2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
"I was prepared to be bored...Not even close. WOWEE!"
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
• SEE ALSO: Honda Buyers Guide
Honda has been building gasoline-electric hybrids since the debut of the first Insight in 1999. Honda's "Integrated Motor Assist" (IMA) hybrid system was, compared to arch rival Toyota's, simple. A thin electric motor mounted between the engine and transmission did triple duty. It was the gasoline engine's starter motor. It was activated for traction power when a boost was needed, and, running in generator mode, it recharged the battery pack when braking. Think electric turbocharger -- but with the added benefit of regenerative braking. Early versions of the IMA system were "light hybrids", never operating in fully-electric mode. Not until the second-generation Insight of model year 2010 did the system operate in EV mode, and even then Honda didn't widely advertise the fact.
Which perhaps lost them some points with the green crowd. Honda's newest hybrid system, as in the 2014 Accord Hybrid, works in EV mode just fine, and, depending on throttle position, battery charge, and terrain, does so at nearly all speeds. The "Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive" (i-MMD) system is the next step after IMA, with some typically Honda innovative and efficient engineering. Most of the time, the gasoline engine -- a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder -- powers a generator, which provides electricity to both charge the lithium-ion battery pack and run the traction motor, which powers the wheels. Regenerative braking provides further battery pack charging. Under a light load, as in steady-speed cruising on level ground on surface streets or the highway, the engine shuts off and is disconnected from the drivetrain, and the car operated in EV (electric vehicle) mode. At higher speeds or going up hills at speed, the generator motor and traction motor are deactivated and motive power comes solely from the gasoline engine. Changes between modes are nearly imperceptible, and best noted by the information displays on the instrument panel.
Watch the Accord Hybrid promo video with Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive
It provides smooth power, and except under heavy-throttle acceleration is remarkably quiet. It's also remarkably efficient, as I discovered during my week with a top of the line Hybrid Touring model. In equipment, other than the i-MMD drivetrain, it is analogous to the regular Accord Touring. Which means fully-equipped and as close as you get to a luxury car with the Honda badge. Lower on the standard equipment scale, but with the same power and economy are the Hybrid -- think Accord EX -- and Hybrid EX-L.
Fuel economy is a leading reason to spend the extra dollars -- around $2500 in this case -- for a hybrid. EPA estimates are 50 mpg city and 45 highway. My average was "merely" 38. Which is not bad at all for a 3600-pound sedan, and illustrates the differences between EPA tests and the real world very well. I did see over 50 mpg in city driving, when low acceleration rates and level ground meant much time in EV mode. I also saw 28 mpg in city driving, steep hills and quick acceleration necessary. The best I saw on the highway was 42 mpg. Not far off the advertised 45, and at an average speed considerably higher than the 50 mph of the EPA tests. Highway mileage was usually in the mid- to upper 30s, again not bad for a sedan of this size. Add the quickness -- 0 to 60 just over seven seconds, so no worries merging into fast traffic (but watch your mileage drop precipitously when doing that) -- and the smooth power delivery and quiet interior and the Honda Accord Hybrid can hold its own with many a luxury car and beat it at the pump.
APPEARANCE: Differences between a Hybrid and a regular Accord are subtle but visible. Badging on the fenders ahead of the front doors and at the rear and blue-accented chrome in the grille and around the headlights are the hints. Other than that, it's a current Accord, a conservatively handsome sedan that doesn't attempt to be anything but an honest sedan. Which is a rarity today, so congratulations to Honda on that.
COMFORT: Inside as well, the Hybrid is little different from a regular Accord Touring. Which means leather seating, power-adjustable and heated in front, upgraded audio system with all current input modes including Bluetooth streaming and hard disc space for music, a power moonroof, voice recognition, satellite navigation, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, a backup camera, and the LaneWatch™ right-side monitoring system, which uses a small video camera integrated into that outside mirror to activate a display in the central "Intelligent Multi-Information Display" (i-MID) screen when the right turn signal is used. The Eco Assist™ display around the instruments glows green when you drive in the greenest manner.
The Hybrid's instrument display does differ from that of the regular Accord in that there is no tachometer, as the engine is not under direct driver control. The central speedometer encompasses a central information display with an eco-driving coach and power-flow monitor most useful, and is flanked by a power generation/consumption graph on the left and battery and fuel level gauges on the right.
Front seat comfort is very good. The contoured outboard rear positions are also comfortable, with the flat center section more of a short-term position as in most cars. There is a central armrest but the battery and controller position behind the rear seat means no folding seatback and reduced trunk space. It also means no spare tire, just a seal and inflate kit.
SAFETY: Passive safety is addressed by the "Advanced Compatibility Engineering™" unibody structure designed and constructed to control crash energy and protect passengers. The usual front, front-seat side, and full-length side-curtain airbags and side-impact door beams offer further protection. Vehicle Stability Assist™ and traction control enhance driver control, as do antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA), enhanced in the Hybrid models by regenerative braking and electronic control. Touring means Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning systems.
RIDE AND HANDLING: If you think hybrids are boring and no fun to drive, you need to drive this car. While it uses the same fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension design as regular Accords, the Hybrid gets amplitude reactive shock dampers, with twin internal damping systems to correctly deal with both smooth and bumpy, potholed road surfaces. Surprisingly, it's all mechanical/hydraulic, not electronic. Larger anti-roll bard mean flat cornering, and this is a car that deals with twisting, hilly roads with pleasure. The electrically-assisted steering requires a moderate touch, and is not too numb. Brake performance is excellent, with the four-wheel discs supplemented by regenerative braking. The brake system is electronically-controlled, and the "B" shift position activates a higher level of regenerative braking when descending long grades. Recharge that battery as you slow! And save brake pads, too.
PERFORMANCE: The i-MMD system combines a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder Atkinson cycle gasoline engine (141 hp at 6200 rpm and 122 lb-ft of torque between 3500 and 6000 rpm) with a permanent-magnet synchronous AC traction motor (226 lb-ft between 0 and 3857 rpm, 166 hp between 3857 and 8000 rpm). Maximum combined horsepower is 196, torque not specified. As explained, the engine usually drives a generator, which then powers the traction motor. An electric motor makes maximum torque as soon as it spins -- so if you miss the low-end torque of the muscle car era, EVs will not necessarily be bad. At speeds where the motor's torque starts to fade, the engine comes into its own, and the motor is then de-clutched while the engine is clutched into the system. Under low-load, steady-speed cruising or gentle acceleration, the engine is turned off and the battery supplies power to the traction motor. It's all computer controlled, and there is no transmission as such. What Honda calls the "e-CVT" is not a pulley-type continuously-variable transmission but its term for a system of clutches that route torque from the different sources to the (front) drive wheels and the electronic controls that make it work.
And it works very well. Acceleration to highway speeds is much more than adequate, and very smooth. Acceleration at highway speeds is no problem, either -- it does not "run out of breath" at 70 mph or so (which is life in the slow lane in these parts). Fuel economy varies with driving style and traffic conditions, but at worst is still better than the four-cylinder Accord and far better than the V6. At best, it's exemplary.
CONCLUSIONS: Honda's innovative Accord Hybrid boasts yet another take on the combination of fossil fuel and electricity for efficient transportation -- with no loss of enjoyment.
2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Base Price: $ 34,905
Price As Tested: $ 35,695
Engine Type DOHC: 16-valve aluminum alloy 4-cylinder Atkinson-cycle with i-VTEC variable cam phasing and lift
Engine Size: 2.0 liters / 122 cu. in.
Horsepower: 141 @ 6200 rpm
Torque: (lb-ft) 122 @ 3500-6000 rpm
Electric Traction Motor AC Synchronous permanent magnet
Horsepower: 166 @ 3857 - 8000 rpm
Torque: (lb-ft) 226 @ 0 - 3857 rpm
Total System Horsepower: 196
Transmission: "e-CVT" multiple drive modes
Wheelbase/Length: 1093 in./192.2 in.
Curb Weight: 3602 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower: 18.4
Fuel Capacity: 15.8 gal.
Fuel Requirement: 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires P225/50R17 94V Michelin Energy A/S
Brakes (front/rear): vented disc/solid disc, ABS
Suspension (front/rear): independent MacPherson strut/independent multilink
Drivetrain: transverse front engine and motor, front-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed
50 / 45 / 38
0 to 60 mph: 7.3 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Destination Charge: $ 790