Honda’s latest Accord doesn’t deviate much from the past, but why should it when they’ve found so much success?
I joined the Honda family shortly after Christmas when the transmission on my beloved 2003 Ford Taurus abruptly bit the dust. With a daily commute to work, a New Year’s Eve trip already planned and automaker sales coming to a close, the 2012 Honda Accord EX-L V6 scored highest during my three days of car shopping.
My search was targeted for a sedan with plenty of speed, good gas mileage, somewhat sporty looks, black leather seats, no shortage of space and a price tag within my reach. Surprisingly, despite the advertisements and supposed progress made on hybrids and electric cars, nothing was even close. It also remains nigh impossible to find a car with more than 200 horse power and more than 30 MPG that isn’t a compact.
Among the cars I looked at, the Nissan Maxima, Hyundai Sonata and – sadly – Dodge Charger were all ruled out. Either they chewed through gas, looked hideous or were too small to comfortably fit my tall friends and family.
And so, just before the Honda dealership closed on Dec. 30, I signed away many future paychecks for the Accord EX-L V6 with no navigation system. The invoice price for this model is $27,620 and the MSRP is $30,400. I paid $28,326, plus another $3,000 for an extended warranty, over five years on a 1.9 percent loan.
This is my first brand new car, so I’m not exactly sure how to gauge bang for buck yet, but I’m slowly getting a few ideas. If Honda’s legendary reputation as a reliable automaker holds up and my car is still running largely problem-free in 10 years, I’ll probably concede that the higher price tag is justified.
Starting with the exterior, the Accord likely won’t wow any passersby. It’s not an ugly car, but it’s also not a sleek sports car. It’s a car for families with kids who want to drive something a little nicer than a Toyota Camry or minivan. A line runs down the middle of both sides and the hood has some contour along the edge. The rectangular headlights don’t do much, but the fog lights below are different from many cars. I dropped another $600 on a Honda wing spoiler and will eventually replace the rims to make the car really stand out from the other millions of Accords on the road.
Apparently Honda decided they don’t like color, and furthermore customers don’t know what colors mesh well. The new Accord is available in eight colors which – translated into English – are: white, silver, dark gray, black, dark brown, navy blue, sky blue and dark red. The leather interior is only available in three colors: ivory, black or gray. Good luck trying to get your match; each color comes with restrictions. For example, the dark gray cannot be paired with ivory leather, the dark red can only be paired with ivory leather and the dark blue can only be paired with gray leather. While I was leaning towards the dark gray body, the dark red and dark blue were also strong players until I learned black leather was not an option.
What riled me up even more than about the exterior than shaky color selections was the mandatory chrome handles. The saleswoman made a point to boast that all Honda Accord V6 models come with chrome door handles while I4 models are painted the body color. While I’d rather mine also be painted dark gray or even made of a black material, the chrome wouldn’t be so bad if it was just the handle itself. Honda designed the chrome door handles to spread several inches across where they connect to the door itself, making the handle very tacky.
Fortunately, the overall exterior gets a passing grade, like the interior. Between the large rear window and ample space between the dashboard and rear view mirror, vision isn’t a problem with the Accord. The side mirrors are also fairly large, and they have a built-in defroster!
There’s no shortage of room for passengers in any direction. In fact, I’d hazard a guess my new car could fit three in the back seat as well as any non-SUV vehicle. The headroom is something of a surprise considering the car comes with a power moon roof and these babies typically eat up lots of headroom.
During my search, I saw plenty of black leather, and most of it was deep in color and soft to the touch. The black leather in the Accord is very stiff and lighter in color. At the very least I hope the seats break in over time. The steering wheel, dashboard and doors are the same lighter black color plastic and leather, supplemented by a little wood trim for a sophisticated, stylish look. I’m also hoping the steering wheel softens a bit, since it currently feels very wide and smooth, giving little to grip.
Unfortunately, the same high marks can not be shared for the stereo and climate control systems. Honda advertises it as a 270-watt premium system with seven speakers – two front tweeters, two front mains, two rear mains and a subwoofer, with an XM/Sirius connection as well as USB and aux inputs hidden in the center console. While the inputs are designed well, I hate the stereo. Everything, especially the satellite radio, sounds flat and the bass quickly distorts at higher levels. I plan on replacing the four main speakers, swapping out the deck and connecting my old amplifiers and subwoofers as soon as the funds become available.
My other major beef with the stereo is the design – there are way too many buttons spread out as far as the eye can see. The dual-zone automatic climate control system also suffers from this. I’m not sure why Honda wouldn’t favor a much neater, compact solution.
also comes with Bluetooth HandsFreeLink. Using buttons on the steering wheel and your voice, it’s possible to store and call numbers through a microphone in the ceiling and the stereo system’s speakers. I don’t like how HandsFreeLink cannot use your existing phone book, requiring you to add each contact, but it is convenient. Unfortunately, replacing the deck removes much of this functionality, unless the aftermarket stereo is compatible with the pricey harness Crutchfield sells.
Under the hood, this Accord boasts a 6-cylinder engine with 271 horsepower attached to a 5-speed transmission. The raw power is nice, but make no mistake, the Accord is not a sports car. You will not accelerate faster from a dead stop than a sports car. However, you can easily lean on the gas pedal once you’re already rolling to get plenty of extra speed to get around trucks on the highway. On an extended highway trip, I discovered the engine can easily keep the car moving 60-80 MPH. I hope to find a straightaway with no legal restrictions to test just how fast it can go.
Honda also includes variable cylinder management (VCM), which lets the built-in computers shut down two or three cylinders to improve gas mileage. An “ECO” light on the dash illuminates whenever the VCM kicks in, but it’s impossible to miss the mild jerk, almost like the engine’s fuel supply is being choked.
While I’m not sure just how much of a difference the VCM makes, I guess I’d rather have it than not. After all, the car is rated 20 city/30 highway MPG. I do my driving in western Suffolk County – part of Long Island with densely populated suburb neighboring densely populated suburb. My daily commute typically ranges catching one red light after another to speeding along at 60 MPH on the highway. In the few weeks I’ve owned my Accord, it gives me almost 23 MPG for overall driving – a little low for what I expected but not a complete surprise given the horsepower.
Steering is very responsive with little play in the wheel. I didn’t give it a ton of thought, but when I found myself veering around obstacles in the first few days of ownership, I noticed it then.
The gas pedal is also responsive. I’ve driven other cars and vans over the years, and I’ve grown to dislike gas pedals with a lot of play. I’d rather step on the pedal varying degrees and go proportionally, which the Accord seems to do.
On the other hand, the braking is a concern. Yes, stepping on the brake pedal does stop the car. But they feel really stiff and attached to a car with that much horsepower, they don’t stop as quickly sportier cars do.
Now it’s obviously far too early to have major problems, less than 1,000 miles on the odometer, but Honda’s warranties don’t last all that long. The new vehicle/limited warranty only lasts 3 years/36,000 miles, while the power train warranty only lasts 5 years/60,000 miles. Honda has a reputation for building sturdy, reliable machines that don’t require repairs, but after my Taurus abruptly went, I’m not taking any chances. Their 8-year/variable mileage extended warranty covers everything in the original warranties and much more, except for brakes, oil changes and other routine maintenance.
In summary, I’m hoping to have a sporty, dependable car that will fit everyone for many years to come, even if it costs me a little extra time and money.