MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Steering a course down famous Beale Street in Memphis -- lined with melodic Blues bars, trendy boutiques and lots of strolling pedestrians -- linear movement seems like only an incidental concern while encased in the velvet comforts of Honda's best-seller, the Accord large-scale sedan.
Its ride quality feels so smooth, the comforts stack so deep and the quiet factor resonates so keenly that steering and braking and other physical acts of automotive propulsion diminish as simply so many rote distractions.
But that's the Honda car magic at work on Accord, Honda's biggest sedan, which has been enhanced for 2011 models with fresh sheetmetal styling, revamped dashboard designs, improved fuel economy scores and one more trim level added with the leather-lined Special Edition (SE) Accord.
In 2008 Honda recast the Accord on a stiff new platform for the eighth generation of designs which measured bigger and better than previous iterations.
Wheelbase length grew 2.3 inches longer to 110.2 inches, as the width of the front/rear wheel track expanded by an inch or more. These additions in wheelbase length and track width forged a larger platform for the car, which in turn set up a larger structure for the passenger compartment -- the longer and wider cabin created more legroom and elbow room for riders.
Accord's five-seat cabin layout consists of a pair of form-fitting bucket seats up front with generous lateral support and a broad bench for three adults in back with extra padding on the center seat section. The rear bench seatback folds down to expand the trunk's cargo room, and it also has a lockable pass-through window for stowing long items like snow skis or lumber.
The 2011 issues of Accord gain interior upgrades such as new seat fabrics on trims stocking cloth upholstery, an improved design for the instrument panel with climate-control buttons repositioned closer to the driver, a rearview backup camera added to models with a dash-mounted navigation system, and a USB iPod interface on top trims.
The new exterior styling 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.
Accord 2011 wears a bolder front grille with revised grille inserts in chrome stacking above the smooth and thick front bumper.
At the tail there's a fresh treatment for the trunk lid housing red horizontal reflector bars which link to corner taillight clusters.
Aboard Accord are front-wheel-drive (FWD) powertrains in four-cylinder and V6 formats, plus precise mechanical systems which produce keen ride and handling traits, and a carload of standard content in safety equipment.
Accord LX is the entry edition packing a four-cylinder engine with a standard five-speed manual shifter or optional five-speed automatic transmission plus cabin seats covered in cloth fabric upholstery.
Accord LX-P is the LX trim upgraded with a package of premium equipment.
Accord SE -- the new trim -- contains the premium equipment of Accord LX-P plus leather-trimmed seats, heated seats, power-lumbar support on the driver's seat and a leather-lined steering wheel.
Accord EX scores a more powerful version of the four-cylinder engine from LX and LX-P and SE, 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 controls, a 270-watt sound system with subwoofer, and Bluetooth HandsFreeLink for linking wirelessly to compatible mobile phones.
Accord's 2011 models top out with the EX V6 and EX-L V6, each packing a powerful V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission.
The base engine for Accord is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder plant fitted with Honda's twin-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.
This plant appears in Accord LX, LX-P and SE trims.
Accord EX 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.
For Accord EX V6 and Accord EX-L V6, a high-tech 3.5-liter V6 engine also uses Honda's dual-cam i-VTEC valvetrain system.
The V6 generates some high muscle numbers -- 271 hp at 6200 rpm plus 254 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm.
Further, the six-pack plant employs Honda's variable cylinder management (VCM) device to conserve on fuel by modifying the number of engine cylinders at work -- it 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 engines look good -- up to 31 miles per gallon for highway travel with the base four-cylinder plant and up to 30 mpg for V6.
The taut suspension system employs a double wishbone design up front with modifications to enhance ride and handling traits by reducing fore-aft body movement when accelerating and braking and checking lateral sway when rounding corners. At the rear, a compact multi-link suspension has stamped steel upper arms with tubular steel lower links and nitrogen gas-filled dampers.
Brakes mount 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 hidden air bags -- up-front inflators for front seats plus seat-mounted side air bags and curtain-style air bags in headliners above side windows.
Also aboard is the Active Head Restraint System (AHRS) for each front bucket.