Honda has finally pulled the covers off its tenth-generation Accord, revealing a sedan that’s both more stylish and lavishly equipped and which takes a “new direction” in its powertrain line-up with the debut of not just one but two new turbocharged engine options.
The launch of the 2018 Honda Accord comes at a critical time for both the Japanese automaker and the auto industry as a whole. Long one of the U.S. market’s best-selling models, the new Honda sedan will launch into a market where buyers by the million are migrating from passenger cars to SUVs, crossovers and other light trucks. Complicating matters, Accord will go up against a dramatic new version of arch-rival Toyota’s midsize Camry sedan.
“We are redefining the Honda Accord for a new generation of buyers by bringing something unexpected that challenges the idea of what a mainstream sedan can be,” said Jeff Conrad, senior vice president of the Automobile Division at American Honda.
During a preview of the 2018 Accord in Detroit, the backyard of its domestic rivals, Conrad said he is confident the new sedan will maintain traction with a mix of safety and connectivity features, improved performance and mileage, and new safety features.
TheDetroitBureau.com got a first look at a modestly camouflaged version of the Accord during a recent trip to Japan. The 2018 sedan returns to some of Honda’s classic design cues, starting with a wheelbase stretched 2.2 inches, though the overall length has been cut by 0.4 inches. The body is 0.4 inches wider, while overall height drops 0.6 inches.
The stretched wheelbase translates into improved interior space – there’s an added 2.5 inches of rear legroom, for one thing — despite the slight decline in the overall footprint. But Honda seems to be defying current trends by also lowering seating by as much as 1.0 inches up front, in contrast to the “command seating” position that many SUV and CUV buyers find so appealing.
The overall look of the new Accord sedan is a bit more aggressive and well-planted, with shorter overhangs, a long and low hood, a bolder front grille and fascia and a sweeping, and more steeply raked greenhouse. The design also improves visibility, Honda stylists point out. A large air intake below the grille and a more sculpted grille add to the sense of sportiness.
Inside and out, Honda aimed at giving the mainstream Accord a more premium appearance, with details such as optional, 9-lamp LED headlights and LED foglamps.
The cabin is not only roomier but more lavishly equipped with details like the soft-touch instrument panel, which lays everything out in a three-tier design. Enhancing visibility, roof pillars are 20% narrower, and moved closer to the driver, Honda noted.
Those who have griped about the touch-based Honda infotainment system will have something to cheer about this time. The automaker has added back both volume and tuning knobs, though other key functions are still handled by the touch interface on the 8-inch display. The system now includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
There’s also a next-gen version of the HondaLink telematics system, including such features as remote locking and unlocking, remote engine start, stolen vehicle tracking, remote diagnostics and emergency roadside assistance.
The driver now gets a 7-inch TFT digital display. And there’s a new Head-Up Display, as well, for Touring trim versions of the 2018 Honda Accord equipped with either of the turbo engines. Other connected car technologies include wireless charging, Bluetooth, Near Field Communications, and 4G LTE Wi-Fi.
The new Accord notably becomes one of the first cars to add over-the-air, or OTA, vehicle systems updates. That technology was first used by Tesla but is expected to become commonplace before the end of the decade. It will allow a maker to update – and in some cases replace or repair – onboard software systems without the need for the customer to visit a dealership.
Honda is in the midst of making some major powertrain changes. Long reluctant to improve boosting technologies, the 2018 Accord gets two new direct-injected and turbocharged engines, as well as a two-motor hybrid package. Transmission options include a new 10-speed automatic for the 2.0-liter turbo, a CVT for the 1.5-liter engine, and an optional six-speed manual offered for both powertrains.
The base engine is a 1.5-liter 16-valve four making 192 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. That compares well with the old 2.4-liter gas engine that produced 185 hp and 181 lb-ft.
The upgrade is a 2.0-liter turbo-four that is a version of the engine found in the new Honda Civic Type R. Here it makes 252 hp and 273 lb-ft. That’s slightly less than the 278 hp and 252 lb-ft of Honda’s old 3.5-liter V-6, but the overall vehicle package is lighter and, based on the drive we took in Japan, performance – and fuel economy – should be markedly better, Conrad said.
The 2.0-liter engine is a slightly detuned version of the Type-R package which punches out 306 hp. Asked by TheDetroitBureau.com whether Honda might consider doing a separate performance package off the Accord platform, Conrad broadly smiled and suggested Honda is looking at a variety of options. While he wouldn’t confirm any plans, he added, “Anything’s possible for the future.”
(Click Here to see what we discovered driving the new 2.0-liter Honda Turbo.)
Mileage-minded customers can instead opt for the 2018 Honda Accord Hybrid, which uses a new two-motor package with an integrated 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder gas engine. Honda notes that it has relocated the hybrid battery pack below the rear floor, freeing up trunk space. With 16.7 cubic feet, it is now as roomy as with the two gas-model Accord sedans.
As for safety and driver assistance features, the 2018 Accord offers the full Honda Sensing suite. That package includes Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow and new Traffic Sign Recognition. Blind Spot Monitoring, Cross Traffic Alert, and other systems are also available.
(First Drive: 2018 Toyota Camry. Click Here for the review.)
Honda is holding tight on a few key details, notably pricing and fuel economy. Expect to see those numbers revealed closer to the sedan’s third-quarter launch.
The Accord has been one of the best-selling vehicles in the U.S. since its debut in 1976, and was the top retail model for four straight year, though 2016 – with the first half of this year trending in the same direction. In terms of retail sales it was bested only by the smaller Civic.
But things could get a bit tougher going forward. The U.S. market has seen a dramatic shift in buyer preference, light trucks on the whole accounting for about two-thirds of current demand. Midsize sedans have had a particularly rough time. General Motors, for example, has had to sharply trim back production of the otherwise well-reviewed Chevrolet Malibu.
Toyota officials have, meanwhile, told TheDetroitBureau.com that they expect the RAV4 crossover could this year surpass the Camry as the brand’s best-seller. But Toyota hopes to rebuild momentum with an all-new version of the Camry for 2018.
Industry analysts have long emphasized that new product can help shift the market. So, it remains to be seen if the arrival of both the new Honda Accord and new Toyota Camry for 2018 will help kick-start a struggling midsize market.
(Honda recalls 1.1 mil Accords due to fire risk. Click Here for the story.)