I'll just say it: the executive car class (or D-segment) is gradually fading away.
This class of car, once the mainstay of the Metro's central business districts and gated communities, has seen its position in the market dwindle over the last decade, as what was the logical upgrade from a compact car has been supplanted by the popularity of crossovers and SUVs. It makes sense given the attractive pricing, the versatility, and high groud clearances that prevent SUVs from getting stuck on our unpredictable roads, something that's useful this rainy season.
But despite the declining sales of executive cars, Honda is still at it, and at it well. They just released an updated version of the Accord and, dare I say, it just breathed some renewed life into the segment.
I've always liked the Accord; the last couple of generations of Honda's executive/mid-size sedan not only offered good looks and a more premium interiors, but they drove very well. That last one, they can attribute to a good range of VTEC (and later, i-VTEC) motors and some good handling characteristics. This generation of the Accord is the thirteenth in the history of the nameplate; a history that spans exactly 40 years. Now Honda has the updated version, we'll see if it really is better the second time around.
For starters, they refined the look. I say refined because they didn't change a lot of things, but the ones Honda did update gave the Accord a much more striking design. Yes the body is the same but the wheels are new, the grille is new, the front bumper is new and the garnish on the trunklid is new. What was most apparent was that Honda reached into their parts bin and put light emitting diodes on everything because the headlamps, taillamps, running lamps, and foglamps all done in LED. Dare we say, whoever headed the update on the new Honda Accord really went full LED Zeppelin.
Okay that pun was pretty bad, but the Accord's new look does have a very distinguished arrival factor, and with an interior to match. The dash is black with dark wood panels, piano black trim and silver accents. The leather used on the steering wheel, shift knob, door inserts, and seats are all black. Even all the plastics are black. Yes, whoever led the design of the cabin must have been a Rolling Stones fan because, well, Paint it Black.
Rock history aside, I must admit that the Accord's cabin is my new favorite place to be in; especially in traffic. I don't mind sitting in front behind the wheel as anything I can lay my hands on has a very high quality feel about it. There are three screens for the driver, the first being the multi-info LCD on the gauge cluster followed by the large LCD on top of the dashboard that displays most (if not all) of the vehicle's functions like the climate control settings, among others.
But the real update was with the multi-media system at the center of the dash. iPhone fans will enjoy this new system, as it features Apple Carplay connectivity when you plug in your phone via USB. Yes, you can control your Spotify playlist straight from the head unit. This Accord also gets satellite navigation as well; it's unusual in the age of Waze, but we can't exactly rely on our mobile data that well. Yet.
The Accord was certainly upgraded to appeal to the techie in you, but its still an executive car through and through. Pop open that massive rear door and you're invited in by a very comfortable back seat. There's plenty of legroom back here, along with a pair of pull-up privacy shades on the windows and a motorized rear sunshade, meaning you can stretch out and relax with plenty of privacy; perfect if you don't like rockstar and paparazzi levels of attention.
As before, there's a VTEC motor serving as the heart of the Accord. This version we're driving isn't the SV with the 3.5-liter V6; instead it's the variant that gets the 2.4-liter, four-cylinder i-VTEC engine. With dual overhead cams, 16 valves and the Earth Dreams fuel saving technology (that Honda has banked their future on), this Accord has a decent amount of power and torque at the right foot's disposal, rated at 175 PS and 226 Nm respectively. Instead of a 6-speed gearbox, this one has a 5-speed automatic.
As a city drive, the Accord really excels. It's a fairly large car for our urban streets so you will have to be mindful of the streets you pick to drive them around in. What I really enjoyed in the Accord is the way the loud, ambient noises of our streets are easily suppressed by the cabin that envelops you.
On the highway the ride quality isn't something I would characterize as extremely plush, as the suspension has a balance that biases towards comfort without sacrificing control. As expected, the fuel economy wasn't all too stellar in the city; 5.9 km/l with moderate to heavy traffic (18 km/h average). Highway economy is better of course, as the Accord with its 5-speed auto able to cruise at 13.5 km/l with Econ mode on at an 89 km/h average speed. But really, fuel economy probably isn't all that high up on the list of needs in the executive car class.
For its size, weight and level of comfort, the Accord drives surprisingly well. While our yardstick for handling in the segment is still the Mazda6 given its light weight and stiff chassis, the Honda is still my pick when it comes to great all-around comfort and luxury, along with a very controllable drive. It's a heavy car and you can feel it in the corners, but the way the dynamic characteristics were tuned was very precise, enabling the driver to have the confidence even on a tricky mountain course.
Still, in a market such as ours, mountain pass driving will probably not be on the to-do lists of the target demographic of the Accord customer, not to mention the rest of the D-segment. It's a more specific clientele, one that appreciates Engelbert Humperdinck instead of the Foo Fighters, reads newspapers instead of using Flipboard, and still uses CDs instead of Bluetooth streaming. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but it could be the reason why the sales of executive cars are declining.
Honda did a great job updating the Accord 2.4S, a mid-cycle refresh that widens its relevance to the younger executive as much as it appeals to the needs of the chairman of the board. And the price is good too; PhP 1,788,000 for the 2.4S, though this White Orchid Pearl version costs an extra PhP 20,000. But there's a bit of a rub.
Good as the 2016 Honda Accord is, we can't expect big sales numbers. Yes the Accord stands tall amidst the competition, but the class itself is facing too much competition from the crossovers, the PPVs, the SUVs, and the new, more affordable models from the luxury car brands.
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