Having owned a couple Hondas over the years (a first generation Accord sedan (this is the ninth) and a first generation CR-X si pocket rocket), we must say that we do have respect for the brand. Honda was a driving force in changing the way the domestic manufacturers thought about building cars.
This ninth generation Accord uses an all-new platform with some long overdue technological improvements, not the least of which is this plug-in hybrid version. Interestingly, the plug-in hybrid version will hit the streets before the conventional hybrid Accord early next year.
First, the basics. The PHEV uses a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine producing 137 horsepower for primary propulsion. In addition, a 124 kilowatt (166 horsepower) electric motor (Honda provided no torque number) allows the vehicle the capability of providing all electric propulsion, all gas propulsion, or a combination of the two. Electric only mode will get you about 10 to 15 miles down the road, as it has a tiny 6.7 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery. The default starting mode is full electric. But enough of the tech stuff. How does it drive? Amazingly well.
We only had a short opportunity with the car in downtown Los Angeles streets around the convention center. Initial acceleration off the line was responsive (more than expected) with the quietness that one would expect from an electric drivetrain. The gasoline engine will kick in at higher speeds or when the Li-Ion battery has run out of juice. Engine power can also be used to recharge on the go. It felt pleasant enough – responsive and comfortable but it was not without its quirks – at least for us.
Sometimes it is the little things that make the biggest impressions. At least that is how it is with us. One feature of note for us was the release for the tilt/telescope steering wheel. The release mechanism seemed a long reach under the steering column. With two drivers in the household, this is something that would be changed as often as every driver change. My (vertically challenged) wife would not enjoy having to reach under each time to make this adjustment. It may not seem like a big thing, but we have found that the little things that need to be lived with on a day-to-day basis can create the love or hate relationship with one’s car. That said, we would enjoy an opportunity to spend more time behind the wheel. Now if Honda could only do something about that wheel design (although they are forged, not cast, for lightness), and the lower front fascia (what were they thinking?) they just might be onto something.
This Accord will be built in Japan. Look for pricing and availability after the first of the year.