Returning from Napa, California on a flight that was delayed for over 5 hours gave me plenty of time to ponder the unique drive and ride experience that is 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid. Frankly, I’ve never driven another car quite like it.
While Honda’s last remaining Hybrid in the North American lineup comes to dealerships mostly unchanged from the premier 2014 model, there are a couple of mechanical tweaks and aesthetic upticks worth noting.
2017 Honda Accord Hybrid is the most powerful and fuel efficient in the segment
And this is where the engineering magic comes into play. Honda R&D of Japan presents a newly developed 2-motor TRC/GEN, that effectively eliminates the requirement of any transmission configuration in Accord Hybrid. This is state of the automotive art gasoline/electric hybrid direct drive propulsion.
Driving Accord Hybrid is a unique experience unto itself, and while exceptional, takes just a bit of getting used to. Like I said, it’s the future! Honda will double the production of the made in Japan Accord Hybrid for 2017.
A very advanced “High Integration” PCU acts as the intermediary between the electric motors and the fuel efficient 2.0L DOHC 1-VTEC Atkinson cycle gasoline engine. It’s an unprecedented power mix, and on call near instantaneous balancing act “ intelligently transitioning” between 3 drive modes: EV only, Hybrid, or Gasoline Engine -- arguably the most sophisticated propulsion combination available in the midsize sedan segment today, certainly the most fuel efficient.
For high speed freeway travel, an ‘engine lockup clutch’ dedicates the gasoline engine for full time service above 60 mph. The pedal to the mat transition between hybrid power and engine only, is a tad ruckus -- we'll get back to that in a moment.
Where Honda Accord Hybrid truly shines is in combination driving -- it effectively doubles average fuel economy in city driving -- I witnessed 53.5 mpg, and averaged no less than 36.5 mpg in combination off the stop light sprints -- heavy footed freeway onramp ingress -- and high speed freeway passing and lane changing to 85 mph.
Believe me, on our recent Napa press reveal we didn’t baby Accord Hybrid
2017 Accord Hybrid comes to market with new found fuel efficiency, power and uptick interior refinement. An all new electric motor design: By increasing the density of the winding wire and reducing the size of the magnet,(a square wire winding instead of the more conventional round copper core,) Honda has coaxed greater instant-on turbo-like pedal -- +14 horsepower and +6 lb-ft greater torque, for a total combined gasoline/electric output of 217 horsepower without sacrificing fuel efficiency. Until Clarity hits the market later in 2016, we have this car.
Furthermore, this refreshed hybrid arrives with greater trunk space(+1 cubic foot) due to a greater capacity, yet smaller Lithium ion battery module -- the brake feel is much improved, and although electric servo regenerative, feels hydraulic in nature. I like the steering, although road handling could benefit from “tighter” steering response when driven aggressively through the turns. Note: “Sport” and “Eco” mode available at the push of a button -- they work!
I’m a guy that truly loves the near silent drive experience afforded through electric only propulsion. When one enters 2017 Honda Accord and pushes the keyless ignition button, you don’t hear the start of an engine. With the center console positioned momentum directive(stick shift) placed in drive, regenerative mode or reverse, this Accord launches initially as an EV, and will continue for a mile or two up to speeds of 60 mph, contingent on adequate battery capacity to do so.
In EV mode torque is instantaneous and near silent until Accord’s co generation 4 cylinder gasoline engine comes online, Its ignition, in combination with transitioning electric motors, while reasonable quiet, can be abrupt at times. Furthermore, when pushed to passing speeds with the drop of the gas peddle to the floor, this hybrid is a bit revvy and noisy.
It doesn’t happen often, but for me, this is the one drawback to Accord Hybrid’s powertrain operation -- other than that occasional annoyance, Honda’s latest hybrid manifestation is a joy to operate.
A top trim Accord by any other name
According to Honda, 2017 Accord Hybrid is the most refined and fuel efficient 4 door sedan in the marks 40 year history. I agree! Having driven the entire Honda and Acura car and light truck lineup, this Accord comes very close to Acura interior comfort and safety levels without the premium price tag. Claiming a combined fuel efficiency rating of 48 mpg and 212 combined horsepower, Accord Hybrid is the midsize hybrid sedan segment leader.
Presenting a sensory pleasing combination of soft and hard interior finishes wrapped in Honda’s critically acclaimed design language, state of the automotive art exterior color pallet and wheel design, Honda Accord Hybrid gives the best in the near premium domestic and import midsize segment sedan competitors a run for your dollar.
Within minutes of dropping into what is arguably the most comfortable power adjusted seat in Accord history, I felt right at home -- one hand on the wheel, taking in the sights of Napa Valley wine country. Frankly, I’m just a bit astounded by how quiet Accord Hybrid is. Honda’s gone to great measures to insure a premium, quiet ride in this top-trim Accord, and it pays off in fatigue-free, near effortless drive and ride time.
Designed for the long ride
At the end of the day I came to the conclusion that 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid presents a near perfect combination of measurable performance, decent road handling and a very pleasurable city/highway long-haul drive and ride experience. It’s engine/motor overlap could be improved on, and I’m sure it will be.
When driven “normally,” without extreme aggression, Accord Hybrid is near silent under most drive conditions and most at home in a combination city/highway commute. That’s what it’s designed for and it executes it very well. For 2017 Honda equips every Accord Hybrid with standard Honda Sensing ™ active safety features. You may read about that, price and stated mpg here.