The Honda Accord is the poster child for the rise and success of the Japanese Automobile industry in America. Today, the Accord, along with its arch competitor, the Toyota Camry, owns the midsize market in the United States.
This growth refers not only to sales volume but to vehicle size, too. The original 1976 Accord was a three-door hatchback that weighed 2,000 pounds and was powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that put out 68 horsepower. Its single model retailed for $3,995.
Sixty-eight may not sound like a whole lot, but back in the mid 1970’s, large V-8-powered cars were burdened with power-sapping emission controls, and felt less sporty than the modest little Honda. With its CVCC engine, the Honda didn’t even need a catalytic converter. A four-door sedan debuted in 1979-and the rest is history.
The eighth generation Accord arrived for 2008. The 2011 version, offered in sedan and coupe styles in a range of levels with four- and six- cylinder engines, features a mid-cycle freshening to the nose and tail. In addition, fuel economy has been improved by up to 3 miles per gallon.
New for 2011 is the Special Edition (SE). My test car, in Alabaster Silver Metallic, was one of these. The SE sits between the LX and EX models, offering leather-trimmed seats, heated in front, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Today’s Accord weighs 3,300 pounds in SE trim and its wheelbase has grown from 93.7 inches to 110.2 inches. Length has increased over the years by 32.1 inches. In fact, today’s compact Honda Fit is about the same length as the old Accord, and is nearly five inches longer and 500 pounds heavier! But Honda has been happily and successfully selling Accords all these years; from January through October 2010, Honda sold 259,975.
The LX and SE models come with a standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 177 horsepower. The EX gets 190 horsepower, thanks to dual overhead camshafts. This is plenty to power today’s Accord, which is classified as a Large car by the Environmental Protection Agency. With fuel economy numbers of 23 City, 34 Highway, its average of 27 mpg is at the very top of the scale for Large vehicles.
If you want more power, the optional 3.5-liter V6 puts out 271 horsepower. Fuel economy drops to 20 City, 30 Highway, but that represents a 1 mpg improvement over last year’s model.
The Accord is handsome, especially in a dark silver shade like my tester, but somewhat anonymous. And, the black interior felt almost Spartan with its silver accents and minimal chrome. The SE, despite its nice leather seats, does not offer a trip computer, automatic climate control, a navigation system or external temperature information. My test car also did not provide satellite radio-something quite common today. The plug for my iPod was only an AUX jack and not a USB port. An older buyer demographic, as well as price-lowering decisions, account for these omissions.
If you want the ultimate Accord, order up the EX. With a navigation system, it runs $32,380. My SE, with nothing extra, came to a reasonable $24,480. The entry point to Accord sedan ownership is $21,930 for an LX with a five-speed manual transmission.
Honda made history when it started building cars in Marysville, Ohio. Today, more than 95 percent of the Accords sold in the United States are produced there or at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln, Alabama. The Accord Coupe model is made only in Marysville.
U.S. and Canadian content runs 80 percent-which means that the Accord has not only grown to suit Americans, but is practically all American, from its parts to its assembly teams to its dealers to its service organization.
Even though it’s mainstream, the Accord has picked up enthusiast magazine Car and Driver’s Top Ten Award nearly every year of its existence-25 out of 29 times the magazine has had the competition, including a continuous run since 1998.
More good news-the 2011 Accord just received a top-level five-star overall rating in the U.S. Government’s more-stringent new-car crash tests. It’s only the sixth vehicle to achieve this score in the tests so far.
On the environment front, last month, Honda was named America's "Greenest Automaker" for the fifth consecutive time by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The award goes to the company with the lowest combined score of its smog-forming and greenhouse gas emissions (primarily CO2) in its U.S. automobile fleet. The Accord is rated by the EPA at 6 for both Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gas, good for “SmartWay” status. One version of the Accord gets a 9 for Air Pollution-something worth seeking out when you’re shopping.