2007 Honda Accord EX-L Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Honda Accord EX-L (shown)
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Honda

2006/7 Honda Accord EX-L V6 6-speed

There comes a time in life when youth's carefree pleasures are supposed to be put away for adult responsibilities, when, for instance, in an automotive vein, the ratty old well-used sports car of one's college years should be traded in on a good, grown-up midsize sedan.

That's not necessarily all doom and gloom if the midsize sedan in question is a Honda Accord V6 with a six-speed manual transmission. It offers the interior and trunk space and practicality expected of a mid-size sedan - no surprise as the Accord has been one of the most popular cars in that most popular class for years. Its near-luxury level of comfort is also unsurprising, given the EX trim level's premium status in the Accord lineup. A jewel-like engine with plenty of power and reasonable fuel economy, matched to a slick-shifting gearbox is also standard Honda fare, as is a supple but well-controlled suspension. But the result is almost more than the sum of the (very good) parts, as the Accord EX 6-speed sedan is both pleasant and quick, nimble yet comfortable, and great fun while being eminently practical.

That's all very unsurprising as the seventh-generation Accord, introduced for the 2003 model year, was benchmarked not against the ``usual suspects'' in the middle-class mid-size category, but against European entry- and mid-luxury sedans. Interestingly, during the week I had the EX 6-speed, I attended a press introduction of a premium luxury sedan with a base price about twice that of a fully-equipped Accord, and spent a day driving that car. Driving home, the Accord was not appreciably less comfortable than the luxury car, and only a little less quiet. With its lovely drivetrain and suspension, the Accord EX 6-speed was both enjoyable and rewarding to drive.

My test car was a 2006 model, and the entire Accord line received its most significant revisions since the 2003 for 2006. Besides the new 6-speed EX V6 sedan, all sedans and copes had an exterior freshening highlighted by LED tail- and stop-lights and new wheels. Both the 2.4-liter four-cylinder and 3.0-liter V6 engines revised to produce a little more power, and V6 models got minor suspension revisions and standard Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and Brake Assist systems. Enhancements were also made to reduce interior noise levels and increase safety. There were also new color choices and revisions to trim levels. Early reports indicate that changes for 2007 will be relatively minor.

APPEARANCE: The changes to the seventh-generation Accord will be most noticeable at night, when the multiple LEDs in the taillights and center high-mounted stop light (CHMSL) are readily apparent. The CHMSL has been moved from the rear window to the rear edge of the trunk, where it acts as a small spoiler. The rear fenders are changed slightly from earlier models, as has the grille and front bumper. None of the changes are particularly major, and the car is instantly recognizable as a Honda Accord.

COMFORT: In SE trim, the Accord's interior design, leather upholstery, and available navigation system (fitted to my test car) give it an upscale specification. Enhancements to soundproofing further improve the ambiance, and the 6-speed model's ``carbon fiber-look'' trim around the window lifts on the doors and on the instrument panel and console give it an appropriately sporty look. Details make the difference, and details like interior door panels scooped to further improve elbow room are welcome. Bright, back-lit instruments are easy to see in all light, and heated, power-adjustable seats and a steering wheel manually-adjustable for both tilt and reach allow all drivers to find a perfect driving position, and a tilt-and-slide glass sunroof adds light. There are plenty of useful interior storage spaces, including a dual-layer console box/armrest with a power point in the lower section and a cord passthrough to the top for phone charging and a very useful storage box at the bottom of the center stack. All doors have storage pockets with bottle holders. The SE trim level is already comprehensively equipped, with the navigation system the only major factory option. It also controls audio and, partially, the climate system, although the temperature controls are separate marked buttons. It's a touch-screen system with a simple, intuitive interface and voice control. Rear seat passengers have plenty of head and leg room, although, interestingly, there is no central headrest. The trunk is huge, with a locking ski passthough.

SAFETY: All Honda Accords have dual-stage front airbags, front side airbags with a passenger-side occupant detection system, side curtain airbags, daytime running lights, and antilock brakes, which, in the SE, are four-wheel discs. All V6 models now have standard Vehicle Stability Assist. The Accord has a five-star frontal impact rating from the U.S. Government and a ``Best Pick'' rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

RIDE AND HANDLING: I noted back when I last tested an Accord, a 2003 LX V6 sedan, that the suspension geometry and spring and shock rates had been designed and tuned to take maximum advantage of the car's rigid structure, and provided a fine balance between comfort and handling. To improve on that, all 2006 V6 models have gotten changes to their suspension bushings and shock damping rates, to work better with their new 17-inch wheels and lower-profile 50-series tires. The result is slightly crisper steering response, from the lower-profile tires, and a very good balance between ride comfort and cornering ability. It's not at all firm, more ``sporty'' than serious ``sports'', with a feel that is very European.

PERFORMANCE: Improvements to intake and exhaust airflow have enabled Honda to find a few more horsepower in both Accord engines. The silky-smooth 3.0-liter single overhead camshaft, 24-valve V6 is up four horsepower, for 244 at 6250 rpm, with maximum torque 211 lb-ft at 5000 rpm. Honda's VTEC variable valve lift and timing system ensures optimum performance at all engine speeds, and there is a very healthy midrange surge of torque that is best taken advantage of by the six-speed gearbox. Clutch action is light, and shift action smooth and quick. Like all Honda engines, it likes to rev, but it is also comfortable dawdling along economically at lower engine speeds in a higher gear. Drive it like a sports car for fun, or a family sedan for fuel economy. Speaking of economy, I averaged 23 mpg in a mix of city, country, and highway driving with a moderately heavy foot.

CONCLUSIONS: Attention to detail has improved the Honda Accord V6 sedan.

SPECIFICATIONS
2006/7 Honda Accord EX V6 6-speed Base Price $ 29,400 (07 w/nav system)
Price As Tested $ 29,995
Engine Type aluminum alloy single overhead cam
24-valve V6
Engine Size 3.0 liters / 180 cu. in.
Horsepower 244 @ 6250 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 211 @ 5000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length 105.1 in. / 187.8 in.
Curb Weight 3303 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 13.5
Fuel Capacity 17.1 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires P215/50 VR17 Michelin XSE
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone / independent multilink
Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 21 / 30 / 23
0 to 60 mph est 6.5 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Destination $ 595

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