As this is posted, Donald J. Trump is officially our 45th president; Columbus, Indiana – the headquarters of diesel engine manufacturer Cummins – is the home of our new vice president, Mike Pence; and finally, the EPA is investigating Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for possible emissions irregularities in its lineup of light duty diesels. I don’t need to tell you these are interesting times…but these are interesting times. And while, on the face of it, Honda’s Accord Hybrid is just another 4-door sedan with a semi-interesting powertrain, take another look at the window sticker. That ‘48’ is 48 miles-per-gallon combined, and that – ladies and gentlemen – is a heap of sanity in what has become an absolutely crazy world.
You, of course, know the Accord, perennially one of America’s most popular sedans. As a former Honda owner (and an ongoing Honda enthusiast) I’ve always enjoyed the common sensibility of Honda’s midsize Accord. With a moderate footprint, reasonable space and decent efficiency, the Accord was never flashy and yet – for whatever reason – never boring or complacent. And while the performance and handling dynamic wasn’t something you’d autocross, on gently sweeping curves or your favorite freeway ramp the Accord reflected some youthfulness on the part of its engineering team. Throw in affordability, and what wasn’t there to like?
In this century we have an Accord adhering pretty closely to the above design formula. For the current refresh it’s been given a grille with a tad more expressiveness, side sculpting where there was little previously, and what Honda terms ‘a significant upgrade’ to its hybrid powertrain for 2017. Utilizing a two-motor approach with three operating modes – EV Drive, Hybrid Drive and Engine Drive – the system is designed to meet the needs of the driver and the traffic conditions surrounding that driver. In most instances the Accord operates in Hybrid Drive, where the Accord’s 4-cylinder gas engine operates as a generator for the hybrid batteries, while propulsion is supplied by the electric motor. Conversely, at higher speeds the Accord is propelled by its gasoline engine, just like your dad’s Accord. And under certain conditions it can operate in Electric Drive Mode for up to twenty all-electric miles; pretend you’re Elon Musk.
We found all of this relatively seamless, and with a total output of 212 concurrent horses the Accord is surprisingly responsive. While ascending the occasional hill or making the necessary pass we found the engine almost tractor-like in the noise transmitted to the cabin, but believe it a small price to pay for the drivetrain’s overall responsiveness and amazing efficiency. On the Accord’s trip computer, with no real attempt to be efficient, we regularly saw 40+ miles per gallon, which is a huge number for a car boasting space for five, a real on-road presence, and superb behavior on that road.
The rest of the Accord Hybrid Touring is exactly what you’d expect from an Accord. We’re not taken with the updated sheetmetal, but neither are we offended. And in the press vehicle’s Blue Sky metallic the overall impression was way positive. Inside, the Honda’s Ivory leather was very well done, but not the place you want your 4-year old to party. For that Honda builds the Odyssey minivan…and the Odyssey comes with an available vacuum.
The dash is a mashup of conventional (albeit digital) dials and hybrid-specific info. There is an EV mode button on the console, which also houses – for the first time – a ‘Sport’ mode for a more engaging driving experience. The transmission selector (although that’s the wrong word – there isn’t a conventional transmission) is straightforward, and hasn’t been redesigned by a 20-something product team living with their parents. And not owning a car.
In term of accommodation, you won’t be blown away by the interior space – but four adults will be very comfortable, five (as is often the case) squeezed. The Accord’s generous greenhouse makes the interior’s 103 cubic feet feel more expansive than perhaps it actually is, while the trunk’s relatively narrow opening makes its capacity seem smaller than it really is. We remember the Accord wagon representing a sweet spot in the American car market, and we still think so – but good luck selling one, even if it was sold here.
At $37K for our fully equipped Accord Hybrid Touring, the investment isn’t small. But with a host of leather-this and connected-that you’d be hard pressed to find a competitive vehicle with either more equipment for the same money, or costing less money with similar equipment. We like the straightforward presentation of the Accord Hybrid, and wish that presentation was available throughout more of the industry. This one is available at any Honda dealer.