Honda doesn't make a big deal about the hybrid V-6 for the Accord. It's just another powertrain option, a 255-hp V-6 that gets a Civic-like 30 mpg on the EPA city cycle. Aside from a spoiler on the trunk lid, the only thing that really sets an Accord Hybrid apart from a conventional Accord EX V-6 will be its $30,000 price, an increase of about $3300.Of course, there's lots of science under the Accord Hybrid's skin. Just as with the 2000 Insight and the 2002 Civic Hybrid, the Accord Hybrid's electric motor supplements the gasoline engine with a little extra power at the right time (unlike the Toyota Prius's, the Accord's electric motor cannot propel the car by itself). The Accord Hybrid also deactivates the rear cylinder bank of its 3.0-liter V-6 during highway cruising, just like the Honda Odyssey's iVTEC V-6. And the engine stops running altogether when the car comes to a halt. Not that you'll notice; the Hybrid works so unobtrusively that it's almost impossible to detect.
During city driving, there's a 9-mpg improvement over a conventional Accord V-6. In highway driving, there's a 7-mpg gain. But Honda also wants you to know that the Accord Hybrid has 15 hp and 20 lb-ft of torque more than a conventional Accord V-6. The engine accelerates with a little more liveliness thanks to a more useful torque curve, so it takes half a second less for the Hybrid to get from 0 to 60 mph. If you've got keen senses, you'll also feel the telltale drag when the regenerative brakes engage and the lighter effort of the electric-power-assist rack-and-pinion steering.
The Accord Hybrid is capable yet characterless, just like a regular Accord. It's not cool, like a Toyota Prius. It makes you wonder why Honda bothered.
The answer is that for Honda, the point of the Accord Hybrid isn't the technology of fuel efficiency; the point is to make a better Honda. And that means more power as well as better fuel economy. Honda engineers want to show that hybrid technology can make any car better, not just different. But they're not altogether comfortable about making a big deal of it.