The redesigned 2008 Honda Accord
sedan is more powerful and roomier. It's also sleeker and qualifies, for the first time, as a full-size car.
People are so accustomed to the rival Toyota Camry being the top-selling car in America, that some forget that the Accord
-- long the No. 2 seller -- was No. 1 in this country from 1989 through 1991. It was introduced in 1976 as a crisply styled small three-door hatchback. The first Accord
sedan didn't arrive until 1979. Second-generation Accord
s debuted for 1982.
The eighth-generation Accord
comes as a sedan or coupe, but most buyers opt for the sedan, which I tested. The new coupe has sleeker styling and is 3.2 inches shorter and 1.7 inches lower than the sedan.
The new Accord
sedan barely edges past the mid-size car line to the EPA's full-size auto classification because it's 3 inches longer at 194.1 inch, 1.1 inches wider and about an inch higher, with a 2.3-inch longer wheelbase of 110.2 inches.
A longer wheelbase translates to a smoother ride, and the new Accord
has high-tensile steel; it provides greater torsional rigidity that results in a more solid-feeling car.
There is nearly 1.6 inches more room between the driver and front passenger, which contributes to a more spacious interior feel.
The 2008 Accord
sedan's interior is quite roomy, especially in the back seat area, where room often counts for a lot with a sedan. There's plenty of space for two tall adults back there; the high, hard rear seat center area makes it uncomfortable for three.
This new Honda
has a definite European shape. For instance, a "character line" that runs the length of the bodysides and a "kink" in the rear side pillars makes the sedan look somewhat like a BMW. However, the Accord
's nose is overly styled, and front-end lowness makes it susceptible to damage. The hood line looks unfashionably high from the side because the front end must meet new pedestrian-protection requirements.
As for occupant safety, standard are the usual bunch of air bags, an anti-skid system and traction control, besides tire pressure monitoring and anti-lock brakes.
The new Accord
V-6 sedan has the general feel of a good European sedan, with quick, nicely weighted power steering with only 2.56 turns lock-to-lock (against 2.98 turns for the 2007 Accord
) and a lower center of gravity. There was no body sway when sweeping quickly through curves.
The rather firm-but-supple suspension soaks up road imperfections because there is a performance-inspired double-wishbone front suspension (found on race cars) and a new, compact multi-link, rear suspension. The brake pedal allows smooth stops, and brakes have electronic brake force distribution and brake assist features for surer panic stops.
Helping roadability are 16-wheels with 60-series tires or 17-inch wheels with 50-series tires for sedans, and 17- or 18-inch wheels for coupes, which come with 50- or 45-series tires. (The lower the series number, the wider the tire.)
Four-cylinder sedan trim levels begin at the nicely equipped base LX and graduate to LX-P, EX, EXL and EXL with a navigation system. List prices range from $20,360 to $28,060.
As always, Accord
sedan V-6 models are costlier. They go from $25,960 for the EX to $30,260 for the EX-L with a navigation system.
The sedan's power comes from three engines, which are more potent than their predecessors but only require 87-octane fuel.
There is a 3.5-liter V-6 and two 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines. The base four-cylinder has 177 horsepower for average performance and the other develops 190 horsepower and considerably more punch for merging and passing.
The 268-horsepower V-6 provides the best performance by far and has a fuel-saving Variable Cylinder Management feature that lets it run on three, four or six cylinders, depending on speed and load. Looking back, there hasn't been a three-mode cylinder deactivation system since Cadillac's ambitious but premature 1981 V-8-6-4, which shut down two or four cylinders for better fuel economy in a gas-crisis era.
The sedan's four-cylinder engines work with a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. While responsive, the automatic would be more up to date with six speeds.
The gas-electric Hybrid model has been dropped. Estimated fuel economy is 22 mpg city and 31 highway with the four-cylinder and manual gearbox and 21 and 31 with the automatic.
The sedan V-6 works only with the automatic. That combination's economy figures are 19 city and 29 highway. (The coupe is the only Accord
V-6 with a manual gearbox, which is a six-speed unit and results in 17 mpg city and 25 highway.) Fuel capacity has been increased to 18.5 gallons from 17.2 gallons -- the most ever offered for an Accord
V-6 models have stylized chrome-plated exterior door handles (instead of body color handles) and richer interior materials. My test sedan's quiet interior almost looked as if from one of Honda
's higher-line Acura models.
Gauges can be quickly read. The soft-touch controls initially look complicated, but a driver soon finds they're logically placed and easily used. However, the front console cupholder cover partly blocks a passenger's access to them when open.
Slender windshield pillars made of high-strength steel provide a greater field of vision, and large outside mirrors help rear driver visibility.
The large trunk has a low, wide opening, and a fold-down lockable rear seatback increases cargo capacity.
The new Accord
has virtually all ingredients for continued success, but it remains to be seen if it can overtake the Camry.
2008 HONDA ACCORD SEDAN
LIKES: Nicely redesigned. Roomier. Good roadability. More power. European sedan feel.
DISLIKES: Low front susceptible to damage. No six-speed automatic transmission. Hard rear center seat area.