2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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North Vancouver, British Columbia – In the competitive mid-size sedan class, “Keeping up with the Jones'” is probably more important for an automaker than just producing a very good vehicle. The redesigned 2008 Accord sedan, which hadn’t seen a major upgrade since 2002, is a good example of this – it’s now longer, wider and taller than the Camry and Altima, which were redesigned in 2006, and receives the horsepower upgrades needed to keep up with its rivals.

Still, the quest to outdo its competitors has had the inevitable effect of making the Accord much bigger, to the point where it is now larger than an Acura RL, and is classified by the U.S. EPA as a “large car”. Compared to the 2007 Accord, the 2008 Accord sedan is 76 mm (3 in.) longer, 26 mm (1.1 in.) wider and 23 mm (0.9 in.) taller with a wheelbase that’s 60 mm (2.3 in.) longer.

A bigger Accord does have some advantages: a roomier passenger cabin, greater crash protection, improved stability, and a more comfortable ride – but there are some disadvantages too: more vehicle weight, less manoeuvrability, and more difficulty parking. Doubtless, critics would have slammed the new Accord if it had arrived with less horsepower and less interior room than the Camry and Altima – but on the other hand, Honda’s ambition to exceed its competitors has changed the Accord’s character. The new Accord has crossed the line from ‘mid-size’ to ‘large’, and is now approaching Toyota Avalon territory.

2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6. Click image to enlarge

The Accord’s all-new styling is not as clean as the current Accord either: its chiseled front end is wider, with two prominent grille openings, a large bumper and protruding “chin”, and rather angry-looking headlamps with clear covers that bulge outwards. In profile, a body crease reminiscent of the Acura TL’s, rises from front to rear and wraps around the rear, while the front and rear overhangs seem quite long. The rear view is probably the most harmonious view.

Engine choices in the 2008 Accord sedan are now a 177-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine (up by 11 horsepower) or a new 190-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, both offered with a standard five-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed automatic transmission; and a brand new 268-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 with a standard five-speed automatic transmission.

The new 3.5-litre V6 engine, with i-VTEC variable valve timing and an improved VCM cylinder deactivation system which allows the engine to run on six, four or three cylinders to save fuel, offers 24 more horsepower and 37 more foot-pounds of torque than the 3.0-litre V6 engine it replaces. Average fuel consumption has improved by about five percent to 11.0/6.7 L/100 km city/hwy (Honda figures).

The Camry and Altima also offer optional 3.5-litre V6 engines with similar horsepower and torque numbers, but not variable cylinder management. However, their average fuel consumption numbers aren’t significantly worse: a 2008 Camry XLE V6 offers 10.7/7.0 city/hwy while the Altima 3.5 SE CVT offers 10.6/7.7 city/hwy, according to official figures.

2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6. Click image to enlarge

Toyota’s and Nissan’s transmissions might have something to do with that: while the Accord V6 sedan retains a five-speed automatic transmission, the Camry V6 offers a six-speed automatic with a sequential manual shift mode, and the Altima offers a continuously variable transmission also with manual shifting capability. The Altima V6 sedan is also available with a conventional six-speed manual transmission.

As well, the new Accord is a bit heavier than its rivals: the Accord EX-L V6 sedan’s curb weight of 1637 kg (3609 lbs) is about 42 kg (93 lb.) more than a Camry XLE V6 and 107 kg (236 lb.) more than an Altima SE CVT.

A brief mention should also be made of the fact that the Accord is no longer available as a hybrid while the Camry and Altima are. Honda made the mistake of using a thirsty V6 engine in its previous Accord Hybrid while Toyota and Nissan chose more frugal four-cylinder powerplants and a different hybrid system that allows their vehicles to run soley on battery power at times.

As before, 2008 Accords are available in coupe and sedan bodystyles with four and six-cylinder engines, but this review will focus on the Accord EX-L V6 sedan with navigation system, Honda’s top-of-the-line Accord model, with a suggested retail price of $37,790.


Interior impressions

2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6. Click image to enlarge

The new Accord’s increased interior roominess is most noticeable in the rear seat where there is plenty of legroom and headroom, but in the front, the protruding dashboard seems to eat up a lot of space. Still the cabin feels wide and the front seats are large, well-upholstered in leather, and very comfortable. In the EX and EX-L, the driver has an eight-way power seat with power lumbar adjuster and the front passenger has a four-way power seat. Cabin materials are top quality, with subtle use of aluminum-look trim on the dash, doors, steering wheel and shifter.

The driver faces a grippy, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio, cruise, and Bluetooth phone buttons, and new round gauges with attractive metal perimeters and large easy-to-read numbers, backlit at night. A new eight-inch information screen in the centre of the dash is standard on all Accords. In the EX-L, this screen displays audio, climate control, information, display settings, and navigation functions – the driver can scroll between different functions using the large round knob in the centre of the dash. However, most of the audio and climate control functions can also be operated using the buttons on the instrument panel. At night, the audio buttons are illuminated in white while climate control buttons are backlit in green. A separate, narrow black and white digital display below the screen shows driver and passenger temperature settings, radio station, media choice, and time.

The large information screen provides useful information like instant and average fuel consumption, a calendar, calculator, cell phone address book, and Zagat hotel and restaurant ratings anywhere in North America. The navigation option provides the ability to input a destination in a variety of ways, including by voice activation in English or French, and the ability to find the closest gas station, bank, grocery store or restaurant. A pleasant female voice, in either English or French, provides turning instructions so the driver doesn’t have to take their eyes off the road.

2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6. Click image to enlarge

The driver can’t really use the large information screen to adjust settings and functions while driving because it requires too much time to fiddle with the big knob and scroll around the screen. As well, I found the centre screen difficult to read while wearing polarized sunglasses.

Another small gripe: the climate control buttons, except the temperature controls, are separated by the audio controls in the middle, and important functions like fan speed and ventilation choices are located on the right side of the centre stack, away from the driver.

A premium audio system, standard in EX-L models, has a six-disc CD changer mounted low in the centre dash with 270 watt amplifier and six speakers and a subwoofer. An auxiliary jack and a 12-volt powerpoint are located inside the centre storage bin, under the armrest. XM satellite radio is part of the package.

Interestingly, Accord V6 models have a new Active Noise Cancellation feature which helps eliminate road noise by countering unwanted noise frequencies. Though I found the Accord’s cabin quiet at speed, I couldn’t really tell if and when this system was working.

For passenger safety, the new Accord has standard front, side and curtain airbags, including new dual-chamber side airbags in the front seats; five adjustable head restraints, five three-point seat belts with front pretensioners and load limiters, and front active head restraints.

2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6. Click image to enlarge

As well, the new Accord features Honda’s ACE (Advanced Compatibility Engineering) body construction which is designed compensate for collisions with different-sized vehicles and absorb crash forces better.

The Accord’s 397-litre trunk is slightly larger than the previous model, but still smaller than the Camry’s and Altima’s. Unfortunately, the new Accord is still stuck with a single folding rear seatback while its rivals have split folding seatbacks. However, the Accord does have a centre pass-through behind the armrest for skinny items.


Driving impressions

Developing 268 hp at 6,200 r.p.m. and 248 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 r.p.m., the Accord’s new 3.5-litre SOHC 24-valve i-VTEC V6 with VCM provides a blend of smooth, effortless performance and relatively good fuel economy – nevertheless, it doesn’t feel as quick in a straight line as the Camry V6 and Altima V6, probably because those vehicles are slightly smaller and lighter.

2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6. Click image to enlarge

Cruising on the freeway, the Accord’s V6 is quiet and relaxed, doing approximately 2,200 r.p.m. at 100 km/h and 2,600 r.p.m. at 120 km/h in fifth gear. When the engine is operating on four or three cylinders under light load, a green ‘Eco’ light illuminates in the gauge cluster, but otherwise it’s almost impossible to tell when the engine switches from six to four to three cylinders.

Though Honda-supplied official fuel consumption figures are 11.0/6.7 L/100 km city/hwy, the on-board computer in my test car showed average fuel consumption of 12.3 L/100 km in mostly city driving. This seems a bit excessive, perhaps because of my frequent attempts to see how well the Accord V6 would accelerate. The Accord V6 uses Regular grade gas and the fuel tank has been increased in size to 70 litres from 64.7 litres for a longer driving range.

2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6. Click image to enlarge

The standard five-speed automatic transmission shifts cleanly with a slight bump just to let you know it’s there, but unlike its competitors, doesn’t offer a manual shift mode – not that this is very important to most Accord sedan drivers. One thing I didn’t like was the transmission lever’s default position of D3. This is designed so that the driver can downshift from D to D3 quickly by slapping the gear lever back, but I often found myself driving in third gear before realizing I wasn’t in Drive.

One of the most noticeable improvements over the old Accord is in the ride: it’s now smoother, less choppy and more comfortable. As well, the new Accord’s wider track, lower centre of gravity (Honda actually lowered the height of the engine and fuel tank in the chassis to lower the centre of gravity), slightly wider 17-inch tires, new front strut tower brace, and revised rear multi-link suspension have improved stability and handling, although there is some lean when cornering aggressively. A new variable gear ratio steering system has also improved the steering response, and the Accord’s turning diameter of 11.5 metres (37.7 ft.) is tighter, making it more manoeuvrable than it first might appear.

2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6. Click image to enlarge

Four wheel disc brakes with ABS, Brake Assist and Vehicle Stability Assist are all standard on the Accord to help bring the car under control in emergency situations.

The driver’s visibility is quite good – the rear deck doesn’t seem to be as high as other cars in its class and the side windows are quite large making lane changes easier. Honda has also made the front A-pillars more slender for better forward vision.

Verdict

The top-of-the-line Accord EX-L V6 offers a roomy, comfortable interior, a smooth ride, and plenty of power from it new 3.5-litre V6, but dash controls can be confusing and split folding rear seatbacks aren’t available.


Pricing


Specifications

  • Click here for complete specifications


Competitors

  • Chrysler Sebring 2008
  • Dodge Avenger 2008
  • Ford Fusion 2008
  • Hyundai Sonata 2008
  • Nissan Altima 2008
  • Saturn Aura 2008
  • Toyota Camry 2008
  • Volkswagen Passat 2008


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