2018 Honda Accord first drive: equal and opposite reaction

October 1, 2017

The way engineers talk, the 2018 Honda Accord evolved from inattention.

A decade ago when money for research was expensive and hard to find, Honda skated on its reputation. Call it a byproduct of conservatism, not laziness. Cars like the Civic and Accord didn’t thrive—just survived.

When the new Accord started in earnest, the 10th generation of the storied sedan, an equal and opposite reaction was bound to happen.

MORE: Read our full review of the 2018 Honda Accord

It couldn’t have happened soon enough.

Behind the wheel, with the wheel, through the wheel and looking ahead, the new Accord isn’t only better—it’s better than it needs to be.

Their efforts are apparent in the way the sedan winds up, shoulders heavily into corner after corner, and responds more intuitively than people shake hands at first meeting.

The interior wouldn’t be out of place in a luxury car, and its exterior shape melds modern themes with classic proportions in a new, but familiar, tale that could be called a Hollywood remake.

Welcome back, Honda Accord. Glad to see you again for the first time.

2018 Honda Accord

2018 Honda Accord

2018 Honda Accord

2018 Honda Accord

2018 Honda Accord

2018 Honda Accord

That Honda threw out its old V-6 was written on the walls. Specifically, the walls that line the hallways of the EPA. They weren’t the first, but they were the first to replace their V-6 with a mind-meltingly complex engine.

It’s the optional mill, but most entertaining. Cribbed from the Civic Type R, the 2.0-liter turbo-4 wears more abbreviated appendages than a physician’s office. The 252-horsepower endings sports VTEC, VTC and iMM, albeit for different reasons. The variable valve lift and timing regimes exist for fuel economy and refinement, a second balance shaft was added to seal its fate. Although the V-6 engines in mid-sizers were reaching their peak: tempting 300 hp, with only two wheels to worry about in most cases, some teamed to turbos, the Accord doesn’t need any of the above. Competency and compactness is the mission.

DON'T MISS: 2018 Honda Accord prototype first drive: V-6 deep-sized, and better

It’s smaller sibling starts with similar roots, albeit in muted performance. The 1.5-liter turbo-4 is borrowed from the Civic Si, and its performance is similarly steered toward comfort: 192 hp.

Both engines get a 6-speed manual that’s almost unnecessary. Its pedigree is impressive—it’s the same box from the Type R—but its throws and light clutch sour the experience. Want a driver’s mid-size? Go find a Fusion Sport, then consider what it’s like to live with.

Livability is the Accord’s first mission and it succeeds.

A two-door version of the Accord is missing from the lineup for the first time in a generation. It won’t return either; if the mid-size sedan market is shrinking then the market for a mid-size coupe derived from the mid-size sedan is gone.

We’ll miss it, but not as much as we could.

 

The Accord sedan dares like other mid-sizers before it, but succeeds where others haven’t.

It’s as right angled as Asian-based automakers have done before—including the Civic, but the Accord doesn’t skip the basics. The front roof pillars have been pushed back 4 inches and the dash-to-front axle length would make Houdini jealous. Are we sure this is a front-wheel-drive sedan?

It’s not all for looks. The Accord just needed a better-fitting wardrobe.

MUST SEE: 2018 Honda Accord premium-priced from $24,445

The Accord’s wheelbase is longer, lower, and wider, than last year’s model, but it’s 2 inches shorter nose to toes. It’s only roughly 150 pounds lighter, due to more high-strength steel, but it feels lither than the scales would indicate.

Along with the sharper body lines, the Accord features a tantalizingly near-sportback shape that it wears well without overdoing it. Yes, it looks like Honda found Audi’s website. No, that’s not a bad thing.

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

From the inside, the Accord’s lower dash and thinner roof pillars make looking forward a widescreen experience. The Accord’s nose drops lower and out of the way this time, and while the horizontal themes found in the dash are elegant, it’s no rival for nature. And the Accord gives you both in 16:9.

The net effect of the new sedan not only makes the last version easier to forget, but it also makes it feel soggy. Compared to the new version, the last one looks soggy—loaded with so much weight underneath its sheet metal and in its interior fittings that its almost dripping with meh from the dash to the trunk.

The new Accord doesn’t make the same mistake.

 

2018 Honda Accord

2018 Honda Accord

It all starts with the touchscreen.

The 8.0-inch floating display perched atop the dash is a hub for most trims of the Accord, and a welcome addition by subtraction. Last year’s model, which featured a dual-screen setup feels almost silly in its redundancy now—but it’s redundancy that saves the new version too.

Honda added a volume knob and tune/scroll knob to both sides, flanked by a row of hard buttons for common tasks as a complement and capitulation. Yes, controlling the volume without a knob is possible. No, we didn’t like doing it.

From there, the dash spreads out across the cabin, trimmed tastefully with silver accents in most trims; wood in high-dollar models.

Clicking the hard buttons along the sides of the touchscreen is almost audible in the backseats due to an upgraded active noise cancellation system inside that samples ambient noise with three microphones.

But we’d rather be in the back seats anyhow. The 2 inches added to the wheelbase go directly to back seat comfort—more than 40 inches of leg room behind driver or passenger.

Coupled with an increased focus on making the Accord comfortable for American backsides—it’s no longer offered in Japan or Europe—the Accord tempts with full-size specifications in EPA parlance.

Top trims of the Accord aren’t nice commuters—they’re low-level luxury cars without inflated price tags.

Or inflated egos.

Coupled with a driving position that’s 1 inch lower and a hood that doesn’t spoil outward vision, the Accord drives better than its history would indicate. Even the 1.5-liter turbo-4 spools up quickly and darts off the line, thanks to low-hanging torque in its powerband. It’s out of breath early, but only the no-cost optional 6-speed manual spills its secret—the CVT is a better match.

Although a Sport trim is available on both engines, the Accord really has less rock than a Steely Dan jam band.

Top models, when equipped with 2.0-liter turbo-4s are better suited for deeper stabs at the throttle. It’s here that the 6-speed manual is overshadowed again, the 10-speed automatic hijacked from the Odyssey is better.

In every instance, the Accord rubs shoulders with high-society with a middle-class price tag.

The outgoing boss of American Honda, Jeff Conrad proclaimed that the mid-size segment won’t go anywhere, it’s just a dearth of anything new coupled with a lack of attention.

The 2018 Honda Accord just got ours. It’s that good.

Honda provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.

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