2018 Honda Accord
Major Changes for the 10th-Generation Best Seller
JULY 2017 BY ANDREW WENDLER
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Crossovers may dominate in sales, but an affordable, efficient four-door sedan with a chassis and powertrain that don’t retreat at the first sign of spirited driving remains a universal target in the car biz. Few models have hit the bull’s-eye as consistently and systematically as Honda’s Accord sedan. It’s a longtime Car and Driver favorite—the Accord has earned a spot on our 10Best Cars list 31 times—and we’ve come to expect each new version to raise the bar. The same goes for this all-new, 10th-generation model.
A few details were confirmed earlier, including that the beloved, optional 3.5-liter V-6 will not transition into the new model. Instead, power will be provided by a pair of direct-injected, turbocharged inline-four-cylinders displacing 1.5 and 2.0 liters. The 1.5-liter turbo is the de facto replacement for the ninth-generation model’s naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four, while the 2.0-liter turbo will stand in for the V-6.
Rated at 192 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, the 1.5 outmuscles the old 2.4 by 7 horsepower and 11 lb-ft and delivers both far lower in the rev range. Peak horsepower for the new engine is available at 5500 rpm (900 below the 2.4) and peak torque at 1500 rpm (a full 2400 lower than before). Essentially, it’s a slightly more muscular version of the engine in the current Civic and CR-V.
The 2.0-liter is derived from the 306-hp engine currently found under the hood of the 2017 Civic Type R, although with output reduced for duty in the Accord. Honda tells us this goes beyond “detuning,” as its innards have been considerably revised or replaced, including the turbocharger hardware. Rated at 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, it gives up 26 horsepower to the V-6 it replaces but offers up 21 lb-ft more torque. Extracting maximum power from the new 2.0-liter requires 6500 rpm (versus 6200 for the V-6), but peak torque is available between 1500 and 4000 rpm. (The V-6 didn’t deliver max torque until 4900 rpm.) Honda says it will be able to run on regular-octane gasoline, although likely with reduced performance. Both engines employ variable valve timing and high-efficiency, low-inertia turbos for quicker spooling.
Transmitting power to the front wheels is the task of a trio of transmission choices. The 1.5 comes paired either with a continuously variable automatic (CVT) or, in Sport trim, an optional six-speed manual. The 2.0-liter comes with either a 10-speed automatic or an optional six-speed manual in Sport models (virtual fist bump!). Honda tells us the CVT is largely new and features an 11 percent shorter initial ratio for more aggressive step-off. While the 10-speed auto “shares its case” with the unit in the Odyssey minivan, Honda tells us that it largely has its own ratios. Compared with the six-speed automatic from the outgoing V-6 Accord, the 10-speeder is said to be 22 pounds lighter with a 68 percent wider overall range, a 43 percent lower first gear, and a 17 percent taller top gear.
A two-mode chassis-adjustment system is standard on all 2018 Accords. Drivers can alter the sedan’s reflexes via Normal and Sport settings, which will adjust items such as the new dual-pinion variable-ratio electric power steering, the transmission shift program, the throttle response, and, when equipped, the adaptive dampers. Yep, top-dog 2018 Accord Touring models will feature adaptive dampers capable of adjusting every 1/500 of a second. Far less excitingly, an Econ mode aims to improve fuel efficiency by dulling throttle response and HVAC operation when activated.
With a structure featuring 29 percent more ultra-high-strength steel (Honda claims the new Accord uses more of the stuff than any of its other current production cars) and 54 percent high-strength steel, it’s not surprising that engineers managed to trim a claimed 110 to 176 pounds from the Accord’s weight, depending on trim. Torsional stiffness is said to be improved by 34 percent and bending stiffness by 24 percent, and the increased rigidity should also aid ride quality, handling dynamics, and cabin quietness. The front suspension is a strut type, with L-shaped aluminum lower arms and an aluminum front subframe, while the rear utilizes a multilink setup mounted to a rigid floating subframe. Fluid-filled bushings add another level of NVH absorption.
With the news that the Accord coupe will not return for the 2018 model year, it appears the designers made an attempt to soften the blow a bit by reshaping the Accord sedan to have a long, sloping backlight, short trailing edges on the rear door windows, and a full-length character line running from stem to stern. In comparison with the outgoing car, the wheelbase is up by a substantial 2.2 inches, overall length down by 0.4 inch, height is down by 0.6 inch, and width is up by 0.4 inch. The tracks are increased up front (by 0.2 inch) and at the rear (0.8), and the overhangs front and rear also have been reduced. A noise-abatement plan very similar to the latest Odyssey’s includes a first ever application of structural adhesives in an Accord as well as other sound-deadening measures such as underbody covers, front and rear engine-compartment insulators, and acoustic laminated glass for the windshield (and the front-door glass on EX trims and above). It all should help drastically reduce cabin noise, a sometime Honda bugaboo, as it has in the Odyssey.
Although the final lineup isn’t set in stone as of this writing, Honda says the 1.5-liter engine will be available in six trim levels: LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, EX-L Navi, and Touring. The 2.0-liter engine will be available in just four models: Sport, EX-L, EX-L Navi, and Touring.
The hybrid powertrain will return for 2018, with production shifting to Ohio after a few years in Japan. It’s slated for an official debut later in the year, but we do know that the Accord hybrid will be powered by Honda’s third-gen, Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter four-cylinder/dual-electric-motor system that eliminates the need for a conventional transmission. A new “intelligent power unit” (essentially the batteries and electronic controls) will be mounted under the floor to maintain the Accord’s trunk space and folding rear seat. The hybrid will be available in five trims: base, EX, EX-L, EX-L Navi, and Touring.
The interior looks to go more contemporary and upscale. A contoured steering wheel and paddle shifters (where applicable) front a lower cowl, which should work with 20 percent thinner A-pillars—enabled by the ultra-high-strength steel—to improve forward visibility. The topmost tier of the soft-touch instrument panel runs the full width of the dash, while the newly designed front seats make use of a new padding material that offers variable firmness. Higher seatbacks improve shoulder support, and the optional 12-way power driver’s seat adds four-way-adjustable lumbar support to its list of tricks. Cooling is now available for the front seats as well as heating. In cars equipped with rear-seat heaters, the backs are now heated in addition to the bottom cushions. Armrests are longer, wider, and plusher all around. Although the car is slightly shorter overall, the increased wheelbase provided the engineers the opportunity to move the rear seat aftward, increasing legroom from an already spacious area by 1.9 inches. Better yet, trunk capacity is not compromised in the process, increasing from 15.8 to 16.7 cubic feet.
Honda Sensing safety technology is standard across the board, including automated emergency braking that can bring the car to a full stop plus lane-departure warning, road-departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, and new traffic-sign recognition. HondaLink telematics (emergency roadside assistance, remote locking and unlocking, remote engine start, stolen-vehicle tracking, remote diagnostics, geofencing, speed tracking, and more) also will be available, as will wireless device charging, Bluetooth, 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi, and over-the-air system updates. A 6.0-inch head-up display is included in Touring trims.
Finally, after years of trying to convince the world otherwise, Honda has relented and will equip every 2018 Accord with not only an analog volume knob but also a genuine knob for tuning. With the frustration of tuning the radio remedied (we hope), it’s worth mentioning the various audio systems. LX trims get four-speaker, 160-watt audio; Sport and EX trims get an eight-speaker, 180-watt system; and EX-L and Touring trims enjoy a 10-speaker, 450-watt audio environment.
The new Accord hits showrooms this fall. Now that Honda has shown its cards, it’s only a matter of time until we stage the inevitable shootout between this Accord and the equally thoroughly redesigned 2018 Toyota Camry with its reinvigorated chassis that means the competition just might be a little more exciting this time around.