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2015 Honda Accord EX-L Navi Sedan Review By Carey Russ

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2015 Honda Accord EX-L Navi Review

What's the difference between the upper-level offerings of a middle-class automotive brand and the entry-luxury offerings of the premium brands? Other than the somewhat intangible prestige of the luxury nameplate and a chunk of change, often rather large and in favor of the more plebeian brand, not necessarily much.

Case in point: the four-cylinder version of top of Honda's Accord line. With the navigation package and the destination charge of $ 790 (at the time of this writing), the bottom line on the window sticker is just under $31,000, minus any local taxes, license fees, and all of that. Entry into the premium brands can be similar -- for a much smaller and less-equipped car. Similar size and amenity level is likely to cost thousands, if not tens of thousands, more.

I doubt that there's all that much cross-shopping between cars like the Accord and luxury brands, especially European. And people who want the name will buy the name. My point is that you don't need to pay an extreme premium now to get the technology, features, and gadgets that were available only in the luxury sector not all that long ago. Want or feel you need heated leather seats, a premium audio system supporting all current formats including streaming audio (with an appropriate phone and plan, of course), connectivity, all of the current electronic safety systems including forward collision and lane-departure warnings, multi-view rearview camera, voice-activated navigation, and such? Here it is. Plus Honda's LaneWatch passenger-side rearview camera, which shows the blind-spot view on the passenger side in the screen on the instrument panel when the turn signal stalk is used for a right turn. That last is not available in high-budget European luxury cars.

Since the debut of the current Accord for 2013, changes to the its lineup have been few. Reflecting what actually sells, and an emphasis on fuel economy, most of the range is powered by Honda's latest 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which is the first North American-market powerplant to use direct fuel injection for both increased power and efficiency. The 3.5-liter V6 soldiers on, at the top of the lineup for EX-L and Touring models if you're really looking for a luxury Accord. Since the current generation's debut, both a plug-in and regular hybrid have been introduced, both in premium trim.

The four-cylinder version is the Accord for the masses, and they have responded by buying more Accords than any other car in the midsize middle-class niche. (Fleet sales don't count in that calculation.) As has been the case since model year 2013, choices are LX, sporty Sport (between LX and EX in spec and with a bit more power courtesy a less-restrictive exhaust), value-spec EX, and leather and luxury EX-L. Adding the navigation system to the EX-L makes it "EX-L with Navi". A six-speed manual transmission is standard in all except the EX-L, with the continuously-variable transmission (CVT) standard in the EX-L available as the automatic offering in the others.

This week's Accord EX-L with Navi test car showcases Honda's luxury side. It's smooth, quiet, and comfortable over the road, has plenty of space inside, and even with the four-cylinder engine has enough power to easily deal with all normal traffic situations. With the added bonus of good fuel economy, with a 30-mpg average easily attained. Which is not bad at all for a midsize family sedan.

APPEARANCE: Continuity is good, and the newest Accord is not all that different from its immediate predecessor in looks, even though it is completely different in just about every dimension. Being just a touch smaller, and having more-defined lines, today's Accord looks sportier and less formal. Chrome trim around the sides and bottom of the grille, and on the door handles and around the side windows adds an upscale touch. The rear is more dynamic-looking than in the previous generation.

COMFORT: Compared to the EX, the EX-L adds heatable front seats, leather seating surfaces and steering wheel rim, power adjustment for the front passenger seat in addition to the driver's, an automatically-dimming inside rear-view mirror, and new this year, the HomeLink® remote garage-door system. And an available package of navigation system, traffic and weather info, and a 16-GB hard drive for audio files. The audio system is upgraded from 160 watts with six speakers to 360 watts with an added subwoofer. Build quality and fit and finish as as expected from Honda, top notch. The interior design is conservative, with no attempts to emulate anything other than a functional automobile. The quickest way to tell that this is not a "real" luxury car is that interior trim materials are unapologetically plastic, not aluminum and wood. Big deal… Seat comfort and support are very good, instruments are easily visible with no glare difficulties, and the controls are easy to use. The emphasis on fuel economy shows in the instant mpg gauge set into the speedometer and the Eco Assistâ„¢ display on its periphery, which glows green when driving in the most economical manner. The standard "Intelligent Multi-Information Display" (i-MID) screen at the top of the center stack shows audio and economy information plus views from the backup LaneWatch cameras, and navigation information in cars so outfitted. Audio choices here are AM and FM radio, CD, remote player via a USB port, or Pandora® streaming audio (with a compatible phone and service). There are useful storage spaces around the cabin, including pockets with bottle holders in all four doors. The glovebox locks. Rear passengers get a contoured bench seat with plenty of elbow room and both floor heat and end-of-console HVAC vents. The central tunnel is low enough that the center position is useful, at least for a short time. There is plenty of trunk capacity, and a space-saver spare under its flat floor.

SAFETY: The Honda Accord has received high ratings in both government and private testing. Passive safety is addressed by the "Advanced Compatibility Engineeringâ„¢" 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 Assistâ„¢ and traction control enhance driver control, as do antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA). Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning systems are available on upper trim levels. The LaneWatchâ„¢ system is one of the most useful new safety features around and a Honda exclusive.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Use of lightweight high-strength steel results in a more rigid but lighter structure than the previous Accord. Less weight improves efficiency, and greater rigidity reduces squeaks and rattles. It also means that the suspension does exactly it was designed to do. That suspension is by MacPherson struts in front, not double wishbones as previously. Struts are lighter and simpler, and can do the job just as well. The rear is a multilink system. Ride quality is very good, with a moderately firm tuning for supple comfort and good control. There is no pretense to being a sports sedan, but the Accord is an enjoyable drive.

PERFORMANCE: Direct fuel injection allows a high compression ratio -- here 11:1 -- for maximum efficiency and power. Careful combustion chamber design allows that power to be made on regular, not premium, gasoline. Result? 185 horsepower (at 6400 rpm), and more importantly to daily driving, 181 lb-ft of torque at 3900 rpm and plenty all the way down to just above idle. The wide-ratio CVT further improves both acceleration and economy with a low low ratio for quick acceleration at city traffic and highway merging speeds and a high highest ratio for economical highway cruising. And nothing shifts more smoothly than a transmission that has no discrete shifting at all. Given the Accord's mission in life, the four is far more than "merely adequate" -- I never felt the need for more power, and was quite happy to see 30 mpg on a regular basis even around town and on backroads, with 34 in longer-distance highway driving, at real-world highway speeds.

CONCLUSIONS: Even in premium trim, the Honda Accord combines comfort, economy, and power. No surprise that it's a popular choice in any form.

2015 Honda Accord EX-L Navi

Base Price			$ 30,195
Price As Tested			$ 30,985
Engine Type			DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with direct fuel injection and i-VTEC® valve timing and lift management
Engine Size			2.4 liters / 144 cu. in.
Horsepower			185 @ 6400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			181 @ 3900 rpm
Transmission			CVT
Wheelbase / Length		109.3 in. / 191.4 in.
Curb Weight			3365 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		18.2
Fuel Capacity			17.2 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				215/55R17 94V Goodyear Primacy
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 ABS, EBD, BA standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		27 / 36 / 30
0 to 60 mph				8.3  sec


Destination and handling		$ 790