PLUSES: Styling enhancements, cabin upgrade, increased fuel economy with excellent mileage, and new Special Edition model. Optional V-6 with cylinder shut off to save fuel. Family of sedans and coupes.
MINUSES: Needs a little sizzle and "hey look at me" attraction.
The CEO of Toyota admitted at this year's edition of the Detroit Auto Show that those looking for knock your eyes out styling usually don't put Toyota at the top of their wish list.
For the most part, Japanese stylists and designers favor conservative over daring and dramatic.
We just tested the 2011 Honda Accord
sedan which boasts of styling enhancement and enrichment, but remove the company logo from the nose and it's difficult to tell if it's a Honda
It's time Japanese autos stand out in the crowd like a Chrysler 300 does. Or look as bold as a Lincoln or as sporty as a Chevy. Even Buicks turn heads while too many Japanese machines bring on yawns. It's difficult to tell Japanese vehicles apart.
But enough on design.
Engineering is where Honda
excels and Accord
is the sales leader for the family. Accord
is offered in front drive sedan and coupe with a choice of four or six cylinder power.
The 2.4 liter four cylinder in the Special Edition sedan we tested develops only 177 h.p., yet even without the aid of a turbo boost it has ample get up and go to maneuver the highways and byways with those sporting V-6s without getting lost or sent to the back of the pack. Yes, there's a little four cylinder noise at hard acceleration, but not to the point of being irritating.
And thanks to a few tweaks, the 2.4 liter delivers 23 m.p.g. city and 34 m.p.g. highway mileage, or about 600 miles of cruising along the interstate before having to pull over and pay a tithe to the petroleum companies who control the supply, and, therefore, the price of oil and its byproducts.
An optional 3.5 liter, 271 h.p. V-6 is rated at 20 m.p.g. city/30 m.p.g. highway.
It wasn't too many years ago that a vehicle getting 30 plus miles per gallon was subcompact in size, held no more than 4 people cheek to jowl, was equipped with a manual transmission, and had an engine that burned diesel fuel.
Now a midsize sedan that holds 5 people with room to wiggle their arms, an automatic transmission, and an engine that burns gas without a helping hand from a battery pack can boast that type of mileage. Job well done.
The mileage gains come from improved aerodynamics, reduced engine friction, and revised transmission gear ratios. The 4-cylinder automatic gets 2 m.p.g. better city and 3 m.p.g. better highway mileage than a year ago.
Ride and handling is pleasant. The suspension is softly tuned. It doesn't eliminate all bumps, but reduces the impact rather well. Standard stability control with traction assist is a big plus, along with quick steering response for nimble performance and very good maneuverability whether parking or passing. For added security ABS brakes and side curtain air bags are standard.Accord
is very roomy, front or rear, especially head room, with a ceiling so high you probably could hang a chandelier without scraping the melon. Seats are wide and supportive. Second row seats have a pull down center armrest that holds a couple beverage cups, and when down expose a ski pass through from the trunk. Excellent room in back, but in the next round of upgrades, it would be nice if designers slimmed front row seat backs to ensure a little more knee room for those riding behind them.
The second row seat back folds to extend cargo capacity from the trunk into the cabin. But you can only lower the seat back by yanking a lever in the trunk, not pulling a handle within the cabin. And the opening between trunk and cabin is one of those narrow cubby hole types, not wide and tall from side to side and top to bottom.
Trunk space is massive, so much so that groceries shoved against the back of the seat required a loooong reach to grab and carry inside the house.
Up front, kudos to those in charge of upgrading the interior cabin. Finishes are grained and look rich. All controls are easy to see and especially use. Honda
designed the instrument stack in the center of the dash so that controls for the most used systems---heat, air, radio---are to the left, closest to the driver, and those least used---clock adjustment---are to the right, furthest from the driver.
One gripe. There's little storage space in the console. There's stowage under the center armrest, but unless you are very tall and have the seat pushed back, the arm rest is too far back and difficult to reach. There's a power plug and auxiliary plug inside the armrest, but the power plug in the lower dash in front of the console is much easier to reach.
Another gripe, it's so easy to see all the controls, yet the trip odometer is so low in the dash behind the steering wheel that we couldn't see it. Minor, yes, but still annoying.
The screen on top and in the middle of the dash has readings for both radio and clock, but it would be even more valuable if it also told you what temperature setting you were dialing for the heater or air conditioner and not just red or blue dots. Accord
sedans start at $21,180 for an LX four cylinder up to $31,600 for an EX V-6. Coupes range from $22,780 for a four cylinder to $31,730 for a V-6.
The four cylinder Accord
sedan tested starts at $24,480, plus $1,500 for the Special Edition package that adds leather seating, heated front seats, driver's power-lumbar support, and leather-trimmed steering wheel as standard to the LX-P edition. Accord
is durable, dependable, and reliable. Just turn it on and it seems to run forever, or at least long enough to be passed down through a couple generations of family.
But when time to tweak again, it needs more attention to styling and design, as well upgrades to storage within the cabin and under the center arm rest, as well as putting the trip odometer where it can been seen. And don't forget adding a control so that you not only know you're raising the heater, but how high the temp. Thank you. 2011 Honda Accord sedan Special EditionWheelbase:
110.2 inches Length:
194.9 inches Engine:
2.4 liter, 177 h.p., four cylinder. Transmission:
5-speed automatic. Mileage:
23 m.p.g. city/34 m.p.g. highway. Base price:
$24,480. Price as equipped:
Add $1,500 minus $750 discount for Special Edition package with leather (heated front) seats, power driver's seat, and leather wrapped steering wheel; and $750 freight.