published Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Test Drive: New Honda Accord is buttoned-down, bullet-proof

The redesigned 2013 Honda Accord has large windows for excellent visibility and a host of safety features including a lane-change camera.
The redesigned 2013 Honda Accord has large windows for excellent visibility and a host of safety features including a lane-change camera.

FAST FACTS

Model: 2013 Accord Touring V6.

Exterior color: White Orchid.

Interior color: Ivory.

Engine: 3.5-liter, six cylinder.

Horsepower: 278.

Transmission: six-speed automatic.

Fuel economy: 34 mpg highway, 21 mpg city.

Dealer: Economy Honda.

Price (as tested): $34,220.

Most car companies worry about what a car looks like on the outside, hoping to lure buyers with love at first sight.

Honda, to its credit, cares more about your view of the world from the inside of its vehicles looking out. It’s one of the many reasons why Accord owners are among the most brand-loyal in the world.

Big windows are among the many utilitarian virtues of the all-new 2013 Honda Accord sedan, which went on sale last week. (An Accord coupe will arrive next month.) Frankly, the new, airy Accord makes the cockpits of some of its competitors look like tank turrets.

If that’s not enough, our test Accord, in top-of-the-line Touring trim, includes a slick lane-change camera in the right side-view mirror that allows you to merge right in freeway traffic without even turning your head to check the blind spot.

Now, that’s a safety option you can use every day.

The first Accord hit the road in 1976, the year I graduated high school. Ever since, it has been the default family sedan for millions of people who wanted a buttoned-down, bullet-proof ride with a smidgen of sporttiness. (The Toyota Camry has filled the same niche for buyers who value a bit more comfort. Now Honda is on the trail of those buyers, too.)

STYLING AND COMFORT

Economy Honda General Manager Corey Choate said the first two things Chattanooga customers will notice about the newly redesigned 2013 Accord is “a lot less road noise, and a lot better ride.”

Some, no doubt, will also notice the fact that Honda is offering basic, four-cylinder Accords with back-up cameras, alloy wheels and continuously-variable transmissions for $23,270. For most drivers, the capable 185-horsepower four-cylinder powerplant with a fuel-saving CVT will be the right choice.

Our tester, however, was the top-of-the-line Touring V-6 model with navigation, a premium trim grade which slots above the Accord EX-L. The ultra-smooth, 3.5-liter engine makes 278 horsepower and scoots from zero-to-60 mph in 6.1 seconds, according to the automotive website edmunds.com. It also gets 34 mpg highway and 21 mpg city.

Inside, the Accord touring includes attractive, perforated leather seats and plenty of room for three adults in the back seat. The new, flowing dash in the Accord is molded in such a way that it looks almost melted in place — that is to say it’s an organic design with no sharp angles. Our test car’s interior was an handsome two-tone, black and ivory.

A three-dimensional speedometer, tachometer and fuel gauge are especially easy to read. The Accord Touring comes with a navigation system that displays on an eight-inch LCD screen in the middle of the dash. A smaller touch-screen handles media interfaces. The Touring also includes a push-button start feature that can sense whether you have a key fob in your pocket.

While the exterior dimensions of the new Accord have been shortened up some, there is an abundance of room inside. Rear knee room has been improved and so has trunk space.

Outside, the new Accord has a wider, flatter hood, a new honeycomb facia and some crisp new horizontal lines in the doors. All in all, it’s a clean, evolutionary freshening that should age well.

In touring trim the Accord boasts Audi-esque LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, a navigation system with 15-gigabyte hard-drive and adaptive cruise control.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Accords have always been, at heart, drivers’ cars. If a little wind and tire noise were part of the equation, well, so be it. The new, 9th generation Accord makes a U-turn in this regard. More sound dampening material and a new noise-canceling system has made this car whisper quiet. Our six-cylinder test car has Lexus-like cabin isolation.

For 2013, Honda has dropped the Accord’s trademark double-wishbone front suspension system for the ubiquitous MacPherson strut set-up. If anything, the car handles better than before.

BOTTOM LINE

Like a good stock index fund, the Accord tries to capture everything good in the market, while keeping costs and risks in check.

Even though our test car stickers for $34,220, it has the amenities and refinement of some luxury cars costing $15,000 more. In the ultra-competitive mid-size sedan segment, the Accord offers something for every taste and pocketbook, and rock-solid competence for all.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...

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