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Honda Accord 2.4 - Party Animal


There’s something that an MBA college does to you. For one, you start to believe that you will climb the corporate ladder fast enough – trust me, it’s overconfidence that brews over a presentation you faffed through just the previous day. As one of those MBA students with a twisted idea of reality, I too set myself the rather impossible target of getting up there double quick and driving a Honda Accord every Saturday night to a club in south Mumbai. It was the perfect picture back then in 2004, because the 7th gen Accord, all told, was a stunning looking car with cosseting interiors, those lovely white dials and, well, it was a surefire way of picking up girls for a night out. Four years later, this distorted view of life turned a full circle as Pablo rubbed his chin and said, ‘Hey, how about shooting the new Accord in SoBo tonight?’ That one statement made me instantly feel four years younger.

Make no mistake, the new Accord has a tall order to set. The 7th gen set so many benchmarks in its segment that it could still hang on to many of those parameters and emerge a probable winner in a shootout. 

In the 8th gen, Honda have found a new design philosophy, a more mature and subdued approach to the radical thinking they had applied to the previous Accord, then the Civic and now the CR-V. At 4.95 metres long, it is 30 mm longer than the Audi A6 and is just 0.15 metres short of the Audi Q7 – that’s saying a lot! There’s some resemblance to the Audis up front, with its larger, deeper grille and rectangular headlamps. On the Inspire model, there’s also a thick moustachioed chrome strip across the grille that looks straight off the large Honda Ridgeline truck. Parked next to a Toyota Camry, the profile starts to look similar, the crease line running across the flanks and up to the C-pillar the only distinguishing factor on the Accord. The boot now appears larger than the outgoing version, thanks to the smaller reflectors on the trunk lid. Here too, one could simply plaster the Toyota badge and it wouldn’t look out of place. If that causes a stir at your Camry owning neighbour’s household, you can opt for a body kit from Honda, that adds a chin spoiler, skirts and a boot lip spoiler – making you poorer by about a lakh of rupees.   On the whole, the verdict in the office is split on how it looks. While Bijoy and myself still think the 7th gen looked slick, Pablo and Kyle prefer the one you see on these pages. The final vote is sort of a middle ground, but I still think the 7th gen looked more at home in SoBo, like it gelled with the English architecture with more ease than this one.
DESIGN : ***

The Accord has always pampered the driver and this generation is no exception. The centre console tunnel always wraps around the driver, the handbrake is just at the right place and so is the gearbox. The seats give you that ‘sink in’ feeling, while the steering always felt like it came from something more sporty. On these counts the Accord lives up to that badge on the boot. But it’s starting to get a bit cluttered. Take the centre console, for instance. Despite several buttons, and large ones at that, it’s never easy to find the right one even after having driven the car several times. The volume knob is smaller than the multi-function knob, which does nothing more than adjust the bass and treble, clock and some other inconsequential functions. One starts to wonder whether Honda should have adopted a sort of  iDrive unit, because even basic music system functions are missing from the steering wheel. Thankfully, the car has a nice sounding stereo and a USB input, so that the pen-drive can really come in handy to store music once in a while. 

The car also features front and rear parking sensors that can be manually switched off. If your other car is a BMW or an Audi, don’t expect the parking sensors to trigger a mute function on the stereo whilst parking, because it just won’t happen. It’s not something you genuinely miss, but I think there’s nothing more than a circuit involved and it’s something cars in this class should start offering. What the Accord does offer is six airbags and all round ABS with EBD, so safety is really not an issue. Rear seat comfort too is great for two, add a third and the high perched centre seat and large central tunnel won’t make the drive comfortable, even though you won’t rub shoulders with your neighbours. Overall legroom, headroom and shoulder room is quite good in the Indian context – no wonder the US EPA have classified this Accord as a large saloon. 

Despite the block still measuring in at 2354cc, there are a lot of changes to the engine. For starters, there have been changes to the iVTEC system, bringing it a generation ahead. DOHC instead of SOHC as well as single ignition coil per cylinder have been used, while the valvegear itself has been lightened. Increasing the compression ratio has also played its part in bringing the peak power to 178 bhp, up nearly 35 horses. Torque too has seen some upward revision, but it’s too small to even notice.

Start it up and it sounds like a Braun steam kettle, an electric motor or anything that screams ‘hush’! All right, what else would one expect from a Honda? Launch the car and it moves ahead rather well. I would have liked some more poke and some heady rush pre 3500 revs. It feels a little stifled, but really, it would take a mad-cap road tester like me to crib about that lack of a bit more power. Genuinely speaking, this car can go, and if you have a lot of girlfriends, they will be impressed by your driving skills. Trust Honda to come to the rescue just when you want it. At just 10.04 seconds to 100 kph, the car is fast for a car its size, though you must realise it was tested with two fairly hefty people up front. It continues to progress all the way to 200 kph, and in our case it ended at 207.9 kph, though once you are past 160-170 kph the progress starts to slow down. In real terms, this car is just a tad slower than the previous 2.4, though in absolute terms it’s all you would ever want.

Even when you decide to nail the throttle, everything falls in place. The snickety gearbox is a class act, while the clutch feels light. It’s also not bad at the pumps, delivering about 11.5 kpl overall.
The new Accord does feel large when you drive around town, but thankfully the edgy design also means that you are sort of aware of the edges around the car. Even then, for a large size car the steering plays a vital role in wrapping the car around the driver, and here too Honda have done good work of making the steering light and easy to apply pressure to. But it doesn’t take long to realise that in all that effort, Honda haven’t injected some steering feel. It’s quite lacking, and the small doses of steering feel that do transmit through the rack and pinion are vague and inconsistent. 

That however doesn’t affect body control. The harder you start to accelerate the better the car starts to handle until you reach a threshold. Post 160 kph on the clock, the car starts to wander a bit and at top whack you do have to have a deft hand at work, but those moments really are quite rare on most Indian roads. Cornering does reveal some amount of roll and the size comes back to play spoilsport once again around tight twisty roads. You don’t expect the Accord to handle like a sports coupe, and it doesn’t, but the slightly disappointing steering and softer rear suspension setup don’t make it as precise as the previous gen felt. 

What the Accord conquers, and with complete authority, are Indian roads. It begins with small amounts of stiffness at low speeds, but it’s quite insignificant and as speeds increase the car just gets better and better. It creates a sort of a cushioning effect we’ve only seen on the Toyota Camry, supple all along the way for those rear seat passengers. So even though the front end tracks beautifully around corners while the rear tends to play catch up, no one sitting in the rear will complain about the potholes. It’s a sort of a compromise which tends to work in this segment.

The new Accord tends to wow, wow; a little less than its previous iteration, but wow nonetheless. On the whole it’s still a great experience and at its price, it offers very good value, even though it misses out on some kit. It might start to age faster than its predecessor, but it still has its traditional Honda traits intact, something prospective customers will appreciate. It’s also a great car to take to the club, with all its space and interior accoutrements, helping you win friends and influence people. And I can see a lot of current generation MBA students picture just such a future.