Technology drives new Honda Accord

Car has features long associated with luxury brands

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The all-new 2008 Honda Accord is bristling with new technology of all sorts to entice both loyal customers and new ones.

There's the variable cylinder management system, in which some cylinders shut down during cruising to maximize fuel economy. There's the new body structure, which maximizes the car's ability to disperse crash energy in a frontal collision. There's the new 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine. And that's just the beginning of the list.

The Accord has an aggressive, forward-looking design that surely will open a lot of eyes with assertive, edgy fastback styling that's quite similar to the envelope-pushing BMW 5 Series. And to push the sense of aggression further, the new Accord has features that once were exclusive to luxury cars.

That could mean that the new Accord will find a wider audience than ever before. Not only will it compete against the Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry, but it also could appeal to plenty of luxury car buyers who will find they can get much the same car for much less money.

As if to drive that point home, the new Accord is now classified as a large car, rather than a midsize, by the Environmental Protection Agency.

That new competitive lay of the land wasn't lost on Honda, either. A guide notes that the new Accord has "premium features (navigation, interface dial, Blutetooth, information display) and overall refinement (solid driving feel) on par with vehicles one and even two classes above the Accord's segment."

Of course, I usually take that hubris with a grain of salt until I drive the car. But Honda is onto something in this case.

A drive in the new Accord showed that the car's big ace in the hole -- fun, European-style handling in contrast to Camry's softer ride -- was very much intact. There was no body lean, no bad behavior. The car practically begged to be driven hard, and even the base 177-horsepower, 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine was plenty spunky, with 14 more horsepower than the same engine in the 2007 model.

In fact, "fun to drive" was one of the components that Honda designers and engineers decided had to be part of the new Accord. The other elements were durability, quality, reliability, safety and value.

I drove the base model Accord LX four-door sedan and found that it felt very much like a European sports model. Inside, there were attractive fabric seats, along with an ultramodern dashboard that separates operation-related instruments on top and information instruments on a lower level.

At night, drivers will notice that the controls are separated by color, with the audio system done in white, and climate control in aqua green. The dials were classically designed, with crisp numerals and contemporary presentation. Everything about the car's design suggests higher quality.

The coupe, on the other hand, is daring in design, particularly for Honda, and represents a complete break from the rather plain, uninteresting coupe designs of Honda's past. This one should compete effectively against the all-new Nissan Altima and Pontiac G6 coupes. Even inside the Accord coupe, there's plenty of room in the front and the back.

The Accord will be available in LX and EX versions, with several sublevels of trim within those two lines. Engine choices include the V-6 automatic with estimated mileage of 19/29 in the sedan, or 16/25 with a six-speed manual; or a 2.4-liter four with 177 or 190 horsepower. Both the four-cylinder engines have mileage estimated at 21/31. Prices will start at around $20,500.


Don Hammonds can be reached at dhammonds@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1538.


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