The new Accord saloon and Tourer (estate ) are aimed squarely at challenging the well-established six premium competitors in the D-segment in the Irish market. These are primarily four premium German competitors (Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Volkswagen Passat ) plus the Lexus IS and Saab 9-3. With this in mind, Honda continues to pitch the new Accord as the alternative premium, writes Padraic Deane.
After briefly driving the new Accord saloon and Tourer last weekend, it certainly a more dynamic drive on the testing roads of north Roscommon and Leitrim. You really do appreciate the new Accord’s greater agility. A lowered centre of gravity, a wider track and the all-new front double wishbone and rear multilink suspension with variable rate dampers, plus greater body rigidity mean that the Accord more readily reacts to driver input. Handling is more responsive and confidence-inspiring and body roll is much reduced.
Speed sensitive electric power steering is standard on all models and the new axial system features a high output, low inertia brushless motor which provides excellent steering feel at higher speeds for a sense of stability and confidence. A quicker steering ratio has also been adopted in keeping with the Accord’s more agile chassis characteristics.
The new model retains a lot of looks that made the current Accord so attractive but it is now more sporty - so I suppose you could say the styling is an evolution, as opposed to revolution. Inside, the greater interior space offers driver and passengers more refinement due to better sound absorption and improved insulation.
Significantly wider and slightly lower, the styling adopts a more emotional, sporty motif. The ‘sharp-edged’ design, with pronounced muscular wheel-arches that emphasise the car’s wider track, gives the Accord a distinctive, strong stance with a solid, planted feel. The distinctive nose and more flowing lines deliver a tauter, more athletic shape.
The evolution from the previous generation Accord is even more pronounced in the case of the Tourer, where a greater emphasis on load carrying practicality has evolved into a more dynamic expression of its advanced technology, while still retaining a strong degree of versatility and practicality.
Honda tells us that the new range is one of the first to offer a complete engine line-up that will comply with the forthcoming Euro 5 emissions regulations which aren’t due to be introduced until September 2009. Honda boasts that the exceptional environmental credentials hasn’t been achieved at the cost of driving enjoyment, however, and greater frugality is matched by greater performance and flexibility.
Making its debut is Honda’s second-generation diesel engine which builds on the outstanding qualities of the award-winning i-CTDi unit to raise the bar in the diesel stakes once again. Its advanced technology and overall capabilities place it firmly at the forefront of diesel development and underpins the Accord’s claim to offer one of the strongest combinations of dynamic performance and environmental responsibility in the marketplace.
Like its predecessor, the new i-DTEC engine is compact, lightweight, refined and quiet in operation. It employs the latest piezoelectric multi-stage fuel injection technology, more efficient exhaust gas recirculation and a particulate filter for significantly reduced emissions. At the same time both power and torque levels have been increased for a sportier driving experience.
Output is 10bhp greater at 150bhp/110 kW at the same 4,000 pm, while peak torque is now 350Nm at 2,000rpm. Improved engine flexibility is reflected in a 9.6 second 0-100km/h time, yet combined fuel consumption is only 5.6 l/100km. Equally, CO2 emissions are just 148g/km.
The 2.0-litre i-VTEC offers similar levels of performance to its predecessor – 156bhp at 6,300rpm – but Honda bullishly announced that it builds on its class-leading fuel economy. Combined cycle consumption is now 7.2 l/100km compared to the 7.7 l/100km of the previous Accord saloon.
The 2.4-litre engine is more powerful, delivering 201bhp at 7,000rpm and peak torque of 234Nm at 4,500rpm – up from 190bhp and 223Nm. Its effortless performance is all the more remarkable given the improved fuel economy – now 8.8 l/100km.
All three engines are matched to a six-speed manual transmission, while both petrol engines have the option of a five-speed automatic, with steering wheel paddles for manual changing.
Complementing an armoury of passive safety features is an outstanding array of dynamic systems delivering even greater security. Vehicle stability assist is standard across the range and is designed to assist the driver in maintaining control during cornering, acceleration, and sudden manoeuvres by applying braking to the right or left hand wheels as necessary and modulating the engine torque output as required.
The new Accord also features an innovative system in which the capabilities of both VSA and the car’s electric power steering are brought to bear. Called motion adaptive EPS, it detects instability in slippery conditions both during cornering and under braking and automatically initiates steering inputs aimed at prompting the driver to steer in the correct direction.
The input is barely noticeable and control of the steering remains with the driver at all times. But this supporting steering torque is enough to prompt the driver to act intuitively and the driver’s reaction as a result is enough to regain stability or to shorten braking distances, allowing control to be maintained.