AUSTIN, Tex. -- A dash across hills of Texas to reach the capital city should consume far more than an hour, although on this run the traffic seems sparse, the route along U.S. 290 out of Johnson City spreads in a broad and smooth path, and that sleek sedan carrying an impatient driver melds with the blacktop and asserts itself whenever we put our foot into it.
Packing the strength of 268 horses charging out of a sophisticated aluminum engine, our machine leaps around slower vehicles as we rip through the passing lane.
With its taut suspension tuned for precise maneuvers and a quick rack and pinion steering mechanism aboard, the car hugs contours of the road and carves out crisp corners when wiggling around curves in the hills.
Dressed in a sleek exterior shell, it slices through the evening air in aerodynamic fashion which leaves little room for wind noise to disrupt the serenity of a plush cabin, where a favored jazz melody trickles from eight speakers of a deluxe audio kit factored by 270 watts.
Soft leather lines the shapely driver´s bucket and it feels warm and comforting in the manner of some pricy touring sedan imported from Europe.
So much about this vehicle´s performance, demeanor and style conforms to expensive imports, in fact, that on several occasions we find ourselves rechecking the label just to verify what kind of a car we´re steering.
But that check confirms this one as the 2008 Accord EX-L V6, top trim in a new design for Honda´s best-seller which comes together at a Honda assembly plant in the heart of America at Marysville, Ohio.
With this new Accord Honda rolls out the eighth generation of designs for the flagship sedan and the five-seat passenger compartment expands so much that the vehicle bumps up in the federal EPA´s size classification chart from mid-size to large-car status.
Accord, upon inception several decades ago as an itty-bitty compact, now ranks as a large car?
For new issues of 2008, Accord the sedan certainly does show such growth.
Wheelbase length on a new Accord grows 2.3 inches longer to 110.2 inches, as the width of the front/rear wheel track expands by an inch or more. These additions in wheelbase length and track width forge a larger platform for the car, which sets up a larger structure with more space in the passenger compartment.
The longer and wider cabin creates more legroom and elbow room for riders. Cabin layout shows a pair of form-fitting bucket seats up front and a bench for three adults in back with improved padding on the center seat section.
Exterior styling for the redesigned Accord appears sleek but angular and edgy with a squared-off prow and classy beveled grille.
The new exterior package reflects subtle lines and subdued paint colors in the manner of a sophisticated -- and expensive -- vehicle, as stylists point the Accord upscale toward a prestigious breed.
There are new front-wheel-drive (FWD) powertrains aboard Accord in four-cylinder and V6 formats, plus new mechanical systems to improve ride and handling traits, and more standard content in safety equipment.
Accord for 2008 trims out in six versions.
Accord LX is the entry edition packing a four-cylinder engine with a standard five-speed manual or optional five-speed automatic transmission and cloth upholstery on seats in the cabin.
Accord LX-P is the LX trim upgraded with a package of premium equipment.
Accord EX gains a more powerful version of the four-cylinder engine from LX and LX-P, plus larger wheels and tires and fancy features like Honda´s active noise cancellation equipment, a power moonroof, heated mirrors and a CD changer in the dash.
Accord EX-L upgrades to leather upholstery on seats and steering wheel, but also adds dual-zone automatic climate control and the 270-watt sound system with a subwoofer, among other deluxe trappings.
Accord´s 2008 series caps with the EX V6 and EX-L V6, each packing a zippy V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission.
The base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder plant fitted with Honda´s dual-cam i-VTEC (intelligent variable value timing and lift electronic control) valvetrain system.
It generates 177 hp at 6500 rpm and torque of 161 lb-ft at 4300 rpm. That amounts to 11 more points of horsepower than on the previous Accord, as achieved by creating a higher compression ratio in cylinders plus specific engine tuning.
Accord EX trim packs the same 2.4-liter engine but with minor modifications and a higher rev limit to generate more power and torque. The numbers tally to 190 hp at 7000 rpm with torque of 162 lb-ft at 4400 rpm.
This version easily beats virtually all of Accord´s four-cylinder competitors and represents a boost of 24 hp over the comparable Accord EX from 2007.
For Accord EX V6 and Accord EX-L V6, a new high-tech 3.5-liter V6 engine also uses Honda´s dual-cam i-VTEC valvetrain system.
The V6 scores high muscle numbers -- 268 hp at 6200 rpm plus 248 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm.
Further, it employs the next generation of Honda´s variable cylinder management (VCM) device to conserve on fuel by modifying the number of engine cylinders at work.
Honda´s previous VCM system simply cut by half the number of cylinders -- down from six to three -- when boosted power was not needed. By contrast, the new VCM on Accord can switch from six to four or down to three cylinders, depending on the power demand at any particular moment. And the operation is totally automatic and virtually transparent to a driver, with a dashboard light (the Eco lamp) glowing when the VCM is at work.
Federal EPA fuel consumption numbers on Accord´s new engines look good -- up to 31 miles per gallon for highway travel with the base four-cylinder plant and 29 mpg for V6.
Brakes employ power-assisted ventilated discs up front and solid discs in back. Then there are electronic ties to Honda´s vehicle stability assist (VSA) equipment operating in conjunction with an anti-lock brake system (ABS), electronic brake distribution (EBD) and electronic brake assist (EBA) plus a traction control system (TCS).
Cabin safety gear includes curtain-style side air bags and active head restraints on front buckets.
Honda holds MSRP figures for the 2008 Accord in the $20,000 field, with Accord LX listing for $20,360.