A couple of years ago, when Hyundai went to an all four-cylinder-engine lineup for its mid-size (or larger) Sonata—including a step-up turbocharged four—the rationale was that a turbo four would return better mileage than a V-6. Likewise, in the all-new 2013 Fusion, Ford has cleared V-6 engines from its mid-size sedan's lineup, replacing them with a team of turbo fours.
Also this year the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu is dropping its V-6 in favor of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine; and Mazda plans to drop the V-6 from its Mazda6 after 2013.
Yet here arrives the 2013 Honda Accord, with its step-up engine a V-6—a large, 3.5-liter at that, making 278 horsepower—and it's rated an almost incredible 34 miles per gallon highway (21 mpg city). On top of that, it also runs on regular unleaded gas, and meets ULEV2 standards.
Accord V6 sips like a four
That's better than the 2013 Chrysler 200 Sedan or 2013 Dodge Avenger Sedan with their four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic, and essentially tied with both the Hyundai Sonata Turbo and base Chevrolet Malibu (both of those get 22/34 mpg). It's also 3 mpg better on the highway then either the 2013 Nissan Altima V-6 or the 2013 Volkswagen Passat five-cylinder. And it's 4 mpg better on the highway than the Toyota Camry.
Honda officials said that they believe there's still significant demand for a V-6 mid-size sedan, and that going to a turbocharged four instead was not the answer as it didn't meet the sum of all needs for drivability as a premium engine, combined with better efficiency.
“We plan our engines around our customer, and it [the V-6 engine] was still something that the customer very much wanted,” said Art St. Cyr, vice president for corporate planning and logistics at American Honda, at a recent preview of the upcoming Accord.
That oddly, leaves the Toyota and Honda the only ones standing with V-6 offerings in a recently redesigned mid-size sedan.
And there are some indications that Honda plans to offer the V-6 for many more years. This year the engine gets improvements aimed at reduced wear and improved longevity, and the cylinder head gets a new 'tumble port' intake design, while the exhaust manifold is now cast into the cylinder head itself.
The engine gets Honda's Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system, as well as a SOHC i-VTEC valvetrain, and during cruising or coasting it can operate on just three cylinders to help boost mileage. But to help meet those V-6 standard of refinements, it utilizes both Active Engine Mounts and Active Noise Control.
2013 Honda Accord sedan
Direct injection, CVT, and 36 mpg for base four
The four-cylinder engine that will go into most Accords is probably the bigger story, although it's less of a surprise. As the first application of direct injection in a North American product for Honda, the new 2.4-liter in-line four makes 185 horsepower (189 hp in Sport models) and 181 (or 182) pound-feet of torque. It's matched to a new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and earns an EPA-rated 27 mpg city, 36 highway.
That's not up to the level of the Altima's 27/38 mpg ratings, but almost; and the more interesting comparison will be drivability. Be sure to see our review page on the 2013 Honda Accord for more details and pictures, and stay tuned for driving impressions on these new powertrains and how they match up in a class of very impressive entries.
In the meantime, we're curious: Would you expect to pay more, less, or about the same—all else comparable—for a mid-size V-6 sedan versus one with a turbo four? Let us know in the comments below.