Test Drive: 2009 Honda Accord EX L V6 Navi car test drives honda
2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 Navi. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Honda Accord

San Francisco, California – Much as with wine, whether you appreciate a car’s finer points is all about subjectivity. You can read all the reviews and consult with all the experts you want to, but in the end, you can’t force yourself to like something that holds no appeal for you.

I’m no wine expert, but I know what I like: big, heavy reds that smell like fruit and oak and barnyard and go really well with steak and Italian food. While my favourite wines might not be for everyone, I think I could find more people who share my automotive preferences. Here, I ask for practicality, reliability, low fuel consumption, decent comfort and good all-around performance. And in both cases, whatever I’m after has to be affordable. Okay, so I’m particular; it’s hard not to be in this line of work.

And if Northern California’s Sonoma County proved an ideal place to whet my appetite for red wine, my test car for my recent trip to Cali, a 2009 Honda Accord EX-L Navi, proved a satisfying way to travel around this region of stunning scenery and gastronomic delights.

Test Drive: 2009 Honda Accord EX L V6 Navi car test drives honda
2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 Navi. Click image to enlarge

Our trip was eight days in total, but only the second half of the week’s travel was by car; for our first four days, we stayed in San Francisco which, like many big cities, is best explored via public transit. So, on the morning of day five, Honda was kind enough to deliver the car to our downtown hotel, and we struck out for points north.

San Francisco, as you’re likely well aware, is not known for its gentle topography. Within our first couple of miles in the car, I had my first impressions: the 3.5-litre V6′s 254 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm torque peak happens at high revs, but useable power is available between 2,000 and 3,000 rpm; the firm brake pedal is very reassuring when you’re closing in on a stopped cable car on what feels like a 45-degree downhill grade; and the Accord’s suspension did a great job of filtering out the worst of San Fran’s often choppy roads.

From downtown, we headed for the northern city limit and the Golden Gate Bridge, en route to Highway 101, which eventually runs through the heart of Sonoma County.

The Accord is a big car, and I was admittedly a bit nervous about driving something of this size in the city (I’d initially inquired about a 2009 Fit for just this reason, but none were available during my visit). However, good sightlines meant it was easy to keep this car well inside the narrow lanes of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Big six-cylinder sedans like this are made for the open road, and once we made it well north of the city and away from rush-hour traffic, the Accord was in its element. There is some road noise, but it’s only intrusive on imperfect pavement. The steering is responsive, never feeling over-boosted as it does in many cars in highway driving. But even more surprising was how the steering remained fairly heavy at parking lot speeds.

Test Drive: 2009 Honda Accord EX L V6 Navi car test drives honda
2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 Navi. Click image to enlarge

This was one of the most European-feeling Japanese cars I’d ever driven, a thought that occurred to me before I went back to see what I’d written about the 2008 Accord Coupe I drove in February. I referred to that car as “what would happen if a Japanese company tried to build a BMW.” But where that coupe’s size and firm ride gave the impression it was trying to imitate a 3 Series coupe with the sport suspension, this 2009 sedan felt more like a 5 Series, or an Audi A6.

Not all the time, though: while the ride is generally firm, the suspension feels uncoordinated over rougher sections of highway, as if the front shocks aren’t as firm as the rears. This is particularly disconcerting in mid-corner bumps taken at higher speeds.

The engine however, is about as smooth as a V6 can get. It will happily rev to its 6,750 rpm redline, while the five-speed automatic transmission (standard in Accord V6 sedans) shifts smoothly every time. I do find it odd, though, that Honda so steadfastly refuses to move to a six-speed automatic like so many other car makers are, especially since more gears typically means both better fuel economy and performance. My only complaint about the transmission is a minor one, and is that it’s too easy to accidentally choose D3 (which limits the transmission to its first three ratios) rather than D when shifting from Reverse to Drive.

When matched up with the automatic tranny, the Accord’s V6 gets Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management system, the latest version of which can shut off two or three cylinders to save fuel. It works well – a green “eco” light on the dash is the only obvious clue that the car isn’t running on all six cylinders – but keen drivers will notice a slight surging sensation during steady highway cruising as the engine switches among its three-, four- and six-cylinder modes.

Test Drive: 2009 Honda Accord EX L V6 Navi car test drives honda
2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 Navi. Click image to enlarge

At the pumps, my most substantial fill was 14.2 gallons following 375 miles of mostly highway driving. That worked out to an average of 26 miles per U.S. gallon, or about 9 L/100 km, which neatly splits the difference between the Canadian Accord V6′s EnerGuide ratings of 11 L/100 km (city) and 6.9 L/100 km (highway). This was accomplished without much effort toward economy on my part; I drove gently but normally, and drove at or near the speed limit at all times (either Californians are law-abiding drivers, or they’re simply afraid of California’s high speeding fines; it was a rare thing if we saw any vehicle going more than a few miles per hour over the 65 mph limit on major highways).

You might save some gas with a four-cylinder Accord, but how much? A four-banger Accord with automatic transmission – the most common drivetrain combination in this class – is rated at 9.9/6.5 L/100 km (city/highway); I figure my average in a car so equipped might have been around 8 L/100 km.

As befits its family car designation, the Accord is roomy inside, with comfortable front seats, though my wife would have appreciated a lumbar adjustment for the passenger seat.

Test Drive: 2009 Honda Accord EX L V6 Navi car test drives honda
Test Drive: 2009 Honda Accord EX L V6 Navi car test drives honda
Test Drive: 2009 Honda Accord EX L V6 Navi car test drives honda
2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 Navi. Click image to enlarge

The interior is nicely finished, but I still have a hard time getting past the Accord’s busy centre stack. Admittedly, the controls are easy enough to figure out after a couple of short drives, but it’s not all that nice to look at. Also, it’s easy to mistake the large navigation system’s zoom control knob for the volume control, which is the smaller knob just above it.

Travelling for eight days, we had two soft-side suitcases and a couple of smaller carry-ons between the two of us; the trunk looked big enough to fit it all, but the irregular shape meant that fitting both suitcases required some creative packing. Indeed, the Accord’s 397 litre trunk is smaller than that of a couple of its key competitors: the Mazda6 has 469 litres of cargo space, and the Toyota Camry has 425.

Also, I have a hard time believing any automakers still use old-style intrusive trunk hinges. Honda’s not the only guilty party here, but this design is as passé as carburetors and the manual choke.

The Accord’s back seat folds, but it’s all or nothing; however, there is a pass-through for long, skinny items. At least the release lever is easily accessible from inside the open trunk.

In Canada, this car is worth $38,400 by the time freight and the ever-present federal A/C excise tax have been factored in. According to the window sticker in my tester, the car sells for $31,425 all-in Stateside, including $670 for freight; in Canada, this charge is $1,410. Not to beat a dead horse, but that’s still a pretty big difference, even if the loonie isn’t quite at par with the U.S. dollar anymore. In Canada, $32,000 buys you either a four-cylinder Accord EX-L Navi (at $31,890, it gives up the bigger motor, gets a smaller rear sway bar and loses some trim items) or an EX V6 ($31,690).

Test Drive: 2009 Honda Accord EX L V6 Navi car test drives honda
2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 Navi. Click image to enlarge

There’s no doubt that this eighth-generation Accord is as good a car as any of its ancestors, but it feels like Honda’s trying to differentiate the Accord from the Toyota Camry that it’s so often compared to, while still maintaining its status as a benchmark mainstream sedan. That’s probably a good thing for the customer at large, but longtime Honda buyers might be turned off by this car’s more European feel, subtle as it might be.

Ultimately, your question might be, “Will I like this car?” Most people probably will, given that it’s the same kind of well-built, decent-performing sedan that Honda has built its reputation on. At the very least, this car should age well, and that’s never a bad thing, whether you’re talking about cars or wine.

Pricing: 2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 Navi

Base price: $36,990

Options: None
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,410
Price as tested: $38,500
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: TBA

    Related articles on Autos
    First Drives
  • 2008 Honda Accord, by Paul Williams
    Test Drives
  • 2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6, by Greg Wilson
  • 2008 Honda Accord, by Andrew McCredie
  • 2008 Honda Accord EX sedan four-cylinder, by Jil McIntosh
  • 2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6 Coupe, by Greg Wilson

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