Text: Jude Morte / Photos: Ramon Sy | posted March 03, 2009 00:00
Swept away and still wanting more
In the same manner, that's how this writer felt the day after returning the 2009 Honda Accord to Honda Cars Philippines Inc.'s headquarters. Knowing that he finally was able to tango with someone - or something (like an executive car, to be exact) - that got him smitten the first time he got to know her in early 2008, but given the only means of admission into her heart (P2.015 million), he'll settle for the fact that she will belong to someone else with the financial capacity and with the capability to treat her right (read: drive it hard, not just ride in it).
It's not hard to imagine why.
When you approach her from any angle, you get the feeling that you've met her before. And perhaps you have. The full side profiles have a beltline and upper area reminiscent of the current model Mercedes Benz C-Class, while the rear quarter panel glass is similar to those on present-day BMW units (the so-called Hofmeister kink). The headlight's flanks (where the headlights meet the beltline) are similar to the wing-tipped designs on the E60 BMW 5-Series. The whole front fascia is one big smile, albeit one with braces due to the look of the lower front grille. The rear is similar to that of the current Toyota Camry, but no way did this writer tell that to her face. Some women just don't take criticism very well, especially when it comes to their derrière.
When you get to know what's makes her tick or what she's all about (read: what's inside), she's simple and straightforward. At first glance the cabin looks complex (particularly the middle dashboard area), but all controls are logically placed and easy to see and reach. For example, you turn on the radio via pushing down on a knob at the lower middle dashboard (below the CD slot), adjust the volume with the said knob, and fiddle with bass/treble/fader/balance inputs via a knob below the volume/on-off knob and the menu button to its right. Aircon controls have a unique approach. You turn on the aircon using the large blower switch at the middle of the center dashboard, and turn it off via an "off" button near the driver's side aircon controls.
When it comes to what's inside, she does have a few quirks. Apparently she's mostly concerned with what's up front, or those in the front. All windows have power-assisted side mirror folding, but only the front windows have one-touch/up-down power-assist. In contrast her Camry arch-rival has all windows equipped with the aforementioned feature. The aircon vents for rear occupants are at the base of the center console, parallel to passengers' lower shins. It would be better if they (the rear aircon vents) were incorporated into the b-pillars.
Then there's the fact that she can be open, but it can be hard to tell what she wishes to convey or keep secret. For example, the rear windshield has a power-assisted folding sunscreen to keep the sun (and onlookers from behind) out, and its button is to the right of the a/t stick. In contrast, the Toyota Camry's power-assisted folding sunscreen button is in the lower middle area of the dashboard. However, the Accord does not have pull down rear side window sunscreens like those on the Camry to increase rear occupants' privacy. Also, the menu screen in the upper middle dashboard is small, and so are its fonts. It's hard to read what's on the menu screen, especially when the sun is directly above the unit. Lastly, the headlight/foglight "on" icons are at the upper rightmost part of the gauge cluster, right above the fuel gauge. It's hard to see them because the steering wheel bisects them at an angle. It's better to place them somewhere between the rev counter and speedometer for the driver's easier reference.
Despite that quirk, she's accommodating. The cabin can fit five average Filipinos comfortably. Put two six footers in front and you still have a fistful-and-a-half of kneeroom and legroom. The storage bin under the head unit is two-tier, and its rubber-lined lower level keeps small items from tumbling out during hard cornering. The trunk can fit two golf bags, but there's no outside trunk hatch release lever; however, there's a trunk hatch release button on the key fob. The center console can fit three paperback books, and has an external MP3 player jack and a 12-volt outlet.
Just because she looks large doesn't mean that she can't hang with you physically. She now totes displacement/horsepower/torque numbers rivaling that of sportscars, which you can access (read: enter the powerband) at a notch above 2750 rpm (2,800-2,900 rpm) and the i-VTEC waking up at a notch above 3,500 rpm. The a/t is willing to downshift at one-half throttle effort, but for best acceleration results, put the a/t stick to the "(S)port" mode and use the paddle shifters since the shift points are much higher. The results are jaw dropping, to say the least - a 219 kph top speed (ECU-governed) and a 9.68-second 0-100 kph acceleration time.
For those who are willing to take her on food trip dates, there could be problems. The Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system - found only on the 3.5L V6 Accord variants - that's supposed to disable one bank of cylinders during specific conditions (for example, highway driving) to save fuel - via a solenoid on either one of the overhead camshafts' followers from their respective rockers, with the valve springs (and the valves) closed, aided by drive-by-wire technology to smooth out power delivery - tends to jerk the cabin slightly when activated, be it at 30 or 120 kph. Toss in a curb weight of 1,650 kg and the result - 7.37 km/l (five days mixed driving) - isn't exactly fuel efficient.
But hey, given her build, bulk (1,650 kg curb weight) and consumption problems, she's surprisingly nimble. There's little body lean, and grip from her Michelin Energy MXV 8 225/50R17 shoes hold up to 110 kph sans traction control. The sharp steering feedback - to this writer - is better than the Camry and rivals that of the current Subaru Legacy and Audi A4. On sweeping turns and corners with frequent change of camber the feedback is blunt, but the feedback becomes tactile on level ground bends. The ride is generally comfortable, but tends to be a bit stiff on deep potholes and tall humps/speed bumps (especially at the rear). Speaking of tall humps, one must take extreme caution (read: slow down to at most 10 kph) when approaching dips with 20 degrees or lower, as the front bumper's chin sits low and a cavalier approach to the said road hazards might give a whole new meaning to the Accord "taking it on the chin." The good news is that the brakes have good grip, biting hard when you need it. One niggling problem - hard braking causes the whole car to wiggle and vibrate. However, the handbrake just needs a five-degree pull on the handlebar for passable bite.
Overall the new Accord's occupant friendly ergonomics, bold exterior design and eye-popping performance make it the perfect broom to sweep away the boardroom bigshot in fantasies of tarmac and trip tango. To those that have the monetary means to bring her home and make her meet your folks, salutations are in order, as the union of Accord and driver/owner will be very rewarding. But for ordinary folk (like this writer) who's still trying to swing for the fences every time - and crashing/burning more often than not - a brief dalliance with a(n executive sedan) stunner got him swept away and still wanting more.