First Drive: 2018 Honda Accord – Everything You Need To Know
Honda’s mid-size nameplate is now 41 years old, and it’s better than ever.
The weather in New Hampshire is cooling off, and the leaves of the White Mountain National Forrest are changing. It was truly magical to witness first hand. In the three days we were there, the Summer green was rapidly losing the war to the Autumnal orange, yellow, red. Much as the change of seasons affects the North Eastern foliage, there exists a wholesale change within the Honda brand. They’ve introduced new models in rapid fashion, to keep up with the changing temperature of the automotive market. Based on their sales, and the success of the new Accord, they’re ready for the future. While competitors wallow in their complacency, Honda is innovating, morphing, changing in rapid fashion. It’s admirable.
The new Accord has lost the coupe and dropped the J35Y V6 engine as well. Now, Accord is powered by a pair of turbocharged fours cribbed from sporty Civic models. Those engines are mated to a choice of three transmissions (including 6-speed manuals in the Sport models). The figures suggest that Honda’s mid-sizer is better than ever. We’re here to walk you through all of the information you might need in order to choose which one is right for you. Honda provided a slew of new Accords for us to drive including a Sport 2.0T 6MT, a Sport 1.5T 6MT, and a pair of 2.0T Touring 10-speed automatics. There was also a 9th generation Sport 2.4 6MT, for reference.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, available in sport trim with a manual, and a 10-speed auto in all trims, is a gem of an engine. This is essentially the same 2.0T as found in the new Honda Civic Type R, as is the 6-speed manual transmission. Between the Type R and the Accord, Honda gave the Accord a smaller turbocharger and a slightly different tune. The benefit is a flatter overall torque curve and better fuel economy.
The Accord 2.0T engine makes 252 horsepower, down slightly from the 278 found in the 9th generation naturally aspirated V6. A mega 273 lb-ft of torque compared favorably to the V6’s 252 lb-ft. All of that juicy torque is available at a very low 1,500 RPM. The engine is eager to rev, though perhaps not quite as high as you might expect from a Honda four. The fun stops a hair before 7,000 RPM. Power delivery is awesome for a mid-sized sedan, making the car quite rapid.
SEE ALSO: Why No Accord Type R?
The 1.5-liter turbocharged engine is the base engine and likely the volume seller for the Accord. It is sourced almost directly from the current Civic Si. It is paired to a decent CVT transmission, available in all trims; LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, and Touring. The Sport trim offers an optional 6-speed manual, also shared with the Civic Si. While the Civic Si makes 205 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, the Accord matches that on torque but makes do with just 192 horsepower. The difference here is simply in the tune, and is negligible at best. In the real world, the 1.5T is quicker than the naturally aspirated 2.4-liter that it replaces.
The Accord Hybrid will continue, with deliveries beginning next year. It features an updated version of the 2.0-liter Atkinson Cycle engine found in the current Accord Hybrid. Honda has decreased the size of the Power Control Unit and the “Intelligent Power Unit”, and worked with the car’s packaging to ensure that no interior space or trunk storage space will be lost in the Hybrid.
To improve safety, Honda began with the chassis, working from the ground up to offer a safer Accord both passively and actively. The new chassis is 5% lighter, and 32% more torsionally rigid, thanks to the use of “ultra-high-strength steel” alloys. They also developed a new “laser brazing” process to better attach the roof panel to the sides.
The Accord has been organized in such a way that the weight sits lower in the chassis, lowering the center of gravity. The new car is lower, wider, and shorter than its predecessor. It also has a longer wheelbase, meaning the wheels have been pushed further out to the corners of the car. This is right where you want them for maximum stability and responsiveness. Overall weight is down between 114 pounds and 250 pounds depending on trim. They’ve even designed the car with a thinner A-pillar that’s been pushed back a bit for increased outward visibility.
SEE ALSO: Learn More About Honda Sensing Technology.
From an active safety perspective, Honda has made “Honda Sensing” technology standard across all Accord models with forward-facing radar and camera-based safety systems. The camera will read traffic signs and display that information on your gauge cluster so you always know the speed limit. Adaptive cruise control with low speed follow is standard, along with a full suite of other driving aides. This includes ‘collision mitigation braking,’ ‘road departure mitigation,’ lane keeping assist, and a driver attention monitor. These technologies will keep distracted drivers in their lane, and, hopefully, accident-free. You also get a multi-angle backup camera, straight driving assist, and automatic high-beam headlamps on all trims. EX, EX-L, and Touring models get blind spot monitoring and a cross-traffic monitor in the rearview mirrors. Touring models are also equipped with parking sensors front and rear.
On top of all of that, the 10th generation Accord gets 5 star ratings in all NHTSA tests.
This is likely going to be a polarizing aspect of the new Accord. The car has been visually lengthened quite a lot, with much of that length added to the nose of the car. The rear cabin roof of the car slopes down in a way that reminds us of an Audi A7, which is a good thing. It also has some slump to the rear sideline that reminds us of the old Accord CrossTour, which is a bad thing. Overall, the car’s exterior lighting is attractive, in particular, we are big fans of the LED-surrounded headlamp.
The bluntness of the nose is likely great for pedestrian safety and crumple zones, but it’s slightly unbecoming at first glance. The Sport models feature some special exterior trim that really spruces up the front. However, regardless of trim, the wheels feature a twist-style design that is hit and miss in the office. Being that Honda will sell these in the hundreds of thousands worldwide, chances are you’ll be seeing a lot of them on the road and will warm to them. That’s almost always the case with new car design elements.
The Accord feels like a full-sized car on the inside. The interior feels big because it is big. The new model’s longer wheelbase contributes to an extra 1.9 inches of rear legroom. As a result, there is plenty of room for driver and three adult passengers. Our tester is a large man at 6’2″, 300 pounds, and was quite comfortable in the Accord for extended periods. Ingress and egress are typical Honda fare easy with wide door openings.
Interestingly, the new Accord’s seats sit lower and slightly inward from the outgoing model, contributing to a feeling of “oneness” and sportiness. The interior layout itself has been drastically cleaned up and improved over the old model. With a more straightforward layout, the car feels simple, but not in a bad way. There are a few bits, however, that seem out of place. The completely unadorned cell-phone cubby door comes to mind. Or the slightly different shade of knurled knob surround between the HVAC controls and the infotainment controls. Overall, it’s well executed, though.
“As far as interior quality, handling, and comfort, the new car is a head-and-shoulders leap above the outgoing model.”
Some differences between interiors that we saw made us wonder why. For example, the Sport trims have a dashboard and door panel trim piece that attempts to look like a woven metal. It looks like a carbon fiber weave but crafted out of aluminum, that is simply unattractive. The higher trim models we drove featured a faux-wood piece that was visually much better, but felt like cheap, hard plastic. Also, the push-button automatic transmission controls came with a full-length center console lid and smaller cupholders. The manual transmission-equipped cars featured a half-cut center console and an open storage bin with a pair of very deep cup holders.
Most of the touch points in the car were quite good. The steering wheel, center console lid, knobs, lower door cards, and seats all felt quite premium for the cost. In fact, while sitting in the Accord Touring we remarked that we could be told this was an entry-level Acura and believe it. Minor gripes, like a cheap-feeling headliner, hard dash, and some hollow lightweight plastic trim pieces, distinguish that, but only just. All in all, it’s a nice place to spend a drive.
Driving through the gorgeous color-changing forests of New Hampshire, we found some sweeping and curving roads in the foothills of Mount Washington to give the Accord a true test. The pavement was smooth for the most part, with the exception of an accidental side-venture onto some dirt back roads. A new front-suspension design was adopted for this model, and it felt quite composed. Overall we were quite impressed with how the big Honda drove.
In the morning we spent time in a Sport 2.0T with a 6-speed manual, and had a lot of fun in the process. Naturally, we were burning rubber away from every stop, and running up the rev range with every shift. The handling was a bit on the soft side if we’re honest, but certainly sporty for a large, front-drive sedan such as this one. It’s not a sports car, by any measure, but you can sure have a lot of fun thrashing every bit of that 252 horsepower.
We were given an opportunity to compare a 9th generation Accord Sport 2.4 6MT to the 10th generation Accord Sport 1.5T 6MT. The new car certainly felt faster in all situations, and much easier to drive quickly. Personally, we liked the clutch and shifter feel of the older car, but only just. The new car’s shifter feels slightly more vague, and the gearing is just a bit long for the application. Then again, we’re comparing Honda shifters, they’re both bound to be better than just about anything on the market. As far as interior quality, handling, and comfort, the new car is a head-and-shoulders leap above the outgoing model.
“The Accord Sport 2.0T seems like the performance bargain of the century.”
In the afternoon, we took the helm of a gorgeous Kona Coffee Metallic (brown) Accord Touring that may as well have been a luxury car. With every electronic contrivance known to man, a beautiful set of heated and ventilated ivory leather seats, and an exquisitely smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic, this is the comfortable Honda that every CPA should aspire to own.
With switchable adaptive dampers we kept oscillating between sport mode and eco mode to see how they were different. It’s almost a completely different feel to the car with sport mode switched on. The suspension feels more taut, the steering feels more responsive, and the throttle feels quicker to inputs. There’s even the option of shifting with paddles, but with 10 gears you’ll be doing a lot of shifting if you do go that route.
Overall, this was a very comfortable sedan that is more than capable of tackling your daily commute. Even with just under 200 horsepower, the ‘lowly’ 1.5T provided enough power to move along pretty quickly. There’s almost no way to go wrong in spec’ing your Accord, but the one we fell in love with was the Sport 2.0T. Don’t forget to tick the box for the manual transmission. That’s a whole lot of car for the 30-grand price tag. Considering a Civic Type R is an extra 5 grand on top of that, the Accord Sport 2.0T seems like the performance bargain of the century. You know, if you’re actually an adult.
The EPA has currently rated the 1.5-liter turbo Accord, but has not yet tested the 2.0T model.
Most of the CVT-equipped 1.5T models are rated at 29 MPG City/38 MPG Highway. The Sport models (regardless of CVT or 6MT) are rated at 26 MPG City/35 MPG Highway. In our own experience, we regularly saw over 30 with an Accord Sport 1.5T 6MT.
According to Honda, their target for the EPA testing on the 2.0T models is to hit 23 MPG City and 34 MPG Highway. When we were really hustling the Accord Sport 2.0T 6MT in the morning, we saw significantly less than that, as low as 15 MPG at times. If you can stay out of the boost, those numbers will definitely improve.
The 1.5T models start with the LX model at just $23,570 all the way up to the 1.5T Touring model at $33,800. Accord 2.0T models start with the Sport at $30,310, up to the Touring at $35,800. All models come standard with Honda Sensing, LED running lights, an 8″ center stack display, and turbocharged engines. The bargains of the lineup, in our eyes as enthusiasts, are the Sport models with 6-speed manual.
Honda has sold an Accord, on average, every 2 minutes for the last 41 years. This 10th generation should continue that sales success, as it is really good.
In the interest of full disclosure, Honda flew me to gorgeous New Hampshire, put me up in a 116-year-old hotel, and fed me delicious food.