Sedans are dead, you say? Not so fast. Witness the redesigned 2018 Honda Accord, which by the looks of things is going to be anything but boring.
From its sleek design detailed with just enough character to ensure that it is appealing today and remains fresh tomorrow, to its range of new engines, the new Accord is likely to set new standards in the midsize car segment.
Three model series will be available, and depending on the one you select the trim lineup remains LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, EX-L with navigation, and Touring. According to a Honda spokesperson, the car is expected to arrive in dealerships in October of 2017, with hybrid models going on sale in early 2018.
Good looks make the 2018 Accord a head-turner
With the new 2018 Accord, Honda wanted to create a visually appealing and aerodynamic sedan that offered more interior room than before.
Naturally, given the conservatism of the midsize sedan segment, the new Accord isn’t as dramatically styled as the smaller Honda Civic. However, for an Accord, it does push the envelope. Honda reduced the front overhang and pulled the windshield pillars back to improve outward visibility and the car’s optical balance, adding visual weight to the rear through a rakish roofline and tapering greenhouse.
In person, equipped with the larger aluminum wheels installed on the Touring models, the new Accord looks sensational. It remains a bit quirky compared to, say, a Mazda 6, but the creases in the hood, the swelling front fenders, the beltline arc, and the sculpturing along the lower body make the Accord distinctive without resorting to spectacle.
Around back, the sloping roofline narrows into a short trunk lid pierced by pincer-style LED light-pipe taillights. Trapezoidal exhaust outlets are neatly tucked into the lower portion of the fascia, and a tasteful lip spoiler decorates certain models. The trunk grows to 16.7 cubic feet, making it the largest in the segment, and with powertrain packaging improvements the Accord Hybrid models have the same amount of volume along with a standard 60/40-split folding rear seat.
More room, better materials, improved controls
Thanks to the 2018 Accord’s stretched wheelbase, interior volume increases compared to the previous Accord, and most of the gain is added to the rear seat. Despite the car’s faster roofline and slightly shorter overall length, rear seat room is legitimately spacious.
Front seat space is about the same as the outgoing car, which was already quite comfortable. Honda has improved the armrests, which were a literal sore point in the outgoing model, and 12-way power adjustment is available for the driver’s seat, complete with height-adjustable lumbar support. Both front chairs are available with heating and ventilation for 2018, and the optional rear seat heaters now warm the cushions and back rests.
Drivers face a dashboard that returns Honda to the good old days when it adhered to sensible, ergonomically correct design principles. There are buttons. There are knobs. And they’re located where you expect to find them. The only, umm, sticking point is the collection of transmission buttons and switches on the center console. They’re placed right next to the cup holders, and one spill of a sugary drink could create conditions for gummy gear selection.
As for interior design, Honda pursues a high-contrast approach with lighter cabin colors. The upper dashboard is black to reduce glare and reflection in the windshield, and it slopes down to heighten the sense of expansive visibility. In higher trims, a strip of simulated matte-finish wood bisects the dashboard, the lower portion matching the color of the upholstery. Carpets and lower cabin panels are also black to create a convincingly upscale appearance.
Power to the people
When you buy a 2018 Honda Accord, you’re going to choose between a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, and a hybrid drivetrain.
Installed as standard equipment in all trim levels, the 1.5-liter engine makes 192 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 192 pound-feet of torque from 1,500 rpm to 5,000 rpm. Both figures reflect increases, and at lower engine revs. Honda offers a 6-speed manual gearbox with this engine (Sport trim only) or a new continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a lower ratio for improved responsiveness and acceleration.
A stronger turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine is a modified version of the power plant Honda uses in the new Civic Type-R. It replaces the former 3.5-liter V6 engine, cranking out 252 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 273 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,500 rpm to 4,000 rpm. While horsepower declines by 26 horses, torque is up by 21 lb.-ft. and spread like butter across a big portion of the Accord’s rev range. A 6-speed manual is offered for the Sport trim level; otherwise, this engine is paired with a new Honda-engineered 10-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
Accord Hybrid models get a next-generation version of Honda’s two-motor hybrid drivetrain. A 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine is paired with two electric motors that employ magnets without heavy rare earth materials used in their construction, a world-first achievement. Honda also tucks the battery under the Accord Hybrid’s rear floor area, preserving the car’s 16.7 cu.-ft. of trunk space and split-folding rear seat.
In addition to stretching the new Accord’s wheelbase to increase interior room, the car’s track is wider, it sits lower to the ground with a 10mm reduction in center of gravity, and the structure is both lighter and more rigid. An aluminum-intensive MacPherson strut front suspension is claimed to improve handling precision, while a multi-link rear suspension preserves trunk space. Remarkably, adaptive damping is standard for the 2018 Accord, promising a compliant yet controlled ride at all times.
The electric steering is upgraded to a dual-pinion, variable-ratio system, too, and drivers can also choose between Normal, Sport, and Econ modes regardless of powertrain and trim level. These modes calibrate throttle response, transmission shifts, steering, adaptive dampers, and the car’s Active Sound Control system to create appropriate characteristics based on the driver’s selection.
Naturally, these improvements are almost certain to enhance the car’s already engaging driving dynamics.
Safer than before, and more entertaining
Part of the 2018 Accord’s dynamic improvement is related to the car’s underlying structure, a next-generation Honda Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) architecture that also boasts improved crash-energy absorption. Torsional rigidity is up 32 percent, while bending rigidity is improved 24 percent. Nearly 55 percent of the structure is composed of high-strength or ultra-high-strength steel.
HondaSensing is standard equipment for all 2018 Accord models, a package of features that includes adaptive cruise control with low-speed following capability, a forward collision warning system with automatic emergency braking, a lane departure warning and lane keeping assist system, and traffic sign recognition capability. All Accords also get a multi-angle reversing camera.
Depending on the trim level, Honda also offers a number of safety-related enhancements. They include a drowsy driver detection system, a rear cross-traffic detection system, and a blind spot monitoring system. This latter feature replaces the previous Accord’s LaneWatch setup, and represents a big improvement over that camera-based technology, which worked only for the right side of the car.
A new infotainment system also debuts in the new Accord. It includes an 8-inch touchscreen that responds similar to a smartphone, and includes automatic Bluetooth pairing with Near Field Communication technology, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Oh, and it has both volume and tuning knobs, simple things that dramatically improve operation.
Next-generation HondaLink services also debut in the new Accord, including automatic collision notification and adding features like speed tracking and geographic boundary tracking, which are useful to households with teenaged drivers. A 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot is also available, along with wireless smartphone charging.
A 4-speaker audio system is standard in the LX, while Sport and EX models get eight speakers. A 10-speaker premium sound system is included for EX-L, EX-L with navigation, and Touring models. Touring trim also equips the car with a new 6-inch heads-up display.
Honda appears to redefine the midsize family sedan
This fall, two of the best-selling cars in America are completely redesigned. One is the Toyota Camry, which is more expressive and better to drive than ever before. The other is the 2018 Honda Accord.
While my time with the new Accord was brief, and did not involve driving, I will say this: Honda hasn’t got much to worry about.