The all-new, 2008 Honda Accord continues refinement and adds more power, room, safety, and features-to-cost value. Content and engines determine the model designator, though all have the same roomy, functional cabins, array of safety equipment, and driving characteristics.
For 2008, the Accord is available with a choice of four-cylinder and V6 engines, two transmissions, and LX and EX trim levels. Further subsets include a new premium package that adds more convenience bits to an LX, and EX-L models that add leather and luxury features. (The hybrid model and V6 sedan with manual transmission have been dropped.)
The Accord is big on efficiency, be it getting the most power and range from a gallon of gas with the least emissions, making the largest interior available given the exterior space it takes up, or providing the smoothest, quietest ride possible in the lightest weight.
Anyone interested in a four-door sedan should consider the Accord, as only very modest budgets and those seeking substantial luxury and high performance couldn't meet those needs with one. Accord is not the perfect car in any single respect but it approaches that point in so many significant aspects you can't talk about family sedans without mentioning it. And if the past is any indicator, there's implicit reliability here.
The 2008 Honda Accord competes with the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, Saturn Aura, and the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu. The extra space offered by the 2008 Accord means that shopping list might also now include the Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon and VW Passat.
The stylish, two-door 2008 Honda Accord coupe competes directly with the Nissan Altima coupe. Sportiest is the EX-L V6 Coupe with six-speed manual and V6, the only Accord with that combination; it happens to be the lightest V6 model, giving it the best power to weight ratio, and it comes with larger anti-roll bars and low-profile 18-inch tires and wheels.
Honda Accord LX Sedan ($20,360); LX-P Sedan ($21,360); LX-S Coupe ($21,860); EX Sedan ($23,060); EX Coupe ($23,160); EX-L Sedan ($25,060); EX-L Coupe ($25,160); EX V6 Sedan ($25,960); EX-L V6 Sedan ($28,060); EX-L V6 Coupe ($28,310)
While you can see the hood and the top of the fenders where they meet the hood, the edges are not so visible; the swept-back light housings minimize protruding corners and ease maneuverability but exercise caution until you're certain where they are. Many modern design elements are the result of auto/pedestrian collision standards and the Accord is not immune, even the wiper arm mounts are designed to break away when hit.
Forward lights are aptly described as hawk-like and look fiercer on coupes because they use projector headlamps as opposed to the conventional reflector design on the sedans; V6 models include fog lamps. At the rear the lamp elements appear cut off at the style line rather than extending up to the top trunk seam. This contributes a sense of heaviness and more closely mirrors the princess rear end styling of the Acura RL rather than the taut crispness of the TL.
Following trends, the 2008 Accord is larger than any before, and although it competes in the mid-size market segment it is by EPA interpretation a large car. It is about five inches longer than a Camry or Altima, about the same length as a Maxima.
The coupe has grown similarly from the last Accord coupe but you won't confuse it with a large car. Virtually every dimension save width is 2-4 inches smaller outside than that of the sedan. The coupe is sleeker yet still fits the Accord mold. All coupes use projector headlights, body-color rocker panels and add a passenger side easy-entry feature for rear seat access.
LX models provide pleasing design and materials and a variety of storage areas for modern conveniences and old-fashioned vices. Stepping up to an EX with leather adds features, but the basics like seat design and driver ergonomics are shared by all Accords.
The tilt-and-telescoping steering column provides a good range of adjustment to complement those available on the seat so all the masses can find a good driving position. There's a clear view all around outside, to the instrument panel with proven dial-and-needle gauges, and the information display or navigation screen is inset under a shade at the same height as the gauges; glare is controlled and it can be viewed with polarized glasses.
EX-L models come with leather on the seats, steering wheel, shifter and door panels. The EX-L leather appears of high quality and assembly as does the rest of the car. The driver's seat has multiple power adjustments and good support for the long haul or around-town errands.
Our only complaints with the Accord cabin were minor: The lumbar support on all front seats (regardless of power or upholstery) is stout and we occasionally wished for less of it; and the front seats have lots of room around them causing some slender pilots to say the door was too far away for a comfortable armrest or leg brace.
The extra width of the 2008 Accord translates directly into a wider cabin, especially in front. The center armrest was designed to be big enough for two adults to share without awkward glances.
Rear-seat passengers will have few complaints as few do in large cars. Seat cushions and backrest carry right out to the door without wheelwell intrusion, offer space for a six-footer to sit comfortably behind another one, and easy entry and egress. The center seat is better padded than many, and as such it loses a bit of headroom to the outer seats. There are no rear reading lamps.
Three interior colors are offered on the sedans, black, gray, and ivory, while the coupe goes black or ivory only. Although it may show dirt more, the ivory includes wood-look accents where the other colors make do with silver trim pieces, so the ivory interior comes across as more elegant.
Coupe models make use of the larger door panels by adding a return sweep and pull handle to the armrest trim.
Controls for lights and wipers are on stalks. Honda's graphics for the variable intermittent wipers are among the simplest: Rather than bars, lines or dots of differing size, the Accord uses one raindrop for long interval and three raindrops for more frequent wiping. The shifter is right at hand, and the proper handbrake has short travel.
Controls for sound, climate, and navigation are central below the navigation screen and vents. On lower-line models, the big round knob controls volume; on others it is the interface through which you work various menus. Even on fully equipped cars with navigation, the layout is less daunting than the number of buttons first suggests. One row of switches controls audio input (AM, XM, CD, etc.) and another row has six audio presets. Climate controls are to the sides, so you needn't wait to approve the legal disclaimer on the screen before you can ask for heat or air conditioning in extreme weather. Voice activation can handle a multitude of chores without a hand ever leaving the steering wheel.
All Accords except the LX sedan include active noise cancellation, but we were hard-pressed to notice the difference between LX and EX. Vibration and engine buzz are kept to a minimum on the four-cylinder engine and are negligible on V6, so all Accords come across as very quie
The Accord LX 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine matches Nissan's 2.5-liter with a bit less fuss or raucousness, and a good deal more ponies than the Camry's four-cylinder. Since the Accord isn't too heavy, its 177 hp is plenty to keep up with the Joneses, whether you choose the manual or automatic. Every Accord compares well against competitors in terms of mileage and emissions, and runs on regular unleaded.
The EX models get the same basic 2.4-liter engine with some minor changes and a higher rev limit to bring 190 hp, clearly besting the competition (VW's Passat 2-liter turbo is the exception) with no degradation in economy or emissions. With the automatic this engine delivers instant downshifts and response for passing, and upshifts at full-throttle well before redline. The console-mounted shifter has no manual mode, and the detent between Drive and D3 is soft, so we found ourselves checking the dash indicator to make sure we had selected the most economical choice.
The five-speed manual has low clutch effort with smooth engagement, and the shifter offers good action if not the short, crisp movement of the Civic Si. But the manual allows you to get the most out of the engine, which cleanly revs happily right past the marked redline. That lets a 177-hp 2.4 manual keep up with a 190-hp 2.4 automatic. Of course, the 190-hp 2.4-liter and five-speed manual are the most entertaining of the four-cylinder models and will appeal to that segment of the Accord audience that enjoys driving and believes shifting is done with hands and feet, not thumbs.
If you don't know whether to choose the 177-hp or 190-hp version (setting aside trim considerations) ask yourself how often you floor the throttle and run your engine to redline: If the answer lies between never and seldom the 177-hp will prove quite satisfactory.
In terms of fuel economy, all Accord sedans with four-cylinder engines are EPA-rated 22/31 mpg City/Highway with the manual, 21/30 mpg with the automatic. Four-cylinder coupes are rated 22/31 mpg with the manual, 21/30 mpg with the automatic. V6 sedans are rated 19/29 mpg. V6 coupes are rated 19/28 mpg with automatic, 17/25 mpg with the six-speed manual.
On EX V6 models, a new 3.5-liter engine brings 268 hp with a five-speed automatic, matching the Camry V6 and just a shade behind the Altima's Z-car-based engine and continuously variable transmission. It's a smooth engine and quieter than the Altima's, more than adequate for any purpose, and uses the latest version of Honda's Variable Cylinder Management (VCM).
Like GM and Chrysler systems designed to save gas on big V8s, VCM changes the number of engine cylinders working at any given time and load to save fuel. The previous example switched off three cylinders (half the V6) when they weren't needed, but this new one changes between six, four, and three cylinders for more fuel-stretching choices. The system is completely automatic and unknown to the driver except for two things: The Eco light illuminates on the dash when the system is on, and there's a slight hunting sensation as it switches back-and-forth between four and three cylinders at certain speeds, but you'll need to be paying attention to notice that.
Coupes with the 190-hp four-cylinder manual or automatic or the VCM V6 automatic use the same powertrain setups as the sedans. However, the V6 used in the coupe with the manual six-speed transmission is a different engine. While size and output are the same, it uses a different intake system for stronger midrange and no VCM because its intended buyer isn't springing for the sportiest model to save gas by letting pistons coast along for the ride.
The softest-riding Accord is the LX by virtue of 16-inch tires w
All-new, the 2008 Honda Accord impresses with what you don't see, don't feel, and don't hear. There's no gee-whiz gadget, two-tone animal-on-animal upholstery, or 400-hp engine to get worked up about. There's also next to no learning curve to operate it, no weak spots in the powertrain, no unnecessary or intrusive noise, no bad manners in how it responds to driver direction, next to nothing bad for the environment, and no excuse for not asking directions since you can do that without winding down a window. It's a case where a lack of superlative aspects (and the frequent compromises accompanying them) is a very good thing. In short, the new Honda Accord is a great midsize sedan. It's also available as a stylish, trouble-free coupe
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale filed this report from Santa Monica, California.