The time: a recent Saturday morning. The place: Interstate 495 South, near the Lowell exit. Traffic is moderate and moving quickly.
We’re traveling in this week’s test car, a 2013 Honda Accord EX, heading toward Connecticut to join the family and look at some real estate.
I move into the left lane and pass an 18-wheeler, then hit the right directional signal to move back to the middle lane.
“Hey, that’s really cool,’’ says Mrs.G as the Accord’s LaneWatch display pops up on the eight-inch display screen. Yes, it is pretty cool. A camera, mounted in the passenger-side mirror, shows not only the truck we’ve passed but also another car, one that’s moving really fast as it passes the truck— and us—on the right side.
Chalk one up for the LaneWatch system, which is standard on the EX (and above) trim line.
It’s Honda’s version of a blind spot detection system. Where other manufacturers have a light that glows in the driver or passenger side mirror to alert you to a vehicle in your so-called “blind spot,’’ Honda uses the camera mounted in the passenger-side mirror that shows a clear picture and also superimposes three lines (red, orange, yellow) to tell you how close the cars on the right are.
However, there are a couple of drawbacks with the system. At night, the oncoming lights are extremely bright in the display. And there’s no similar system for the left side. Instead, the driver must make do with an “expanded view’’— a convex panel on the outer edge of the left side mirror with a thin line separating it from the main glass.
It doesn’t seem to expand coverage very much and almost looks like the glass is broken or you’re getting used to progressive lenses in a new pair of glasses. In comparison, Ford models without electronic blind spot warning have a distinct convex section of the mirror, a less-subtle system that’s more intuitive for the driver.
Nevertheless, the Honda LaneWatch system works well, even though the dashboard display takes some getting used to, especially if you’ve had a lifetime of conditioning yourself to carefully adjusting and routinely checking that right side mirror.
Both the LaneWatch system and a rearview camera are standard on the new Accord.
Our test EX was No. 3 in Honda’s six-step Accord sedan lineup—LX, Sport, EX, EX-L (leather), EX-L (V-6), andTouring. It was priced at $26,195 (including destination). In comparison, the base LX starts at $22,470 with manual transmission, and the top-levelTouring has a $34,220 MSRP.
The test car had Honda’s new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that now has direct fuel injection. It’s mated to an extremely smooth CVT (continuously variable transmission) that replaces the previous five-speed automatic transmission. The CVT doesn’t have any paddle shifters (a plus in my view) but does have an S (for Sport) mode on the gearshift selector that noticeably changes the performance matrix. On the other hand, hitting the Econ mode button doesn’t leave you with a powerless feeling.
This engine-transmission combination reinforces my ever-growing contention that few buyers need a V-6 these days.The four-cylinder (185 horsepower, 181 lb.-ft. of torque) was more than adequate in all situations, didn’t give off annoying engine noise, and contributed to the Accord’s nimble feel. It’s rated at 27 miles per gallon city and 36 highway. We averaged 33.7 mpg over mostly highway driving with the exception of one long and tedious rush-hour drive from Boston’s North Shore to Middleboro.
This car is the ninth generation in Accord’s 37-year history and notable because the newAccord is a little smaller on the outside than the model it replaces even as its already roomy interior gains more space. It will compete in the ever-more-competitive mid-size sector where it challenged Camry for the top-selling passenger vehicle (29,926 vs. 28,349) in October.
Overall, this Accord is 3.5 inches shorter than its predecessor and the wheelbase shrinks by .9 inches. The changes return Accord to a mid-size feel while the vehicle retains big-car accommodations with good rear legroom and a cavernous trunk.
Inside, the seats have a good grade of cloth and both instrumentation and controls are intuitive.
We noted that the instrument panel was tending more toward a horizontal look than the now-common defined center stack arrangement. In an age when manufacturers take great pains with dashboard design, Accord’s has an irregular but pleasing shape.
On the road, the suspension definitely is on the firm side, which is a matter of personal taste, and the electronic power steering has a precise feel.
Also standard are Bluetooth,a USB/iPod connection, the ECON button with color-coded eco-assist light bar around the speedometer, eight-inch multi-informational display, Pandora internet radio interface, and SMS text-messaging feature.
EX-L models and above add forward collision warning (FCW), and lane departure warning (LDW). The Touring Sedan also will offer adaptive cruise control (ACC).
Traditional Accord buyers should be pleased with the selections, and newcomers to the Honda brand will find a lot to like.