2009 Honda Accord: Bigger, but Better?

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Do no harm must have been the instructions for the development team at Honda as the 2008/09 version offers many changes, but remains essentially the same sedan in every aspect except looks and size. Indeed, the new Accord now has enough interior room to be listed by the government as a large sedan in the same category as the Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus, and Chrysler 300. In comparison, the Toyota Camry, Buick Lucerne, Cadillac STS, and BMW 5 Series are all midsize sedans.

The Accord’s pricing and performance places it in direct competition with the best cars in any segment with the underrated Ford Fusion, the best selling Toyota Camry, the sporty Nissan Altima, the sportier Mazda 6, the new Chevrolet Malibu, the stunning Saturn Aura, and even the Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Passat begging for attention. None of these can match the interior spaciousness of the new Accord thanks to the fact that the wheelbase on the new model is over two inches longer than the previous model at 110.2 inches.

There is an abundance of room most everywhere in the Accord with more space for legs, heads, shoulders, and hips not to mention a large, but not wide trunk. The interior materials aren’t going to win any awards, but the instruments are easy to read and reach. If you opt for the more expensive models you can get a lot of features from heated seats to a very expensive navigation system and Bluetooth compatibility.

For 2008, the Accord we tested came with a 177-hp 2.4-liter DOHC, 16-valve four-cylinder engine that had plenty of pep providing about 25 mpg in mixed driving. Previously, we had tested a 2006 Accord with that year’s less powerful four cylinder engine and a five speed manual transmissions and were always able to get nearly 30 mpg on regular fuel. The new car doesn’t seem to have that potential, probably due to its extra weight, but the government states that both models should have gotten similar fuel mileage. You can also order Honda’s 268 horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 with i-VTEC variable valve timing and the ability to run on six-, four-, or three-cylinder mode. Look for real life fuel mileage in the 23-mpg range. You can also get a super-sized four-cylinder engine that gives you 190 horsepower as an upgrade in some models.

Mom’s view: Frankly, it doesn’t look like a Honda. It resembles a BMW and this is reflected in its improved coefficient of drag rating of 0.31and sharper handling, too. The new shape also makes it quieter and sleeker, but not necessarily better looking. However, this new Honda really makes its independence known with its practical side. Safety features abound. There is an abundance of high strength steel, a frame rail that adds support to the sides and floor, and a stiffer body. There are two-stage front airbags, dual-chamber front side airbags, and side curtain airbags to go with active front head restraints. Add to that the electronic stability control, four wheel disc antilock brakes with electronic force distribution and brake assist and you have about as much safety equipment as possible to stuff into a $20,000 sedan. On the downside is less than terrific headlights and interior lighting that could be improved with more floor lighting.

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Dad’s view: Honda’s suspension has more stiffness and tighter damper rates for the front and in the rear there is a new multilink design which makes the Accord corner better with two tubular lower links, and a toe-control link. This provides superior handling when this Honda is loaded over the previous suspension. The car rises slightly lower, too, but the real clue to its newfound handling prowess is the wider tires and rims. It is a better handler than the Toyota and does not ride as stiff as the Mazda or Nissan, but don’t look for BMWish cornering. I don’t know how people are going to respond to this new feel in the ride department, but I liked it except over unkempt roads.

As usual the Accord is available both as a sedan and coupe and catches its buyer prey just south of its sister Acura with more practicality and less spottiness. I like it better than the Acura for a family. The model I prefer is the entry level LX with the 177-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that starts around $20,000 with a lot of standard features such as air conditioning, power mirrors and door locks, folding rear seats, and a MP3/WMA compatible stereo system. It is good basic transportation. You can spend another grand or so and get the P version with alloy wheels, a power driver’s seat, power windows, and an alarm system. In either version add $800 for the automatic transmission and its five speeds. The EX has a more potent four-cylinder engine in the form of a 190-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. And, you can also order the V6. More money moves you into the EX with a quieter ride, in-dash CD changer, power moon roof, heated mirrors, power windows, driver power lumbar, and 17-inch alloy wheels. You can add leather and dual zone climate control, a more powerful stereo, heated sets, and an automatic dimming rear mirror in the EX-L, but it is about $5000 more than the base model. If you opt for the EX-L V6 sedan look for prices about $28,000 and if you want Honda’s GPS and its required voice-activation, steering wheel controls, Bluetooth, and XM satellite radio you could be pushing $30,000. Remember, this is a Honda Accord and so I recommend you either get the base model or take a long test drive to see what options you really need.

Driving the new Accord is comfortable with exceptional visibility in all directions. The engine, although a bit noisy under acceleration, is non-offensive as a whole and will probable be the strong point for buyers. The headlights need improvement, as they don’t offer enough illumination despite their size. The way the headlights are squared off they almost invite a parking lot incident with the drive until you hit something SUV crowd. I’m sure they are going to cost a bundle to replace as well. The squared off front end was intended for pedestrian safety and this concern extends even to the wiper arm mounts that are designed to break when hit. Good news for pedestrians and wiper arm makers.

The tilt-and-telescoping steering column and the easily positioned seats are Honda traits, but what is even more unique is the fact that you can see the gauges when wearing polarized sunglasses. Honda has the best navigation system, but the screen could be larger as well as the fonts. There could be more brightness, too. The mirrors were easy to adjust and the center armrest wide enough for to share with the passenger side rider.

Performance is what you would expect from a four-cylinder engine, but the automatic transmission does a fine job of keeping it on task so passing isn’t a problem. Handling is darn good, considering that 60 percent of the weight is on the front wheels. The Honda Accord quickly starts to feel like an old friend. It is accommodating and pleasing for those who like the middle lane. The gas mileage is good for such a car, but we did get better in the much more powerful Toyota Avalon on the highway and the Ford Taurus as well and both had larger engines. Around town the Accord was better, but still 21 mpg isn’t really the stuff of legends.

Overall the Honda Accord is not the breathtaking advance that the Honda Civic was a few years ago. And, despite its added size, the competition has closed the gap considerable, especially those from Saturn and Ford.

Young working man’s view: Still building USA servers and computers at http://www.eracks.com to pay my way through college and be able to afford, well, not a Honda Accord, that’s for sure. Why? It is too big. And, you’d have to order the expensive navigation system to get some of the electronic doodads I love.

I remember many moons ago when I was trying to get a 2003 Honda Odyssey minivan into gear and I kept slipping by it because there wasn’t an indentation. Well, Honda really hasn’t done much to alleviate the problem. Drive and third gear are very close together and if you don’t look at the indicator light you could waste some gas driving in the lower gear because the Accord is that quiet.

The back seat is very comfortable as long as you are not assigned to the middle one. It is simply too hard. The rear seat does fold down and there is a pass through. As can be expected there are no reading lights in back, but the rear doors do open wide making getting in and out easy.

I got a kick out of the wiper controls. Honda uses raindrop icons to show the speeds available. The more drops the more wiping. As well, the shifter and parking brake were easy to use, unlike the strange placement on the new Subaru Impreza I tested where it resided near the clutch pedal. Some reviewers have complained that the line of control knobs for the climate and stereo are confusing, but I really found them easy to master.

What I enjoyed most about the new Accord is the attention to detail even in the entry level LX model. You get a sunglass holder, seatback storage, lockable glove box, sliding center armrest, illuminated steering wheel cruise control and audio functions, filtered air conditioning, 160-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with 6 speakers, tachometer, coin box, two 12-volt power outlets, variable intermittent windshield wipers, a tire pressure monitoring system, automatic off headlights, engines that meet some of the nation’s toughest emissions standards, a vehicle stability assist, a fairly tight 37.7 turning radius, and a qualified 100,000 miles of travel before a scheduled tune-up. The Accord may not spark my interest, but it certainly is practical and, in its way, family friendly.

Young working woman’s view: Well, this Honda is notable in its love it or what is it exterior treatment. Although not as loathsome to me as the new BMW sedan with its dragging rear-end design, the Accord does take a while to learn to love. I walked by it many a time because it is so different than the previous Accords.

Looks aside, the LX is mildly entertaining to drive, far more than the base Camry, and doesn’t seem to mind a little frisky behavior now and then when the roadway permits. I found the electronic stability control very well mannered letting you stay out late, but not too late, before intervening. The steering is quite light, but it makes mall parking easier, especially with the smaller 16 inch tires that are standard on this model.

Although I have my heart set on a Honda Element, the Accord would be a good choice if I didn’t have two Mastiffs to transport. It is gentle on the environment, has a lot of standard features, and thankfully goes about its job unobtrusively.

Family conference: There is room for improvement as the seats could use more padding, the lift over for the trunk is a bit high, and the sides need more protection from door dings. Outside of that the Accord is among the best of the large sized sedans, but it isn’t as large a step forward as we were hoping that Honda would make. The interior is efficient and user friendly for the most part, but the fit and feel needs to be moved up to play with the vastly improved Saturn Aura. The engine is a bit noisy and the ride a touch stiff legged, but overall if you can watch your options this is the car to own for a family on the go. The new Honda is bigger and better, but so is the competition. It was our number one car in the middle range, but now that the Accord has moved up into the heavy weight division there might be a need for it to be more than dependable transportation.

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