Gave my friend a lift in the Accord. He climbed aboard nonchalantly, noting the leather trim but poo pahing the Auto box.
Pulling away gently, he talked casually of the Honda, you know the kind of thing, quite nice, bit boring.
Slowly we glided over and around the speed bumps Executive cruiser around the mini roundabouts and on to the main road. "Nothing special 500 yards of clear straight B road beckoned, better without the power sapping Auto.
I pressed the Accelerator to the floor the Auto box kicked down to first, His voice jumped two octaves before trailing off. Plastic Wooooooooooood
By the time the box switched to third of its four speeds, he was begging for mercy, enough .. Enough now! was the cry.
Backing off the throttle, the Box slurred into top as the car eased down. One persons long held beliefs of Hondas debunked in a few brief glorious seconds.
They didnt dream the idea up, but Honda pioneered road car-used Variable Valve Technology in the late 80s by launching its famous VTEC system (Valve Timing Electronic Control). Which First appeared in Civic, CRX and NS-X Models
Simply put in the past engineers would choose a set of cams to achieve the required maximum output. Trouble was those cams may not have been ideal in a low rev situation ( the largest slice of a cars engine life). Cams were a compromise, you could have low end torque or top end power or some percentage of each.
Effectively the has Hondas 2 sets of cams having different shapes to enable different timing and lift. One (mild) set operates during normal speed, say, below 4,500 rpm emphasizing Torque, drivability and economy. Another (wild) set substitutes at higher speed to maximize top end power.
It sounds oh so simple, but getting it to work is a lot harder, getting it reliable is harder again. Its to Hondas credit that the VTEC series of motors have a legendary reputation for reliability. I have read that they are officially the most reliable Automotive engines on the planet. Its a statement I dont doubt.
To be fair its not difficult to see where my friend had gathered the illusion that Hondas are boring, Its one belief that still seems to be held by a lot of people. I myself have been subjected to a whole range of Japanese cars that have been worthy reliable transport, but which totally failed to stir even the slightest of emotions, or longings within my soul.
Even being handed the keys to the Bit Posh Accord in the car park, did not even warrant even taking an early peek at the beast in the street.
Wandering out to start my homeward journey I got my first sight of the Accord. In the failing daylight it did look quite sleek in what appeared to be its Blue paint. ( In the morning it instead appeared a pearlesant Green). Its a long low car with echoes of new 3 series to the front but boy is it understated .. understated with a lowercase U.
Even the Alloys are so conservative they appear at first glance to perhaps be wheel covers. Next to its cousin Rover 600 its lines are almost feminine to the Rovers butch.
Little of this mattered as after a long day the Auto box was of far more interest, than any other areas of technical merit. With a few errands and pickups to do before returning to chez moi, I was more than happy to click the remote central locking turning off the red door mounted flashing alarm leds , electrically stretch out the Drivers seat, turn up the heater and let the Auto slur its way through the evening traffic.
Sitting through the glare of hundred red lights I could survey the interior. Its fairly somber with its firm but comfortable black leather seats. They match nicely to the black plastic door trims and dash, the plastic is a touch hard but beautifully constructed with all switches laid out in simple but sensible fashion. The mirrors are electrically controlled and heated for when you just cant be bothered to click the electric window down and wipe it. Summer ventilation looks more than adequate, with all four windows and the sunroof powered or alternatively the Air con blasting away. Cruise control buttons sit in the wheel to re-enforce the executive cruiser image of the Auto box. The plastic wood does as good an impression as any oil based tree product, but really looks a bit out of place. And frankly does nothing to improve the quality of either the interior or my life. At least it limits itself to a small growth in the centre console. Some of it slides up to cover the Radio/Cassette/Multiplayer CD, but as thats a face off Item its of limited value here. There is a centre console which is nicely placed to rest your elbow, trimmed nicely to match the steering wheel/seats, but was the source of a slightly irritating little rattle.
The dash features Hondas simple and concise 4 clock layout, no extra gauges get in to up rate the drivers impressions, but a whole gamut of warning lights squeeze around the clocks. Luckily the dont all light up at once and being a Honda many will probably never light up to warn you of any failures ever.
The interior like the exterior if beautifully constructed and executed, but what it really lacks is a touch of inspiration in the choice of the materials. Cleverness and Neatness of construction and Ideas are there in abundance. Take the door pockets designed in conjunction with the door armrests. At first appearance the arm rests appear short, cut off two thirds of the way down the door and apparently forcing the Window controls to the centre dash through lack of space. Look carefully at the full length door pocket though and see how it bulges in its final third. See how a cup fits and is held perfectly by its internal rib, see how lifting it out isn't obstructed by the armrest, see how much longer it will last than some thin plastic lightly sprung pretend CD ejector mechanism.
The Japanese have long since moved away from mimicking tacky Americana interiors, all they have to do now it pinch a touch of European industrial artistry. Perhaps kidnapping Audi's interior materials design team would do it.
Twin air bags add to the sense of security, typically though the glove box is rendered more like a small post box orifice by the passenger airbag.
Gliding around the traffic the steering is light and sharp, if slightly low geared. The wheels are pointed via a leather clad wheel which appears at first to be a little large in diameter and narrow of rim, but gives a delicate feel to the handling. Ride is just on the right side of firm. It reminds you that the road isnt smooth but never gets uncomfortable or intrusive.
Its often difficult to gauge the engines depth of power when masked by an Auto box. But only slightly enthusiastic starts have the front wheels chirping and light acceleration is dealt with without the box resorting to a hefty set of down shifts. At slow speed it spins around at 2500 rpm with the motor purring. The impression is that the engine has healthy low and mid range torque. Push a little harder and the box smoothly drops a gear as the motor lifts its skirts, half throttle squirts you around most adequately. On minor roads or in traffic there is no need to resort to kick down and the motor doesnt hunt in the way that underpowered autos tend too. The Mild set of VTEC cams appear to do their job.
Half an hour of lounging around have you itching to try out the full potential. On this night the first chance appears as I peel slowly off the busy A-roads on to the Motorway. Foot gently to the floor the Box drops rapidly from fourth to third, second, first the engine note rises to a staccato wail and the bonnet lifts to greet it. A few fleeting seconds time later I merge across the lanes and ease back in third and the box slips smoothly into top, the speedo has raced to 90 and I havent even noticed. You will be aware of the kick in the pants as the box picks up in first but the other changes have raced effortlessly by completely unnoticed. Electric pace without fuss and drama.
I didnt even get a chance to see where the change point was. So obviously I had to go and do it again a few times. Purely in the interest of enhancing scientific knowledge of course. ( for the record its just short of the 6500rpm red line)
The Auto box is a bit of a mixed blessing in the Accord. 4 forward speeds 1 2 - [D3] - [D4] are available. If your in the mood it clicks manually between them with lightning precision as its devoid of any daft wandering shift path. The shift is light switch light but in practice, you would either leave it in [D4] or click to [D3] to harden the mood. In full Auto mode use it changes almost telepathically at behest of the accelerator, holding gear happily on light throttle, shifting helpfully on part throttle and kicking down with only a slight pausing delay as it winds right down the box.
Despite the excellence of the Auto, you still cant help but think that its still a bit of a cross for the jewel of an Engine to bear sapping its power and shifting inside the wide power band but outside the VTEC peak. You are left wondering just how good it would be on those rare occasions when you really must use a Manual. If there is an engine that demands one of those flashy button fired 6 speed jobbies the Hondas VTEC must be it. Until that day comes most people would find little to complain about from this Auto.
If you measure the value of your vehicle by the space and size it gives you. Then you will probably end up slightly disappointed. Head, Leg and shoulder room are more than adequate in the front. But certainly its not as tall or wide as others in its class. But then as long as your not rubbing shoulders with your passenger, or sticking your head through the sunroof who cares. Rear seat space looks adequate though with only average sized front passengers stretching out it did start to disappear a little. The boot whilst being long and wide isnt very deep. It also suffers from a high lip. It will take quite large objects, but getting them in is a little more difficult. than it need to be.
All in all it may look a little anonymous, but the Honda has enough class to push it toward the top of the my favorite mid range saloon list - ignore the bar room bores and take a long hard look at the Honda Accord - a truly excellent car.
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