Five years doesn't sound like a long time, but in North America's midsize sedan segment, it can feel like an eternity. Much has changed since Honda last rolled out an all-new Accord in 2008. Style has increasingly crept into the formerly bland segment, while four-cylinder and hybrid options have proliferated in the name of improving fuel economy.
Honda isn't blind to this reality. Although the Accord line still accounted for some 225,961 sales in 2011, that figure is down 16.9 percent from 2010. That's enough to make the Accord -- previously one of the best-selling midsize models -- rank fourth in its class by volume. Fortunately, the automaker is putting the finishing touches on an all-new 2013 Accord while simultaneously previewing the model range with the Accord Coupe Concept shown here.
It's easy to dismiss the design as evolutionary; the greenhouse, after all, almost mirrors that of today's Accord coupe, down to the Hoffmeister-style kink on the rear quarter windows. But take a closer look: designers have subtly infused the concept with a bit of flair not found on the current car. The bulging hood stamping, slender projector headlamps, and the dark grille surround recall previous European Civic Type R models. Sharp shoulder lines still rise from front to rear, but are interrupted by curvaceous fender lines and wildly arched rocker panels.
The taught form is more than just an illusion: the 2013 Accord will be physically smaller than the current model. Although exact specifications aren't being provided at this point, Honda notes the new Accord will have a smaller footprint than the current car, although interior space will allegedly remain unchanged.
Potential Powertrain Choices
Like other recent Honda concepts, we wouldn't be surprised if the Coupe Concept itself is little more than a static display model. That said, Honda has already revealed most details surrounding the 2013 Accord's powertrain.
Four-cylinder models now use Honda's revised DOHC 2.4-liter I-4, which uses both direct fuel injection and Atkinson-cycle operation in an attempt to improve efficiency. Preliminary specifications suggest the engine will produce "more" than 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, and deliver "class leading fuel economy" when paired with a new continuously variable transmission. A six-speed manual will also be available.
Unlike some competitors, Honda won't eliminate a six-cylinder option altogether. The current SOHC 3.5-liter V-6 will return for 2013, although Honda promises an increase in power over the current 271 hp and 254 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual will be offered (likely only on coupe models), but a six-speed automatic transmission -- previously launched on several Acura products -- is available for both bodystyles.
The big news for 2013, however, is the return of the Accord Hybrid after a six-year hiatus, albeit with an all-new plug-in hybrid driveline. The two-motor system functions primarily as a series hybrid: even after exhausting the 6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, an electric motor is still tasked with driving the front wheels. A second motor, which is mated to a 2.0-liter I-4, generates electricity to power the system. Contrary to Honda's marketing claims, there is no e-CVT in the system. A clutch between the engine and its electric motor can engage a direct mechanical drive to the wheels, but only at speeds above 40 mph.
The Future is Soon
That Honda's already detailing powertrain choices and available equipment (i.e. blind-spot detection, lane departure and forward crash warning systems, iPhone integration, etc.) suggests the new Accord is just around the corner. Indeed, officials confirm the 2013 model should launch this fall, although the hybrid won't arrive until early 2013. Given the rapid pace and cutthroat nature of the midsize market, it's arguably not a moment too soon.