It?s not often we get a chance to drive two variations of the same model car back-to-back, but that happen recently when we had the 2014 Honda Accord EX-L and Accord Hybrid one after the other. The new generation Accord has been an instant success, taking the lead over other impressive mid-size sedans in the mid-size segment. For the record, after the first nine months of 2013 the Accord marked the following leadership positions:
* Top-selling retail mid-size car in America.
* Top-selling retail light vehicle to younger buyers aged 18-34.
* Top-selling retail mid-size sedan in California and New York, two of America’s largest automotive markets.
* Double-digit retail sales growth in 44 states.
* Year-over-year retail sales up 16.2 percent through September.
The Honda Accord?interior is all new with a bold instrument panel that includes two full color screens mounted at the top of the center stack. The eight-inch screen at the top of the stack is the ?intelligent? Multi-Information Display (i-MID). It serves as the screen for the navigation system, backup camera and several other electronic functions.
We think the most innovative use for that screen is for the new LaneWatch? feature. When you turn on the right turn signal, the screen switches to a full color display of the right hand lane looking back from the side view mirror. It can also be activated by pushing the button on the end of the turn-signal stalk to check on the position of another vehicle ?parked? in your right side blind spot at freeway speeds. Barbara still thinks there should be a blind spot warning system for the driver?s side.
The smaller screen an inch or two lower is the touchscreen for the audio system, which includes standard features like a Pandora? Internet radio interface and a convenient SMS text messaging function that reads incoming texts aloud and allows the driver to respond with factory preset text messages. For example, you can easily select from answers like ?Talk to you later, I?m driving,? ?I?m on my way,? ?I?m running late,? or ?OK? in a response to an in-coming text.
The 2013 Honda Accord?also includes a Bluetooth? HandsFreeLink? phone interface and some models have the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System? with Voice Recognition and FM Traffic. In the past, we?ve considered the Honda navigation system to be the best in the business but, perhaps because this one was new to us and more complex, the new version seemed a little less user-friendly than earlier versions. If we had time to master the voice commands, we?re sure it would be easier, but like many people, we don?t do very well with voice commands.
The Honda Accord EX-L we drove was the upper mid-level model with the LX, Sport and EX below and the EX-L V-6 and Touring models above in the lineup. Our test car had the available Navigation system ($1,775) with the package including steering wheel mounted controls and hard disc drive with 16-GB of audio capacity. Accord prices range from $22,745 for the LX, including the destination charge up to $34,270 for the Touring model.
The Accord Hybrid comes in three trim levels: Hybrid, Hybrid EX-L and Hybrid Touring. Prices range from $29,945 for the Hybrid up to $35,695 for the Touring.
Honda engineers always seem to have a new innovative way of doing things, and that trend continues with Earth Dreams? efficient engine technology. Honda describes it as ?an expression for a set of technologies which takes into account both our need to protect the environment and our desire to provide a joy of driving.? The Accord is the first American Honda to get the new technology.
The Accord has two engines and three transmission choices. The engines include a 185-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder (189-hp in the Sport model thanks to a different exhaust system) and a 278-hp 3.5-liter V-6. All four-cylinder models have a standard six-speed manual transmission with an available ($800) Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The V-6 is only available with a six-speed automatic transmission.
We?re not normally enamored by CVTs but this one is so positive that we had to do some experimenting to determine, that it was a CVT. In addition, paddle shifters are standard on the EX-L version and optional on the LX, Sport and EX to add that extra touch of control.
The four-cylinder and CVT combination produces a respectable 7.9-second 0 to 60 mph time, and fuel economy gets an EPA rating of 27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined. We actually averaged 29.1 mpg.
Equipped with the V-6 engine, the Accord becomes very much a driver?s car with more aggressive suspension components and tuning. Acceleration is significantly better, too, making a 0 to 60 mph run in just 5.6 seconds.
The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring version is quicker than the four-cylinder, accelerating for 0 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. EPA fuel economy numbers for the hybrid are significantly better too at 50 mpg city, 45 mpg highway and 47 mpg combined. We averaged 39.4 mpg on a drive we made through the Columbia River Gorge. Bill seemed to have a need to be in front of other cars so he made several full throttle passes, which knocked the average fuel economy down a bit. Had Barbara been driving fuel economy would have probably been over 45 mpg. We calculated it would take about six years to make up the premium price for the Hybrid with gasoline at $3.50 per gallon.
The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring is powered by a 141-hp 2.0-liter DOHC i-VTEC? four-cylinder engine and two electric motors.Together the gas engine and electric motors produce a net 196 hp. The battery is a 1.3kWh Li-Ion which is recharged by regenerative braking and the second motor/alternator.
The transmission is an electric Continuously Variable system. The e-CVT system, unlike other full hybrid systems, operates without the need for a torque converter, mechanical pulley or belt. Instead uses two motors for driving and generating power. Unlike a conventional CVT, e-CVT is optimally and rapidly able to control both engine and electric motor rotation in order to deliver higher fuel efficiency and quicker engine response in each driving mode.
The hybrid is also available in a plug-in version with the two-motor hybrid transmission. It?s priced at $40,570 and has an EPA rating of 47/46/46 mpg. We?re looking forward to spending some time in that model later in the model year.
On the safety front, the upper level Accords have a new Forward Collision Warning system to warn the driver of impending crash possibilities. Other features we like are the Adaptive Cruise Control, the LaneWatch? blind spot monitor and the active noise and sound controls, which keep the cabin quieter. Honda has expanded technology in the Accord to keep it in a leadership role in the category.
We enjoyed the Accord; it drives like a Honda, which means it?s responsive, positive and agile. The ride is comfortable, the interior is one of the roomiest in the category and it rates high in fuel efficiency.
If we had to choose between the hybrid and the EX-L, we?d probably go with the 2014 Honda Hybrid Touring because its high fuel economy and better performance. If we had our choice of any of the Accords, however, Barbara?s choice would be the Coupe and Bill likes the Crosstour with its hatchback and sleek roofline.
Whatever the styling preference shoppers are getting an excellent mid-size vehicle, when they buy the Accord.