower 2.4 liter 4 cylinder Engine
5 speed manual transmission
16 inch steel wheels with P215/60R16 all-season tires and full wheel covers