Monday, January 14, 2008

2008 Honda Accord Sedan Test Drive at Tochigi R&D

A group of Malaysian journalists visited the Honda R&D center in Tochigi, Japan during the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, courtesy of Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd. The R&D center visit was very interesting indeed, as we got to witness a real life crash test between the new 2008 Honda Accord and the new third generation Honda CR-V.

The main highlights of the R&D center visit for me were the test drives. You’ve already read about one of the cars I drove - the Honda FCX Concept, which has since entered limited production. The other car driven was the new 2008 Honda Accord, in both 2.4 liter and 3.5 liter guise.

The new 2008 Honda Accord looks nothing like an allegedly confused Hyundai in flesh. Think BMW and you’re more on the mark. The car generally looks very eye pleasing with the exception of the crease line on the side of the car - I can’t put my finger down on what’s wrong but I think the line curves in a strangle angle that doesn’t match the rest of the car’s mostly angular body. Styling is a subjective thing.

The test drive car interiors were done up in either a very aesthetically pleasing black, or beige. You sit lower in this new Accord, and the seating position is good. The car’s huge front seats are very comfortable as well and do alot to give you the car’s interior a very luxurious ambiance for the driver.

At a glance, all of the in-car entertainment and climate control functions look very similiar to the previous model, but they appear squashed vertically to be more compact, and all of the controls have been pushed higher up the dashboard. This is presumably to reduce eye and hand movement when the driver needs to adjust controls while driving.

The new 2.4 liter engine puts out 177 horses, about 7 more than the Accord 2.4 facelift currently sold here in our market. It is very smooth, something that most manufacturers lay claim to with their 4-cylinder engines. As our test drive was on a high speed oval, it is hard to say really how the car’s driveline would behave like on our local roads.

The Accord 3.5 liter V6 is delicious - floor it and the Accord rushes off from a stand still with urgency, but sadly if it comes to Malaysia that particular model wouldn’t just share similiar looks with a BMW - it would share a similiar price tag as well. The new 3.5 liter V6 features cylinder deactivation, and when its running on either 3 cylinder or 4 cylinder mode, a green ECO indicator will light up on the meter panel. This the only way for you to know that Variable Cylinder Management is active as the transitions between the cylinder modes are so smooth, you don’t feel anything.

Speaking of meter panels, I was disappointed that the new Accord’s meter panel doesn’t look as “grand” as its predecessor. There is just something about a huge self-illuminating speedo that lights up with crisp clarity during day or night that gives the car an upmarket feel to it, especially since the meter panel is what you’ll be looking at most of the time. The new Accord’s meter cluster consists of two prominent dials with silver rings around them - another homage to BMW?

The new 2008 Honda Accord deals with curves better than the current generation - there is not as much body roll, the steering has more weight, is faster and more responsive. Some of this enhanced driving dynamics are thanks to a lower center of gravity thanks to the 15mm lower floor and the lowering of components like the fuel tank. Again, it’s difficult to judge entirely how the car would act on a curvy B-road as the test track was a high speed oval.

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