Has The Honda Accord Lost Its Magic?
A perennial sales champion, and auto-magazine comparison test winner, the Honda Accord set the standard for high value, reliable family sedans. However, in its recent "10 Best Family Cars of 2012" Kelly Blue Book did not list the Accord. Yes, there were Hondas on the list, but in the premier spot where the Accord used to be found, the Volkswagen Passat now sits. Is the magic gone?
Honda launched the 2013 Accord Coupe Concept at the Detroit auto show a few weeks back. Although true fans of the car can spot some differences, to the untrained eye the car is basically unchanged. We saw the car in Montreal at the International Auto Show and it qualified only as a “Walk-Past.” Other than the show wheels and some new headlight jewelry, the car could pass for the current Accord Coupe. Will the styling tweaks and engine updates keep it competitive with the huge strides that the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata recently made?
There was a time when Honda engines were the breakthrough technology leaders of the entire industry. The CVCC engine from Honda in the 1970s allowed for clean emissions without a catalytic converter. The VTEC engines in the 1980s from Honda introduced variable valve timing to the masses. In the 1990s Honda offered normally aspirated (non-turbo) engines with more than 100HP per liter in the S2000 sports car. It seemed like the march of technological dominance would never stop. But it did. While Honda focused on making the four-cylinder, 2.4 liter engine its mainstay, and offering a V6 for the few customers who wanted a powerful Accord, many of the competitors moved in a different direction. First the Passat offered a direct injected turbo gasoline engine. This engine had strong pulling power off the line, more power than Honda’s 4 cylinder engines, and delivered fuel economy beyond what available V6 engines could offer. The cheeky Germans then pushed the TDI clean diesel engines into the American market. These produce torque and power that brings a smile to the faces of enthusiasts and has fuel mileage only hybrids can match. With diesel and premium unleaded now the same price, the fuel economy of the diesel is fantastic. Volkswagen and others also produced dual clutch transmissions that made the most of the torque and improved fuel economy.
The 2013 Honda Accord Concept 4 cylinder offering showcases what Honda calls the “Earth Dreams” engine. It will have direct fuel injection, but his is now commonplace and available on the Hyundai, Kia, Buick, and Volkswagen competitors. The automatic transmission will be a constantly variable unit (CVT). CVTs are the bane of enthusiasts. However, to Honda’s credit a 6 speed manual will be offered and Honda’s manual shifters have long been considered the best in the industry. The V6 will continue with modern direct fuel injection and be mated to a 6 speed automatic, so there will still be a fast Accord available. Honda may have been looking over their shoulder at Toyota, who’s all new Camry retrained its V6. One advantage of having the V6 is it allows for advertisements to show a big horsepower number to get folks into the showroom.
The Honda Accord has started to loose comparison contents sponsored by auto magazines and is now is losing its coveted spots in 10-Best lists. The new Accord concept shows many new features for Honda, but unfortunately it is hard to see any of the new changes in any light other than catching up to the competition. That being said, let’s not count out the Accord until we can drive it. Even more than its fantastic engines of the past, what has always made the Accord special is that the sum of its parts are greater than the whole.