I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Accord.
When I was looking for my first car as a college kid, I found myself browsing several issues of Car Finder. Yeah, I couldn't afford a new car so the pickings were fairly slim, and second hand. That was really when I realized the Accord was in reach. Executive cars like it generally didn't really sell at close to their asking price, so it wasn't uncommon at the time to find a mid-90's Accord for EK Civic money, on rare occasions even less. But I digress.
We're looking at the latest generation of the Honda Accord, the tenth overall. But what we want to find out from this preview is whether the Accord still has the will to be a beacon for the executive saloon class.
If there's one term we can easily overuse with this quick drive of the Accord, it's the word: new.
The skin is new; it's no facelift, and nor does it share much in terms of styling with the outgoing model. The profile is also new; this Accord is not so much of a 3-box sedan, as the silhouette is more of a fastback with the sloping roof. If anything, it's reminiscent of an enlarged Civic, complete with the unusual unibrow grille.
The platform is likewise new. Almost a third of the unibody is made of ultra high strength steel (UHSS), and that means they can use less material for less weight. Honda used quite a bit of aluminum as major components for the suspension system.
The spec sheet reads like a litany of new things. New features, new engine, new transmission, new this, new that, new everything. They even came up with a new term for something on the roof: laser brazing. Honestly, I don't know what it even means. Maybe if we encounter a Honda designer, we'll ask just to clarify.
The interesting thing about the 2020 Accord is that you only have to worry about getting to know one version of it. Unlike before, Honda won't be confusing you with a variety of engines, trims, or badges on the Accord. This time they'll stick to one, but the problem is its name:
The All-New Honda Accord EL Turbo CVT Honda Sensing
Yes, the name may seem a bit silly, especially since Honda is in there... twice. It can even be longer if we put in VTEC or Earth Dreams in there somewhere.
Make no mistake about it though, this All-New Honda Accord EL Turbo CVT Honda Sensing does mean business and wants to prove itself as not only worthy of the name but worthy of the nameplate's heritage. And that's probably why the spec sheet of standard equipment is long and impressive.
Power everything, leather everything, and safety everything, including Honda Sensing: a suite of seven advanced safety features of Honda that give the Accord a certain degree of autonomous drive. If you want to see how that works, check out the video we made.
The Accord class has always been a bit on the conservative side of things. Cars in this category typically had shiny things on the inside like glossy faux wood trim, polished metal, and a general orientation to generate a comfortable back seat; typical customers, after all, tend to prefer being driven, not driving.
With the tenth generation Accord, Honda is either (A) targeting a younger set of successful executives or (B) asking their current customers to roll up their sleeves and drive.
For starters, the materials inside do not speak of classic luxury like the predecessor; a car that was more reminiscent of an E-Class. Instead, they're of the matte and satin variety, which we like. The curves and lines aren't classic either; Honda's interior designers clearly had a bit more liberties when they were working on the Accord.
The back seat was also telling of this change in perspective. Yes, there's a great degree of legroom and you can cross your legs, but pretty much a spacious seat. It's comfortable, and there are pull-up sunshades on the side windows for privacy, but there's not much else to write about.
So yes, Honda wants you to drive. That's probably why the steering wheel is far sportier than any Accord we've driven before, and it doesn't have that “wood” insert on top. The gauges are largely digital, save for the speedometer on the right side. Heck, Honda even deleted the one feature that spoke of the decades past: the CD player.
No, there is no optical media drive in the Accord. Either you connect via Bluetooth, USB, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or you listened to the radio, which would be a shame. The UI of the Accord's floating head unit is perhaps the nicest and smoothest one we've tried, ever.
The key to the Accord is, well, smart. Just keep it in your pocket, press the ignition and drive. But the other key factor is the engine: this is the first time that the Accord has been turbocharged from the factory.
Under the hood is a turbocharged VTEC engine that is 1.5-liters in displacement. If that engine is familiar, it's because it's the same as the one in the Civic RS. It sounds like an odd thing to have in an Accord, but don't mistake it for a paltry powerplant.
In its state of tune in the Accord, the 1.5L Turbo makes 190 PS and 260 Nm of torque. Despite being much smaller, the engine makes an extra 15 PS and 34 Nm more than the outgoing Accord 2.4S (175 PS / 226 Nm). Also, despite being equipped with the same engine, the Accord also has 17 PS and 40 Nm more than the Civic RS (173 PS / 220 Nm).
We suspect the turbo has something to do with it. While the engines are the same, the Accord runs a different turbo that operates up to 2.4 bar; significantly more than the 2.15 bar on the escargot under the hood of the Civic RS. That's about 12 percent more boost, which explains the power and torque gains. Perhaps the key thing with the Accord is how the torque comes in: from 1600 to 5000 rpm, the Accord Turbo has max torque. That will be important for fuel economy. And for acceleration.
Another key thing is the transmission: it's the Earth Dreams CVT which, as the name implies, was developed for optimal fuel economy.
Full disclosure: our drive of the Accord is a preview inside their factory in Laguna. Because the car had not been launched yet, we weren't allowed to take it out on the highway or on public roads. We tried to ask, but the powers that be -understandably- said no.
Honda did have a little test track inside the plant, and that will have to do. The Accord does have good acceleration that seems more immediate than the 2.4S that preceded it, though we really miss the grunt of the 3.5L V6 that was discontinued a few years back.
The length of their track's main straight was barely enough to get to 100 km/h, but we can cruise at 60 for a little bit, and on the tarmac it seems fairly quiet. The RPMs are kept down at that speed, though there was that whirr coming from the CVT when you try to accelerate. That's really a signature of CVTs, particularly when the engine's note doesn't seem to match the sound of the transmission.
One typical feature of a factory test track is a variety of rough surfaces and obstacles meant to test how well a car is made. This Accord may have been made in Thailand, but I decided to detour to that rough lane and was pleasantly surprised. The car really does very well to manage the rough stuff, and without and rattles and creaks that would speak of a vehicle of inferior quality.
There was also a little figure 8 test track inside, but being a longer and wider car than its predecessor, we had to perform a few three-point turns to get around it. That course was meant for something like the City (which they assembled there) rather than the Accord.
The feature we were keen on trying was Sensing. Of course the Accord basically has all the standard safety features you would expect in a car of its caliber like four-wheel disc brakes, ABS, stability control, emergency stop signal, so on and so forth, but Sensing is different.
This system is comprised of seven advanced technologies: Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Low Speed Follow (LSW), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). Those things may seem independent of each other, but they're really not. They make up Sensing (or SENSING, as Honda prefers to capitalize all its letters), giving the Accord a degree of advanced safety it has never seen before.
It sounds boring to talk about safety, but we're really talking more about its capability. You see, when these features are combined and integrated to work as one, they give the Accord a degree of autonomous drive on public roads.
If activated in full, Sensing can detect lane markings via a camera and control the electric power steering (LKAS) to stay in between and follow them. Once you set the speed, the ACC will maintain a fixed distance you can adjust in relation to the vehicle ahead. If that vehicle comes to a full stop, Sensing will make the Accord come to a full stop too, and resume as needed. That last one was the only one we could try within the confines of the test track, and yes, the Accord's Sensing does work. Interesting enough the test track didn't have lane markings, so we couldn't try out the LKAS system.
Priced to lead
With the Accord, Honda really wanted to get out of sync with its contemporaries like the Camry or the Altima. They didn't want to pursue another generation of more of the same, but instead, they wanted to deliver a revolution in technology, in safety, and a change in overall driving performance.
I think they did it, but it came at a price: the Honda Accord EL Turbo CVT Honda Sensing will retail for PhP 2,288,000.
That's a bit steep, to be honest. That's exactly PhP 350,000 more than the 2.4S it replaces, and it's PhP 281,000 more than the most expensive Camry with the optional color package. There's also the issue of the SUVs available for that kind of money, as there are a lot of choices already in the class that includes the Terra, Montero Sport, and Fortuner.
But Honda doesn't really care. They've typically priced their cars comparatively higher than similar models from other Japanese brands because they believe they always come out with something better than what the class offers. If you try out the Accord, don't be surprised if you start believing them too.