2008 Honda Accord EX Sedan Review
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2008 Honda Accord EX Sedan
A major reason for the Honda Accord's success has been its fit with the needs and desires of family car buyers. When it first appeared in 1976, the Honda Accord was a larger version of the Civic hatchback, but "large" was only in comparison to the then-subcompact Civic. The Accord was still small and economical, and so perfect for that time of escalating fuel prices. And byproducts of its small size included good, almost sporty handling and a fun-to-drive demeanor.
That was 32 years ago. In the intervening time, the Accord has grown into a sedan, with coupe variations as well. It continued to grow in size, comfort, and refinement while also usually being the sportiest of the cars at the heart of the midsize sedan class.
And the eighth-generation Accord, all-new for 2008, is no different. The sedan is a few inches larger than the previous-generation car in nearly every dimension, although its styling neatly hides that. With 106 cubic feet of interior space, it boasts the largest interior in the import-brand middle-class midsize class. That's a gain of over three cubic feet - enough, technically, for it to now be in the EPA "large car" class. The coupe, while also larger, still fits into the "compact" category.
Chassis and engine have been upgraded in accordance, so to speak. A new unibody structure improves both frame rigidity and passenger safety. Perimeter frame rail stampings placed above, instead of beneath, the floor not only adds headroom, the resulting flatter, smoother undertray reduces aerodynamic drag and ever so slightly improves gas mileage. Engine position and new suspension geometry decrease body roll and improve handling, which is further enhanced by revised suspension geometry and calibration. The 2.4-liter four cylinder engine comes in two states of tune, with either 177 or 190 horsepower - somewhat more than lat year's 160. With 268 horsepower on tap, the 3.5-liter V6 bests the 1.6-liter four of a 1976 Accord by an even 200. It's the most powerful engine ever offered in a street-legal Honda. Safety equipment is comprehensive, with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, a full complement of airbags, and vehicle stability control standard on all models.
The model lineup is simpler than in some past years, with LX and LX-P (for premium) with four cylinders and EX and EX-L (luxury) with both four and V6 engines. Comfort, convenience, and yes, luxury levels increase from LX through EX-L, with EX-L models getting such entry-luxury touches as leather seats, dual-zone climate control, upgraded audio systems, and more. LX four-cylinder models have the 177-hp engine, while EXes get the 190.
An EX four-cylinder has been my test car for the past week, and it truthfully was all the car I ever needed. Hey, that 190 horsepower was nearly as much as the 200 made by a 1997 Accord's 3.0-liter V6. Interior space was never a problem, back seat passengers were happy, and even with the automatic transmission it was an enjoyable car to drive. The Accord has been one of the top five best-selling sedans in the country for the past couple of decades, and the newest example shows why. In one of the trim levels, it has all anyone really needs in a sedan, with most of what people want is available. It's not only practical and comfortable, it's fun to drive, and is the sort of car to which people can form an emotional attachment. Despite its appliance-like nature (in the best meaning of that term) it's much more than a mere transportation appliance. It's an Accord.
APPEARANCE: Honda's car designers should go into fashion design. The new Accord sedan is larger and heavier than its predecessor, but looks smaller and lighter. Credit its lower stance, thinner roof line and roof pillars - especially the rear C-pillars, and good attention to detail. The body's gently-rounded contours are offset by the angular, chrome-trimmed grille and parallelogram-shaped headlights in front, sharp, straight character lines on the side that rise toward the rear and accentuate the car's wedge-shaped profile, and its high, squared-off tail. A crease on each lower side gives an understated aero-kit look, sporty but not overbearing. LX models have 16-inch steel wheels with full covers, while EXes have alloy seventeens with lower-profile tires. Both fill the wheelarches nicely.
COMFORT: Inside, the new Accord sedan is functional and stylish. Form does not overpower function. At the EX four-cylinder level, materials are high-grade synthetic, but variety in material, color, and texture keeps the design interesting without being too busy. The front seats provide the comfort and support that was once the province of the entry-luxury class, and the driver's seat is completely power-adjustable, not just partially as in some competitors. The steering wheel has cruise and auxiliary audio controls. Its rim, and the shift knob, may be textured molded plastic, but the wheel is adjustable for both tilt and reach. The instrument panel has a stylish twin-cockpit design, with the rounded center placed nearer to the front passengers. Instrumentation is complete and easily visible, and all controls are well-marked and easy to use. Nighttime illumination adds convenience. Climate and audio system controls are in the center of the dash, easily reached by either front passenger. Use is intuitive, and the audio system has AM and FM radio and a 6-CD changer that can also play MP3 and WMA CDs. External music players are accommodated by a jack (and power point for a charger) in the console box. A locking glovebox highlights interior storage. The rear seat, as is customary in contemporary sedans, is best 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: Honda is to be commended for equipping every new Accord sedan, even the LX, 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: Once upon a time, "middle class midsize sedan" meant soft, mushy suspension, indifferent handling, and suspect brakes. I wouldn't give the Accord complete credit for banishing such, but it deserves at least some. In EX trim, it has no pretense to sport ability, but a lower center of gravity and a fully-independent double-wishbone front / multilink rear suspension with revised geometry to reduce body roll and well-matched, moderately firm springs and shocks give it both good ride comfort and nimble handling. The steering is precise. And remember, good handling and steering response are also safety features, as they allow a competent driver to avoid trouble.
PERFORMANCE: In EX four-cylinder trim, the Accord's 2.4-liter twincam 16-valve engine makes 190 horsepower (at 7000 rpm) and 162 lb-ft of torque (at 4400 rpm). i-VTEC variable cam-profile and intake cam phasing on the intake cam produces a wider spread of power, so low-rpm performance is very good. Although a five-speed manual transmission is available, and would be desirable to get the best performance from the engine, the five-speed automatic as fitted to my test car will be the most common. It's a good match, with quick, smooth shifting and electronic control that keeps the car in one (lower) gear as much as possible when climbing or descending hills. The torque curve is broad enough that twisting, hilly roads present no challenge to the car, and it works just fine in D. Which is good, as there is no manual mode, although it can be shifted manually. Don't bother, it's not really necessary. The low-emissions variant in the LX keeps one of the two intake valves in each cylinder closed in low-rpm operation to reduce emissions.
CONCLUSIONS: The new Accord in four-cylinder mid-level EX trim? Nothing fancy, nothing lacking. It's just a good, honest car that combines practicality and panache.
2008 Honda Accord EX
Base Price $ 23,860 (with automatic) Price As Tested $ 24,495 Engine Type dual overhead cam aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with i-VTEC¨ variable cam lift, timing, and phasing Engine Size 2.4 liters / 144 cu. in. Horsepower 190 @ 7000 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 162 @ 4400 rpm Transmission 5-speed automatic Wheelbase / Length 110.2 in. / 194.1 in. Curb Weight 3408 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 17.9 Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal. Fuel Requirement 87-octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P225/50 R17 93V Michelin Pilot HX mxm4 Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, BA, VSC 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 / 31 / 24 0 to 60 mph 8.3 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Destination charge $ 635