The newest Accord is bigger, more powerful and more luxurious. But is it better ... ?

2011 Honda Accord SE Sedan.


Honda Accord EX-L

By February 10, 2011

The Honda Accord is one of those benchmark cars.  If a manufacturer wants to build a family sedan in that segment, you can bet that they’ve taken apart a few Accords in their technical centers.

Honda sold a quarter-million Accords last year.  The car always had something special — it was affordable, but did not feel or look cheap; it was economical, yet fun to drive; it had plenty of room, but wasn’t too big to drive or park.

Honda redesigned the Accord recently and just like most other cars, the new car is bigger, more powerful and more luxurious.  But is it better, or have they gone over the edge with the formula?

We got our hands on a top-of-the line EX-L model with the V6 engine and navigation system and started driving.  If you are testing a 500-horsepower sports car, you would test the car at a racetrack.  With the Accord, we wanted to test the car in its natural habitat: the real world.

The 2011 Accord is available in different trim levels. The base version is now the LX, which comes with a host of standard features for $21,000.  Next up is the LS Premium, which adds 8 way power driver seat, 16-inch alloy wheels, and security system for $23,000.  The SE model adds leather seats and steering wheel, heated front seats, and 10 way power seats. The SE model will end up costing you almost $24,000.

The EX gives you a power moonroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, rear HVAC vents, six-disc CD changer, and USB audio interface for $24,000.  Finally the EX-L adds leather to the EX model as well as a 270 watt stereo system with Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel mounted audio controls, and power passenger seat for $27,000.  Add navigation to the EX-L and you now will need to write a check for $29,500.  Add the V6 engine and you will need $31,500 in your bank account.

Nine out of 10 Accords are sold with a four-cylinder engine.  Somehow it just does not seem possible, because the V6 is amazing.  It is a 24-valve SOHC 3.5 liter V6 that cranks out 271 hp at 6,000 rpm.

As much as the Accord has grown, it has remained relatively light at just around 3,500 pounds for the EX-L.  Thanks to a pretty favorable power-to-weight formula, the Accord V6 manages to be pretty quick.  It is so fast that it will shock many so-called sports cars.

And the power is there almost everywhere.  The flat powerband is perfect for the everyday world where horsepower isn’t always about racing at full throttle all the way to redline.  The engineers have tuned the all-aluminum engine to provide power where you need it most, such as to merge on the freeway or to pass that truck.

The V6 even features cylinder deactivation.  As long as there is a light load on the engine, you will see the green ECO light on the dash to indicate it’s running on three cylinders to save fuel.  The engine is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission that lacks a gear compared to most of its competition.  But that does not seem to bother it nsince the transmission shifts quickly and smoothly.

The 0.538 fifth gear ratio means that the Accord V6 is almost idling at highway speeds, which is great for fuel economy.  The result is that the Accord V6 can get 30 mpg on the highway which is just amazing for a car with this much power and this much room.

With 101 cubic feet of passenger space, there is enough room for four people to ride around like a limousine.  Rear legroom is superb at 37 inches which is enough for almost anyone.  The 14.7 cubic foot trunk is also commodious and can provide enough room for a family’s travel needs.

Perhaps one of the best traits of the Accord, from a driver’s point of view, has been its ability to provide entertainment to the driver.  Accords were once the sport sedans of the family-car world but the latest generation seems to have lost a step.

Our car with the 225/50-17 all-season tires and 14 mm rear sway bar was too soft around turns and seemed reluctant to change direction quickly.  There is lots of safe understeer at the limit but the tires will howl and protest long before you reach it.

The better-balanced four-cylinder may just be a better alternative.  While the 2.4 liter four cylinder puts out only 190 hp compared to 271 hp for the V6, it gets better gas mileage, handles better, and is a much better deal.  You can also get the 4 cylinder with a manual five speed transmission.

Regardless of what engine you choose, the Accord is a car that can do it all and do it well.  It can play sports car,  economy car or minivan.  And it can do it all reliably with very little maintenance required.  This is why Accords have traditionally been great at holding their resale value, usually ranking in the top three of all cars.

If you are in need of a roomy four door and you are on a first name basis with Donald Trump you may want to look at something from Bentley or Rolls Royce.  For those of us with a spouse, kids and a mortgage and no rich aunts or uncles, an Accord makes perfect sense.

Ali Arsham

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