Honda Accord — A step ahead of the competition

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

It's the best of times for people shopping mid-sized family sedans. They have a wealth of choices. In fact, it's hard to go wrong when finally reaching a decision with worthy candidates from virtually every manufacturer selling cars in the United States. All of them have numerous redeeming traits. That makes build quality, reliability and resale value even more important.

Those are three areas in which the Honda Accord has excelled, and the Accord has become an even more desirable purchase for 2016 with numerous mid-cycle styling and technology updates. Perhaps most important Honda has improved such unseen things as strengthening structure reinforcements, tuning up the suspension for better handling, and reworking the transmission in the 4-cylinder model to deliver more performance.

And while the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder making 185 horsepower is the most popular offering with excellent performance and good gas mileage, we discovered the top-line V-6 Touring model might be just the ticket offering virtually everything found in entry level luxury vehicles including a quit cabin, a well-mannered ride, the performance of an upscale luxury car and the creature comforts associated with Lexus, Acura and Infiniti, at a no-options-necessary bottom line price of $35,400.

As for the upgraded styling, the Accord sedan gets a more sharply creased and contoured aluminum hood replacing the steel version on earlier models and meets up with a brighter, more pronounced front grille. The new more expressive face of Accord is complimented by a sharply sculpted rear bumper fascia and new LED taillight design.

Such niceties as leather upholstery, driver-seat memory functions, heated front and outboard rear seats, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, a seven-speaker sound system, an outstanding rearview camera, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integrated into the Display Audio system are all included in the package of standard features. And the Honda Sensing package is also part of the Touring trim level. It includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning and intervention with automatic braking.

We did have issues with a couple of aspects of the Touring model such as the adaptive cruise control, which seemed to brake the car too quickly and was slower than other modern adaptive systems getting back up to speed; and the button-less, knob-less screen display that is annoying with the loss of such no-brainer items as a volume knob for the audio system. Saving the day were audio steering wheel controls.

The real heart and soul of the Touring is the lusty 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 278 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque mated to a standard six-speed automatic transmission. It's satisfyingly quick measured at 5.7 seconds from 0-to-60, the fastest sedan in the mid-sized segment. And the sedan was well controlled on our usual winding back-road "test track" displaying considerable agility to complement the solid performance. At the same time gas mileage is exemplary, rated at 21 mpg city, 34 highway and 26 combined. We simply couldn't ask more from a family sedan.

But for most people the 2.4-liter four-cylinder mated to a continuously variable transmission will be the clear choice. We found the CVT to be as good as any in the segment with well designated simulated shifts. Gas mileage is measured at 27 in city, 37 on the highway and 31 overall. The bottom line here is that most people won't know — or care — they are driving a CVT, but will be impressed with solid performance measured at about 7.5 seconds from 0-to-60.

Another pleasing trait of the Accord is its abundant space that offers good leg- and head room all around for adult passengers. A spacious 15.5 cubic-foot trunk comes with a large, wide opening.

The 4-cylinder Accord comes in four trim levels — LX, Sport, EX and EX-L. The V-6 comes in EX-L and Touring trims. Opting for the Sport trim level brings a bit more horsepower at 189, 19-inch wheels, a rear deck spoiler, and dual exhaust tips. The LX, Sport and EX models can be outfitted with a six-speed manual transmission for those who simply enjoy shifting for themselves. As before, the Accord is also available as a sporty coupe.

Prices start at $22,925 including destination charge for the LX with manual transmission. We figure the popular trim will be the EX starting at $27,100. The Honda Sensing suite of safety features can be added for $1,000. The top-line EX-L with V-6, navigation and Honda Sensing is priced at $33,465 including destination. The Touring such as our test car was $35,400.

Base price: $22,925; as driven, $35,400
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 278 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 252 foot-pounds @ 4,900 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Length: 192.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,605 pounds
Turning circle: 39.6 feet
Luggage capacity: 15.5 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 17.2 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 34 highway, 21 city, 26 overall
0-60: 5.7 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Ford Fusion, Mazda6, Hyundai Sonata

The Good
• Excellent powertrains
• Roomy interior
• Standard features plentiful
• Many safety features available

The Bad
• Slow reacting adaptive cruise control

The Ugly
• Useable knobs and buttons missing