From a performance perspective, the 2013 Honda Accord sees more significant change than the lineup has received in more than a decade.
All Accord models remain front-wheel drive, but in order to boost fuel economy, Honda is introducing two new engines as well as a new automatic transmission for each. First, Honda brings direct-injection engine technology to North America for the first time in models with the 185-horsepower (189-hp in Sport models), 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. With it, you can choose from a six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
Thanks to a unique G-Design shift logic, Honda claims that there's “a more immediate acceleration response than conventional automatics or other CVTs,” and from an initial test, we have to agree. This CVT brings revs up quickly, then creates the feeling that it's locking onto 'gears' along the way--avoiding the steady drone and rubber-band sensations that plague some of these designs.
Otherwise, at a time when rival models look to turbocharged fours, the V-6 model is definitely still alive in the Accord lineup. For 2013 this 3.5-liter makes 278 hp and couples to a six-speed automatic transmission or (in Coupes only) a six-speed manual gearbox. It's been fitted with full i-VTEC and Variable Cylinder Management to aid efficiency, and active noise cancellation helps make it feel more refined than ever.
The Honda Accord has always been a little more engaging than most other mid-size sedans, and it continues to follow that tack; a manual transmission is offered in four-cylinder Accord sedans--and it's not just offered in base models, or an afterthought. With such a precise gearbox, neat clutch takeup, and the responsive, rev-happy feel, this Accord feels far more refined than other base-model cars.
A manual gearbox is also offered with the V-6 in Coupe models only, but there it includes a rather heavy clutch pedal that we could see being more tiring in the commute. Meanwhile, the V-6 models are among the best highway-commuter and road-trip cars ever.
In the 2013 Accord, Honda has at last given up its worshipped double-wishbone setup, instead opting for more tunable (and cheaper) MacPherson struts that it claims will improve ride and handling while cutting cabin noise. Otherwise, the automaker has reduced weight and keeps away harshness with a new aluminum-and-steel front subframe and some careful underbody aerodynamic work.
The electric power steering that all Accord models now have is another case of technology that’s not loved in other models, but it’s done right here. We really could see or feel no issue with the steering in four-cylinder models, and while it feels a little more isolated and muted in V-6 models, it behaves as electric systems should, with a mostly linear weighting, a good sense of center, and a sense of the road surface and the cornering loads. It also has a nice natural feel, and Honda points to a non-contact torque sensor as one of the keys to this.