The 2018 Honda Accord Wants You to Forget All About Crossovers
A convincing argument for considering a midsize sedan
Even as it sells CR-Vs and HR-Vs in ever-increasing numbers, Honda isn't stepping away from the shrinking but still-significant midsize sedan market. To better compete in a market that is moving further and further from traditional three-box sedans, the all-new 2018 Honda Accord offers a convincing blend of style, driving performance, technology, and practicality.
That effort begins the 10th-generation Accord's new styling and revised proportions. This Accord is 0.59 inches lower, 0.39 inches wider, rides on a 2.16-inch longer wheelbase than its predecessor. This gives the impression of the traditional "longer, lower, wider" design philosophy, although the new model is actually 0.39 inches shorter overall. Using shorter overhangs and swept-back styling, Honda aimed to visually move the "visual center of gravity" rearward.
These changes have practical benefits inside. The driver's seat is now an inch lower than before and rear passengers enjoy an extra 2.5 inches of leg room. Cargo capacity increases by 0.9 cu ft to 16.7 cu ft. A-pillar width is down by 20 percent and they're moved them further back relative to the driver, whcich further improves visibility.
The front end, while obviously squared up and toned down quite a bit, still has some visual semblance of the new Acura NSX, particularly with how the grille and chrome fascia grille bleed into the headlights. The new, more streamlined design is, according to Honda, approximately 3 percent more aerodynamically efficient. Up front, you'll find optional LED headlamps and foglamps; out back, the same holds true for LED taillamps.
Inside, the 2018 Accord can be positively loaded to the gills with high-end features, although it's not yet clear what equipment will be available on which trims. What we do know is that all Accord models will come standard with HondaSense safety tech suite, which includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, and a new traffic sign recognition system. A 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated and cooled front seats, and heated rear seats will be available, as well. Drivers will sit behind a 7-inch TFT instrument cluster, while Honda added an 8-inch center display for the all-new touchscreen. Crucially, after backing down and adding them on the Civic a model year into production, the Accord will come with physical volume and radio tuning knobs. Hooray!
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are in the mix as well, and non-hybrid Touring models will be equipped with a new 6-inch head-up display. Additional goodies include wireless phone charging, automatic Bluetooth pairing, 4G LTE with a Wi-Fi hotspot, and over-the-air automatic software updates.
Despite all the advanced new equipment, the big story for the 2018 Honda Accord is the all-new powertrain lineup. All models are front-wheel-drive, with all-wheel-drive nowhere to be found. Base models will come with a version of the Civic's 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, here uprated (from 174 hp) to 192 hp (coming in at 5,500 rpm) and 192 lb-ft of torque (from 1,500 to 5,000 rpm). With this new small-displacement turbocharged four-cylinder, the Accord should see significant improvements in performance and fuel economy compared to the outgoing 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-banger, which made 185 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. Honda will continue to use a continuously variable transmission for the Accord's base engine, although it claims updates to the CVT yield an 11 percent lower ratio than before. On Sport models with the 1.5-liter engine, Honda wins a big thumbs-up from us for offering a true-blue six-speed manual.
As senior editor Nelson Ireson learned while testing a prototype in Japan last month, Honda will be also touting a new optional engine and transmission for the 2018 Accord. Mated to an all-new, in-house-designed 10-speed automatic transmission that's 22 pounds lighter and capable of transmitting 20 percent more torque than the six-speed it replaces, its a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder related to that of the brawny Civic Type R. Accurately predicted by Ireson's well-tuned butt senses, the new 2.0-liter makes 252 hp and a healthy 273 lb-ft of torque (at 6,500 rpm and from 1,500-4,000 rpm, respectively). While we mourn the loss of the V-6 option (one that the new Toyota Camry managed to retain in its redesign), we'll be the first to admit it was a frustrating source of torque steer in our Four Seasons Accord Coupe. The new 2.0-liter turbo-four makes 26 fewer hp than the V-6, but torque is up by 21 lb-ft — and fuel efficiency should increase substantially.
This engine is fitted with forged connecting rods, a forged crankshaft, improved cylinder head and block water pathways, and sodium-filled exhaust valves. In concert with the new 10-speed, Ireson's test run in the prototype left him impressed with the new powertrain's minimal turbo lag, smooth acceleration, and unobtrusive transmission.
The Accord Hybrid is back, although Honda won't release the full specs until closer to that its launch. So far, the word is that the new Hybrid will use a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine, which in concert with its dual-electric-motor system developed by Honda, does not need a conventional transmission. The new battery system is said to be integrated under the rear floor instead of in the trunk, improving cargo capacity and center of gravity.
Overall, the Accord is between 110 and 176 pounds lighter, depending on specification. The main contributor here is more ultra-high and high-strength steel, yielding significant gains in torsional rigidity. Aluminum is used in the L-shaped control arms for the Macpherson-strut front suspension, as well as for the front subframe. Revisions to the design of the multilink rear suspension and subframe, Honda says, have contributed to better packaging.
Of particular note is the adaptive damper system, which is standard on the 2018 Honda Accord Touring, which constantly responds to changing road conditions. At the same time, Normal and Sport drive modes affect the behavior of the dampers as well as the tuning of the new dual-pinion, variable-ratio steering rack, throttle mapping, and active noise control.
Pricing and specific trim equipment information will be available closer to launch this fall, but expect the 2018 Honda Accord to hit dealers this quarter. It seems, though, that Honda is meeting the wants and needs of those of us who still appreciate the inherently better driving dynamics of a sedan versus a crossover. With available adaptive dampers, a choice of punchy four-cylinder engines, and a six-speed manual, at least on paper, this new Accord stands out from the pack and could well get Honda a bigger chunk of a still-considerable pie.