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"It's freaking huge!"
"I thought it was a Buick."
"That's way too big to be a Honda. Shouldn't it be, like, an Oldsmobile or something?"
Our week with the new 2008 Honda Accord EX V6 certainly had its share of reaction from the neighbors. Obviously they noticed that Honda has made the Accord larger.
"Holy Toledo," said neighbor Jackson, poking his head in the Honda's open window. "You can hold a circus in here. A circus in here. A circus in here." Jackson is famous for his fake echo imitation. But it was his next question that caught us off guard. "How's it drive?" he said. "Is it still an Accord?"
It is. The new eighth generation of Honda's bread-and-butter sedan may be larger, but it's still very much an Accord.
Bigger, but the Same
Since the Accord's growth has been gradual over the years, the jump up in size with this new generation isn't extreme. The sedan's wheelbase is up 2.3 inches to 110.2 inches, while overall length has gone up 3 inches to 194.1 inches. It's also about an inch wider and an inch taller.
It's enough to swell the passenger volume up to 101 cubic feet, which is just behind the Toyota Camry's allotment. It's also enough for the EPA to qualify the new Accord sedan as a "full-size" car rather than a "compact."
And it looks as big as it is. Through the years, Honda's styling of the Accord has oscillated between conservatism, ultra-conservatism and just plain ugly. Let's call this one conservative with a touch of upscale flair. In top-of-the-line EX trim, our test car looked rich with its low stance, 17-inch alloy wheels and smattering of chrome trim.
It also feels one rung up on the class ladder, a feeling heightened by its huge body-color door handles and the heft of its doors. They close with a Germanic thunk and seal so well it's like opening Tupperware to get inside the car.
More Power, Fewer Emissions
Also larger is the Accord's SOHC 24-valve i-VTEC V6. It grows from 3.0 to 3.5 liters and swells in output from 240 horsepower to 268 hp at 6,200 rpm and 248 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. The additional power was apparent and appreciated in the EX-level test car, but it's only the start of this engine's talents.
Turn the ignition key and it's almost impossible to hear or feel the V6 come to life. Beyond being uncannily smooth and quiet, this engine is incredibly clean. It meets Tier-2 Bin-2 certification and is CARB-certified as a partial zero-emissions vehicle.
Honda has also equipped the engine with its latest cylinder-deactivation technology — what it calls Variable Cylinder Management (VCM). It allows the engine to run on six, four or three cylinders depending on engine loads and is in large part responsible for the Accord's excellent EPA fuel economy ratings of 19 in the city and 29 on the highway.
We averaged 24.4 mpg in mixed driving and walked away impressed by Honda's VCM system. It worked its 3/4/6-cylinder magic without anyone in the cockpit noticing. The green "ECON" light in the dash is the only clue. Considering the Accord has an 18.5-gallon tank, it's possible to go 450 miles between fill-ups.
Like Butter, Only Creamier
At the test track, the new Accord hit 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and ran the quarter-mile in 15.5 seconds at 91.8 mph. That's a solid improvement over the Accord in our last V6 Family Sedan Comparison Test, but it's still well behind the Camry V6 that whomped to 60 in just 6.5 seconds and scorched the quarter in 14.6 seconds at 97.3 mph.
The Camry's V6 is also rated at 268 hp and the Toyota weighs a little less than the 3,572-pound Accord, but the biggest problem is the Accord's engine electronics. With the standard VSA stability control turned off, the Accord's computer doesn't allow full-throttle acceleration until about 20 mph. At that speed, the car barks the tires and takes off, but by that time any chance of out-sprinting the Toyota is long gone.
Another advantage is the Toyota's six-speed automatic, which allows the car to exploit its V6 more effectively than the Honda's five-speed. It also helps the Camry return very good fuel economy (19 city/28 highway for 2008) without the use of a cylinder-deactivation scheme.
That said, the Accord's five-speed does its daily duties invisibly.
Still the Fun One
Underneath the Accord's larger shell, the essential engineering remains the same. The structure is still a stiff steel unibody, the all-independent suspension still puts double wishbones at all four corners and the transversely mounted engine still drives the front wheels. All of those have been familiar — signature — elements of Accord engineering for at least 22 years. And most date to the car's 1976 inception.
And why not? It all works. During everyday driving, it's hard to tell there's anything mechanical going on. Except for some slight noise from its 225/50R17 Michelin Pilot HXMX4 tires, the new Accord is very quiet during highway runs.
But don't confuse this Honda for a pod with zero entertainment value. Even if its variable-assist power steering feels a bit disconnected, its ride is well controlled and comfortable, and its 61.8-mph slalom speed, 0.81g skid pad orbit and 127 feet from 60-mph stopping distance are solid performances for this class. It's still a front-drive sedan, so understeer is the new Accord's birthright. But the VSA eliminates that under virtually any circumstances. Plus, you can shut it off. Yeah!
This isn't a sport sedan by any stretch of the imagination, but the Accord remains the fun one in the Accord vs. Camry wars.
More Honda Than Ever
What's most impressive inside is the sense of space, which Honda cleverly amplifies with the Accord's generous glass area and swooping dashboard. While the center of the dash pushes the controls for the ventilation and entertainment systems within easy reach, the spaces in front of the driver and front passenger are gently tiered to keep from looking overly massive. The main instrumentation has an upscale look and is housed in a single binnacle in front of the driver.
There's room enough here for four 6-footers to sit comfortably for a cross-country road trip or for five to head for a lunch at Sizzler. Even with the front seats set well back, rear passengers will find that their knees have plenty of room.
Seat comfort fell short for some because of the large lumbar cushion. Visibility is excellent thanks to thin pillars, a proper seating position and large glass area.
Quality and Value
Accord buyers aren't the sort of people who think phony wood adds class to an interior, and Honda knows that. Decoration is subdued, with plastic that sort of looks like brushed aluminum as the only affectation.
Every surface seems to have been textured for both tactile satisfaction and long-term survival. There isn't a switch or control in the car that isn't logically positioned. And every one of them works with precision.
And the list of doodads for your $28,695 is longer than your lower intestine. Our test car had a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, "dual chamber" front side airbags, keyless entry, leather-trimmed seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, XM radio dual-zone climate control, heated seats and steering-wheel audio controls. A sunroof and navigation system are available at extra cost.
The Ordinary Feats of an Extraordinary Car, or Vice-Versa
The Camry V6 still has a performance advantage over the Accord V6, but no one buys cars in this class to go racing. And on a feature-for-feature, utility-for-utility basis, the two cars seem to be running in a dead heat.
Over time, the Camry has become a very good Accord, and with this redesign the Accord becomes a very good Camry. Choosing between the two is once again about choosing the right car for you as much as it is choosing the best car.
So the 2008 Honda Accord is yet again the standard — or co-standard — of its class. Only it's a bigger, better class. You know, the class that was once filled with freaking huge Buicks and Oldsmobiles.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
News Editor Kelly Toepke says:
The drive-thru window attendant was the first to ask. He was in his 20s.
"Is that the new Accord? It looks smaller in the photos than the current Accord, and I've been wondering what it looks like in person."
Yes, yes, it is the new Accord, and no, it's not smaller; it's actually bigger, I told him.
And bigger it is. So big in fact that when I picked up my 6-foot-5-inch 300-pound ex-husband for an outing with our daughter this past weekend, he didn't argue when I asked him to get in.
Even with Big Dave in the front seat, the two girls in the back didn't complain about legroom. They went about their usual business of checking the rear center console for cupholders, stowing Polly Pockets in the door bins, and determining if they could reach the door-mounted window switches without unbuckling their booster seats.
After they gave the Accord's interior the thumbs-up as a family vehicle, I gave it a once-over from the driver seat. The stereo and climate control buttons were clearly labeled, and were almost too obvious, as if the switches were under a magnifying glass. But even though they were large and well-marked, it didn't seem as if the controls were taking over the entire cockpit. There was still room for plenty of sporty trim and soft-touch padding.
But the best news is that the Accord's updates aren't limited to comfort and features. Out on the freeway, the Honda's new 268-horsepower 3.5-liter engine was powerful and quiet, and while I never took it off the beaten path around Los Angeles, our performance testing confirms that it's no slouch in the dynamics department either.
There's a reason Honda sells so many Accords, and the new Accord will carry on that tradition.
The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2008 Honda Accord in WA is: