Until now, hybrid automobiles have been driven by a thirst for fuel economy, in a green movement spearheaded by the purpose-built Honda Insight
and original Toyota Prius
. Evolution of the species lead to the Honda Civic
Sedan offering a hybrid model with a gasoline-electric powertrain enabling impressive real-world economy while approximating the street performance of the midlevel LX four-door. The 2005 model year has brought the next phase, marrying efficiency with performance, and the Accord is the harbinger of this new breed. Accomplishing a series of firsts, this variant of one of America's best-selling cars sees hybrid technology applied to a V-6 for the first time, one with cylinder-deactivation and greater horsepower than the available gasoline-only V-6. Best of all, this enticing powertrain is surrounded by a well-respected car fitted with the full brochure's worth of features.
The stately seventh-generation Accord does not flaunt its hybrid status; instead it blends in to the traffic, with little more than a diminutive badge to announce its "greener than thou" presence. Other exterior distinctions include a standard rear decklid spoiler and distinct AM/FM/XM radio antenna. A lightweight aluminum hood and slightly larger 215/60VR16 tires on exclusive five-spoke wheels are less overt. The Accord matches its nemesis, the Toyota Camry, in nearly every exterior measurement. While the Prius is classified as a midsize car, the Accord is larger, stretching 14.5 inches longer, 3.6 inches wider, and yet an inch lower.
From within the cabin, the Accord Hybrid looks and feels like the transition point between a volume-selling sedan and the near-luxury Acura TL. Leather upholstery and trim creates a good first impression, supported by attention to detail throughout. Like all Accords, this sedan has a simple-to-operate , yet artfully layed out, cabin, with the Hybrid benefiting from redundant illuminated steering-wheel-mounted switches. It also features a digital display to monitor the energy stored in the onboard battery pack. Our test model had the optional navigation system. Uplevel niceties include dual-zone automatic climate control, HomeLink, external temperature gauge, cruise control, and 120-watt AM/FM/XM/CD stereo system with a six-disc in-dash changer. This Accord also touts a feature shared with the Odyssey Touring, but more commonly associated with luxury cars, Active Noise Control (ANC). To nullify inherent noise created when the V-6 is operating on three-cylinders, thanks to the fuel-sparing Variable Cylinder Management system, ANC monitors interior sound intrusion and smartly counters it to create a quiet environment. Another unseen technology is the unique air conditioning system, which draws both engine and electrical power to effectively cool the interior and minimize impact on fuel economy.
Front passengers are treated to comfortable, supportive bucket seats that provide generous head, leg, hip, and shoulder room. The driver seat has eight-way power adjustment, and both places are heated. The well-padded rear bench is nearly as comfortable as the prime front positions. A good seat-back rake and ample head- and legroom make the body-contoured outboard seats quite comfortable. There is adequate room for three-across seating. In total, near every passenger dimension measures greater than those in the Camry and Prius, with many boasting a one-inch advantage. At 102.7 cu ft, the Accord interior boasts a negligible one foot advantage over Camry and a noticeable 6.5 cu ft edge over the Prius. However, the concession to fitting the battery pack to the Accord reduced its normal 14.0 cu ft trunk down to 11.2 cubic feet, about five cubic feet less than the Toyotas. The large, wide Accord opening makes access easy, and its 32-inch depth is quite serviceable. Because of the battery pack, this model does not have a fold-down rear seat.
The Hybrid model benefits from the same safety technology found on the Accord EX V-6 sedan including dual-stage front airbags, dual front side airbags, and a side curtain airbag system. It also features disc brakes at each corner, fitted with anti-lock and enhanced with electronic brake force distribution. Front tire slippage is tempered by a traction control system. To save weight, the traditional spare tire has been replaced by the "Instant Mobility System" flat-tire repair kit - essentially a can of Fix-a-Flat and a 12V air compressor. A temporary spare tire is available from dealers as an option. The Accord Hybrid structure has proven itself in government crash tests, earning five stars for front driver/passenger and rollover rating, with four stars earned for side impact.
Like the Civic before it, the Accord Hybrid is an engine-powered car that is supplemented by electricity. The 3.0-liter V-6 has a relatively lightweight aluminum block and magnesium head construction with four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, and programmed fuel injection. Its tricks lie in the variable cylinder management cutting the bank of three forward cylinders during light-duty periods, such as cruising, and in its idle-stop feature. The efficient engine is supplemented by the third-generation Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) motor system, adding up to 16.1 hp and 100 lb-ft of torque. The IMA captures kinetic energy during deceleration and braking in a compact 144-volt battery back. Backing this drivetrain is a new five-speed automatic transmission designed with a few features to aid this application, including a new torque converter that shortens shift time and hastens startup from idle. The net result is a 255-hp powerplant that bests the EX V-6 by 15 horsepower, giving the hybrid bragging rights for both power and efficiency.
Behind the Wheel
Around town, the Accord runs like a traditional car, with the sole caveat being its stop-idle feature. While sitting silent at a turn signal, the car retains its climate control abilities thank s to the combination electric and engine-dependent system. Acceleration is relatively swift, with power delivered smoothly in a satisfying rush. Motor Trend has tested the Hybrid 0-60 mph at 6.6 seconds, just a tick off an Accord V-6 at 6.5. The added weight on this model is demonstrably offset by the additional horsepower. On the highway, the Honda discretely kicks off three cylinders and cruises effortlessly. When it's time to pass, all six cylinders fire in a seamless transition, the transmission downshifts quickly, and the IMA contributes power to complete the maneuver . In total, the engine performance is quite excellent. There is always ample power, and never an excuse needed. Like all Accords, the independent suspension remains connected to the road, communicating as appropriate, and isolating harshness. The overall feeling is active and eager, with the sizeable car having a sportier-than-expected character.
Upscale, uptown, frisky, and yet socially responsible, the Accord Hybrid succeeds in its positioning as the top-flight Accord as the premium choice in the immensely popular range. The sedan earned a 29 city/37 highway mpg rating, besting the four-cylinder Accord while boasting 95 more horsepower. This proverbial "have your cake and eat it too" car holds 17.1 gallons, enabling a theoretical 633 mile range on regular gas. Allaying buyer concerns, the first scheduled tune-up doesn't occur until 105,000 miles. Even with its extreme fuel economy, it would take a few years to offset the $3,290 price difference between the best Accord V-6 and the Hybrid tested, leaving the ultimate motivation for purchasing this impressive new model being the attraction to the premium content, environmental activism, and affinity for technology.
The Honda Accord Hybrid is a refined, powerful midsize sedan that scores on its own merits, with the efficient, seamless hybrid drivetrain almost as a bonus.
What's NewThe Hybrid variant expands the Accord range, marking the first mainstream, midsize sedan to offer a hybrid gasoline-electric drivetrain as an option. More significant, this model pushes the popular Accord to new heights in both technology and luxury. Non-hybrid Accords see few updates, such as side airbags added to DX and LX trims, revised taillamps, and new wheel covers.
Key optionsExtremely well equipped from the factory, a pricey, voice-activated navigation system remains the sole option, carrying a $2,000 premium.
Others to ConsiderHonda Accord 4 cyl., Toyota Prius, Volkswagen Passat