2011 Honda Accord SE Review
MORE: Honda Buyers Guide
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2011 Honda Accord SE Sedan Review
The current, eighth-generation, Honda Accord sedan gets a bit more than merely a mid-product cycle freshening for 2011. Yes, there is the usual exterior and interior minor restyling. Fuel economy is improved and there are more standard features in some trim levels. More importantly, the new SE trim level combines the value-oriented specification of the LX-P with more upscale features like leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel and heated front seats.
Which adds just the right touch of luxury to the practicality for which the Accord is so well known. Why be uncomfortable, but at the same time, why get more than you need?
All of the current Accords are comfortably-equipped, and the 2008 redesign resulted in a car large enough inside to fit into the EPA "large car" class. All have a comprehensive suite of safety equipment, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, EBD, and VSA stability control, functional instrumentation with easily-visible backlit gauges, and oft-overlooked details like speed-sensitive volume control for the audio system. The SE has the same 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat as the EX, and the leather and heat are EX-L (as in "Luxury") fare.
What don't you get with the SE that you would with a more-expensive EX or EX-L? Climate control is single-zone, like the EX, not dual-zone like the EX-L. There's a minijack for an external audio player, not a USB port. No moonroof, and the inside rear-view mirror is not auto-dimming. XM satellite radio and a built-in navigation system are not offered - but both are available from the aftermarket. If the SE isn't "near-luxury", neither is it "no frills".
Oh yes, the SE doesn't have an external thermometer. Hey, sometimes I don't want to know what the temperature is outside! Under the hood, the 2011 Accord SE simplifies drivetrain choice with one offering - the 2.4-liter, 177-horsepower four-cylinder engine matched to a five-speed automatic transmission. Detail refinements this year have improved mileage a bit -- by two mpg in the EPA city test, three highway, and two overall, for 23/34/27 -- and power is more than merely adequate.
As is Honda's way, the Accord SE comes well-equipped, with dealer-installed accessories instead of a long list of factory options. Besides spoilers and covers and cargo organizers, backup sensor and remote-start systems are available.
The 2011 Accord SE that I've driven for the past week had no accessories. None are really needed. It's the practical, economical, and comfortable car that is expected of an Accord, with a pleasantly surprising luxury touch, worthy of consideration by anyone interested in a family sedan.
APPEARANCE: You're excused if you don't immediately notice the changes to the Accord Sedan for 2011. They're not major. The grille has been reshaped and has lost its chrome surround, with only a wide top bar remaining over the thin horizontal slats. The front bumper fascia gets a minor restyling, as does the trunk lid. The car's essence is unchanged, and no criticism there. It's distinctive, with understated presence, and its lines visually reduce its size.
COMFORT: The SE's equipment level is interesting… most of the gizmos and gadgets expected in a leather-equipped car are missing. So's the cost, and add-in nav systems and satellite radio are readily available. A sonar backup warning system is offered in the dealer accessory catalog. And tasteful plastic trim is more honest than "woodgrain" that was maybe wood some time in the Carboniferous Era. Leather is more than a luxury touch; it can last longer than fabric upholstery. And the two-level front seat heaters are appreciated on a cold winter day. Interior changes for the SE are limited to repositioning of the climate controls on the stack for easier driver access. As in all Accords, the steering wheel is adjustable for both tilt and reach and has cruise and auxiliary audio controls. Seat comfort is as good as in some entry-luxury cars, and the SE's driver gets 10-way power seat adjustment. As in other Accords, a locking glovebox highlights interior storage. The rear seat is spacious for two passengers, who get plenty of head, knee, leg, and hip room. The center position is higher, and legs must deal with the center tunnel. A locking ski passthrough hides behind the armrest that does double duty as the center seatback, or the entire seatback may be folded for oversize cargo. The trunk is large enough so that should rarely be necessary.
SAFETY: Commendations to Honda for equipping every new Accord sedan with four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist, traction control, and vehicle stability control. Also included is a tire-pressure monitoring system, and dual-threshold front, dual-chamber front side, and side-curtain air bags. The unibody structure is built with the Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE)(tm) system for improved frontal crash protection against larger or smaller vehicles. It distributes crash energy to more of the Accord's structure than is usual, for better occupant protection.
RIDE AND HANDLING: By today's standards, the Accord is a mainstream family sedan. Which shows just how far the auto industry has come since the mid-1970s when the nameplate first appeared. Long gone are the mushy suspension, poor damping, indifferent handling, and dubious brakes that once defined the class. The Accord sedan is a fine example of what the class has become, featuring good ride compliance and damping from a well-tuned, fully-independent double-wishbone/multilink suspension. strong four-wheel antilock disc brakes, and steering with a proper level of assist and tight turning circle for easy maneuverability.
PERFORMANCE: In the LX, LX-P, and SE, Honda's 2.4-liter twincam alloy 16-valve four-cylinder makes 177 horsepower (at 6500 rpm) and 161 lb-ft of torque (at 4300 rpm), a bit less than the EXes 190 and 162. They have to keep something to the EX… For everyday driving, it's torque that counts, so the difference is minimal. And the i-VTEC variable cam profile and phasing system helps to increase the spread of useful torque and reduce emissions. Hondas used to be notable for a lack of low-end torque; that's a non-issue now. The five-speed automatic is matched well to the engine, and shifts quickly and smoothly. Grade logic control keeps in one (lower) gear as much as possible when climbing or descending hills. There is no separate manual-shift mode in the SE, another non-problem as the torque is strong enough that D is fine and shifting can be done with the console-mounted lever. Reductions to engine internal friction, changes to transmission gear ratios, and aerodynamic revisions help improve fuel efficiency a bit - I averaged 25mpg during my week, not bad for a car as large as the Accord.
CONCLUSIONS: With everything you need (and then some) and nothing you can't live without, the new SE model hits the sweet spot in the 2011 Honda Accord lineup.
2011 Honda Accord SE
Base Price $ 23,730 Price As Tested $ 24,480 Engine Type DOHC aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with i-VTEC® variable valve lift and timing and cam phasing Engine Size 2.4 liters / 144 cu. in. Horsepower 177 @ 6500 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 161 @ 4300 rpm Transmission 5-speed automatic Wheelbase / Length 110.2 in. / 194.9 in. Curb Weight 3301 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 18.6 Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P215/60R16 94H Dunlop SP Sport 7000 m+s Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA, VSA 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 23 / 34 / 25 0 to 60 mph 8.5 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Destination charge $ 750