SEE ALSO: Honda Buyer's Guide
The all-new 1998 Honda Accord is a good-news, bad-news car. The good news is for customers looking for a mid-sized family sedan. The bad news is for Honda's competition.
The '98 Accord has raised the bar for its class. The sixth- generation 1998 Honda Accord is the most changed of any in the brand's 22-year history. Sedan and coupe models have more interior space, enhanced safety and security features, more powerful yet more efficient engines, improvements in ride quality and handling, and a higher level of standard features. For the first time, sedans fit into the EPA "mid-sized" category, the heart of the American automotive marketplace. The growth has been mostly in the interior, as the new sedan is minimally longer and wider, and two inches higher. The exterior styling is completely new. Only the model designations carry over. The cars are very different, and the wagon is gone.
To say that there is a strong difference between the sedan and coupe models is understatement, as only the headlights are shared. Because they are so different, I will concentrate on the Accord sedan this week, and review the coupe at a later date. Both are engineered for the American market, and built in Marysville, Ohio.
Both sedan and coupe models have a new, more rigid chassis for improved ride and handling and lower noise levels. The sedans are offered the familiar trim levels -- 4-cylinder DX, LX, and EX, plus LX and EX V6 models. Engines for all are new, and upscale ones use Honda's patented VTEC variable valve timing system. The 2.3-liter 4- cylinder comes in 135-horsepower normal or 150-horse VTEC form. The 3.0-liter VTEC V6 makes a healthy 200 horsepower. All 4- cylinder Accords have the choice of a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic with the Grade Logic shift control system. V6 models are only available with the automatic.
The mid-level LX model is expected to be the best-seller, and so I arranged to get an LX V6 as a test car. It was impeccably-finished, well-equipped in standard form (only the floormats were optional), roomy, quiet, and powerful. In other words, it was your basic Honda in a convenient American size.
APPEARANCE: Despite the very different new styling, the 1998 Accord sedan is recognizable as a Honda. It is more defined than the previous model. The gently-rounded edges of the old Accord have been replaced by crisp boundaries, with a more pronounced character line on the sides. Although the basic size is the same, a two-inch increase in height and lower cowl give the new sedan a lower beltline and more glass area. The new grille is larger and simpler, with a single horizontal bar supporting the Honda logo. The windshield is noticeably more raked than the backlight, giving a formal look. A distinctive full- width taillight applique graces the rear. The new Honda Accord sedan is a well-integrated and very tasteful design.
COMFORT: Nearly all interior dimensions have increased in this year's Accord sedan. It has plenty of room for four real people, and a fifth passenger will fit comfortably in the center rear position. The LX trim level lacks the EX's moonroof, and so has more headroom. The LX is solidly middle-class in appointment. It's honest, well-executed, and comfortable. Bells and whistles like leather seating, woodgrain trim, remote entry, and gadgets galore may be missing, but all of the expected comfort and convenience features are standard equipment. Power windows, driver's seat, door locks, and mirrors, air conditioning, and an AM/FM/cassette audio system are all included. The interior design is bright and airy, with very good placement of controls and switches and plenty of large, convenient storage spaces. Even the rear seat passengers get door pockets. The rear seat has a folding armrest with cupholders and a ski passthrough. Or, the center section may be folded. The trunk is larger than before, and has a large, low liftover opening.
SAFETY: All 1998 Honda Accords meet or exceed worldwide safety regulations. They have dual airbags, an engine immobilizer system, 5- mph bumpers, and 3-point safety belts for all occupants. ROADABILITY: A more rigid unibody chassis structure, with an improved version of Honda's 4-wheel independent double wishbone suspension system helps make the '98 Accord very quiet. It feels, and is, solid. The ride is compliant and comfortable, with agile handling as well. The steering is weighted well. The new Accord is not a sports sedan, but comes close. It is an amazingly competent car.
PERFORMANCE: The engine in 1998 Accord LX and EX V6 models is of the same single-overhead cam, 24-valve aluminum alloy design as the old V6. But, at 3.0 liters instead of 2.7, it is larger and more powerful, with 200 horsepower versus the previous 170. Use of the VTEC variable valve lift and timing system enables it to make more power over a wider engine speed range while using less fuel. Unlike some competitors, it sips regular unleaded, not expensive premium. The Accord V6 sedan is very quick, with plenty of seamless, useable power for all situations. Its new 4-speed direct-control automatic transmission shifts smoothly, quickly, and quietly. It's the best Honda automatic yet.
CONCLUSIONS: The Honda Accord has the performance and refinement of a near-luxury car and the honest trappings and affordability of a mainstream family sedan.
SPECIFICATIONS Base Price $ 21,550 Price As Tested $ 22,035 Engine Type single overhead cam 24-valve V6 with VTEC variable valve timing and lift Engine Size 3.0 liters / 183 cu. in. Horsepower 200 @ 5500 Torque (lb-ft) 195 @ 4700 Transmission 4-speed electronically- controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 106.9 in. / 188.8 in. Curb Weight 3241 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 16.2 Fuel Capacity 17.1 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular, 87 octane Tires P205/65 R15 92V Bridgestone Turanza Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone, coil springs / independent multilink double wishbone, coil springs Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 21 / 28 / 24 0 to 60 mph 7.8 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 16.1 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Floormats $ 90 Destination Charge $ 395