2018 Honda Accord prototype first drive: V-6 deep-sixed, and better

June 9, 2017

The 2018 Honda Accord will be an all-new version of the popular mid-size sedan last redesigned for the 2013 model year.

The 10th-generation Accord will ride on new underpinnings, and use a pair of revised 4-cylinder engines, eliminating the previous V-6 that's been the top engine option for many years now.

Because the Accord is largely a North American product, Honda brought a small number of U.S. journalists to Japan for a short drive around the company's high-speed test track in a heavily camouflaged prototype of the new sedan.

The new Accord will be "lower and wider," Honda says, but so far the company has released only the powertrain specifications.

More details on the car and its features will follow closer to its launch, which Honda says will take place in "fall 2017," meaning the car is likely already in pilot production in the plant in Marysville, Ohio, that has been building Accords for 25 years now.

The base engine to be found in most 2018 Accords will be a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-4, with the V-6 replaced by a more powerful 2.0-liter turbo-4 that's lighter but equally powerful.

The 1.5-liter engine is direct-injected and turbocharged, and can be paired with either a 6-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission that will likely give the best EPA-rated fuel economy of any model in the range.

The more powerful 2.0-liter engine can also be paired with the 6-speed manual—unusually for a mid-size sedan—but the more common transmission will be a new 10-speed automatic, the first such unit fitted to any front-wheel-drive sedan sold in the U.S.

2018 Honda Accord sedan prototype, Honda Tochigi R&D Center, Japan, June 2017

2018 Honda Accord sedan prototype, Honda Tochigi R&D Center, Japan, June 2017

There will also be an Accord Hybrid, fitted with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine tuned to run on the Atkinson Cycle and paired to a refined third-generation version of Honda's innovative two-motor hybrid system that replaces a transmission.

Our brief driving impression near dusk at Honda's Tochigi R&D facility came in a prototype fitted with the more powerful 2.0-liter turbo engine and the new 10-speed automatic.

During two laps of the high-speed track, the engine delivered power that felt equal to that of a conventional V-6, delivered smoothly across the rev range.

The transmission shifted quickly and smoothly after a brief hesitation on full acceleration, and the car reached 125 mph on the track at a speed that would clearly keep pace with any mass-market mid-size sedan competitor.

More impressive yet was the car's handling, which combined good steering feel with a lack of body roll and crisp but predictable tuck-in when lifting off the power at high speeds.

That means, in mid-size terms, that the car tightened the line of its turn at speed when a driver lifted off—the safest and most predictable setup for a front-wheel-drive car.

The feel and feedback from the electric power steering was natural enough that a driver would likely never know it was simulated with all the direction changes being done electrically.

Then our two laps were done, and we turned the car over to the next eager journalist—leaving us curious to learn more about this next version of the popular Honda Accord, which seems as though it may be more of a driver's car than its predecessor.

Honda provided airfare, lodging, local travel, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person drive report.

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