By Bill Schaffer
San Marcos, Calif. ? After spending time playing with the Dream Garage tools and toys the highlight of my trip was driving the 2016 Honda Accord.
Honda engineers seem to have an obsession with making things better and better. The Accord was all new in 2012 (the 9th generation) when they totally reengineered the sedan and coupe. Still a couple of years before the next major update, Honda has made significant upgrades to the 2016 model in an effort to keep it cutting edge of this extremely competitive mid-size category.
The 2016 Honda Accord still doesn?t qualify as a real sport sedan or coupe, but it gets close with a new level of sophistication. In our drive to the ?ranch? we were able feel the stiffer body structure and improved handling, linear steering and high quality ride comfort. But don?t look for it to compete with a BMW or Audi in handling prowess, it?s still a Honda but that?s darn good and getting closer all the time. In fact, this new Accord has the best handling ever and is superior to most competitors.
The two engine options remain basically the same, but the fuel economy is a dash better thanks to some weight savings, which came from changes like using an aluminum hood. A 185-hp, 2.4-liter DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder is the standard engine and with the 278-hp 3.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC V-6 as an option. Honda surprises me in the transmission department having not converted everything to one transmission like some manufacturers. They still offer the four-cylinder engine with a standard six-speed manual for the three lower level models and an optional CVT. The two higher level models have a standard CVT with paddle shifters. The V-6 comes with a six-speed automatic in the sedan, but there is V-6 with manual transmission available in the coupe. These two engines have very good 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of 6.6- and 5.6-seconds respectively for the four-cylinder and V-6. Fuel economy is very good too, with an EPA rating of 27 mpg city, 37 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined for the four-cylinder sedan with CVT.
Both the coupe and the sedan are offered in LX, EX, EX-L and Touring trim levels, and the sedan also has a Sport model filling the gap between the LX and EX.
Honda seldom offers a standalone options, but they now offer the Honda Sensing? package ($1,000) on all trim levels except the Touring model, which has it as standard equipment. Honda Sensing includes an important grouping of safety and convenience features including the Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Road Departure Mitigation and Adaptive Cruise Control. It?s an excellent safety package and the price is great.
Honda doesn?t use the typical blind spot warning system with a warning light on or near the side-view mirrors, instead they use LaneWatch? which is a camera that displays a view in the display screen of the passenger side of the vehicle toward the rear. It works great on that side, but they rely on a split mirror on the driver?s side. Although I like this system a lot, I still prefer the lights and audio warning – the ultimate would be to have both.
Model upgrades always necessitate some design change and alterations. The Accord changes make it more sporty and upscale looking with sophisticated changes to the front and rear fascia. The front end includes a very cool looking of LED headlights and some daytime running lights on the Touring models. Actually, I think the Accord takes several front and rear styling cues from the company?s upscale Acura models.
The interior gets a major facelift with a new seven-inch auto display and touch screen monitor, rain sensing wipers, 60/40 split rear seat backs, some new colors and fabrics and an advance audio display with Android Audio? and Apple CarPlay?.
Once I got used to which screen did what, I liked the dual screen system. The upper 7.7-inch screen is the display for the navigation, audio apps, time and trip information, LaneWatch, rear-view camera, parking sensor alerts and communications messages. The upper screen is controlled by buttons on the steering wheel, and many of the functions can be controlled by voice commands, too. The lower seven-inch touch screen is the input for the audio functions. I would prefer to see control knobs for functions like audio volume and tuning rather than the awkward, for me, to use touch system.
The 2016 Honda is an unexpected step up in nearly every aspect, and the changes should insure that the Accord is the leader in its class.