Bigger is better with this Honda Accord

ROB MAETZIG
Last updated 13:42 10/02/2014

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Several weeks ago when I had my first opportunity to road-test Honda's ninth-generation Accord sedan, most of the resulting article was about the impressive amount of safety specification it carries.

AT A GLANCE
Powertrain: Front-wheel drive 3.5-litre 24 valve vcm, I-Vtec V6 petrol engine, with six-speed automatic transmission.
Outputs: 206kW at 6200rpm, 339Nm at 4900rpm, 9.2L/100km, 217g/km CO2.
Chassis: McPherson strut front suspension, independent multi-link coil spring setup at the rear. Speed-sensitive electronic power assisted rack and pinion steering.
Safety: Electronic stability control, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, collisison mitigation brake system, land watch camera, ABS brakes with EBD and EBA, trailer stability assist, reverse camera, front and rear parking sensors.
Dimensions: L 4885mm, W 1850mm, H 1465mm, W/base 2775mm. Kerb weight 1667kg.
Price: $60,000.
Hot: High-technology six cylinder power, all that safety and convenience.
Not: Vehicle doesn't have five-star Ancap crash safety rating because of location of its foot-operated park brake.
Verdict: One of the best bigger-engined sedans on the market today.
The 2.4-litre four cylinder NT, which retails for $55,000, bristled with cameras and radar that are all part of what Honda calls Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. It all meant that underneath a fairly conservative four-door sedan exterior, there was a vehicle that was impressively new-age in terms of the active safety technologies on board.

Slightly less impressive - but good all the same - was the car's four cylinder engine. The DOHC 16-valve i-VTEC engine is a new AP series unit, offering 129 kilowatts of power and 225 Newton metres of torque, and which has been designed to give more mid-range output and reduced fuel consumption - average fuel use is 8.1 L/100km.

My only real criticism of this Accord was that the engine is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, while almost every other vehicle on the market is now at least a six-speeder. But even then I didn't find it to be an issue, because I didn't think the number of gear ratios in an auto was what this car was all about, apart from perhaps helping to make it more economical.

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This car, I opined, wasn't about hard-out performance. Rather, it was about easy motoring in a spacious and comfortable environment, surrounded by an array of world-class safety technology.

I'm pleased I wrote that, because I've now driven a second vehicle in the new Accord range - a 3.5-litre V6 engined NT.

This sedan carries all the same safety specification as the four cylinder model so it is right up there as one of the safest vehicles on the New Zealand roads today.

But significantly, it also has the bigger engine and considerably more performance potential.

The 3.5-litre V6 is a reworked version of the engine aboard the previous-generation Accord V6 and carries such improvements as revised intake and exhaust ports, update valve timing, and a wider range of operation of the variable valve timing (VTEC) operation.

It develops 206 kilowatts of power and 339 newton metres of torque - and it is mated to a six- speed automatic transmission which helps extract all the best out of that six cylinder unit.

This engine performs really well. It offers plenty of lower-end torque in the part of the revolutions band where most people drive, and when the revolutions are higher a latest- generation VTEC system changes to a high-lift, long-duration intake cam profile for more engine power past 5150rpm.

Not only that, but the V6 also boasts a two-stage variable cylinder management system that drops out three cylinders when the Honda is cruising.

The system is different to the previous generation Accord V6, which saw the VCM operate on three cylinders for cruising, four cylinders for modest acceleration, or the full six cylinders for strong acceleration. But now, the advancements to the VTEC allow the three-cylinder operation in a wider range of situations for even better fuel economy.

You actually don't known when the engine is operating as a three cylinder unit or as a full six - it just happens. Probably the only time you would notice is when you turn up at the service station to discover you don't need to take on too much fuel, because the average consumption has been reduced 7 per cent from 9.9L/100km to 9.2L/100km.

Ride quality is excellent in this new Accord V6, and so is the interior quiet. Handling is nice too, thanks partly to the fact that for the first time since the second- generation Accord 31 years ago, this new model has a MacPherson strut front suspension instead of a double-wishbone setup.

The change is primarily to save weight, but it does help the Accord V6 offer responsive handling. The rear suspension continues to be independent multi-link. Power steer is now electric rather than hydraulically assisted, and it felt well weighted, particularly at the higher speeds.

And a further helping hand is an outstanding package of driver- assist technology that is aboard this Honda.

It includes adaptive cruise control, a lane-keep assist system with lane departure warning, and a collision mitigation support system that alerts the driver that a collision is possible and hits the brakes when a crash is imminent.

I love the lane-keep assist system which uses a camera to detect if the car is wandering over white lane markings, and automatically helps correct the steering plus issue visual and audible warnings. This system applies up to 80 per cent of the steering force required, with the driver providing the final 20 per cent.

Lane-keep assist isn't intended to replace driver guidance, but rather help retain the correct lane position. But I still had fun finding out just how far the car could travel on its own without me touching the steering wheel.

The Accord V6 also feature a LaneWatch blind spot monitoring system, which uses a camera mounted in the left-side exterior rear mirror to film an 80-degree view. When the driver indicates that he or she is going to turn left, the camera's view is displayed on a colour monitor in the dashboard - it's the same monitor that is used by many other vehicles, this car included, to show what is behind when reverse gear is selected.

It's an excellent safety feature that I found I used all the time.

In addition, other safety features include stability assist, trailer stability assist, automatic headlights that also actively peer around corners when you are turning, rain sensing wipers, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

All this means that the Honda Accord V6 helps form a formidable team with its four cylinder sibling, because what the smaller-engined model can't offer in terms of performance potential, the V6 can. That's teamwork.

- Fairfax Media

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