Always buy the KitchenAid
2014 Honda Accord EL-X V6 Sedan
Some cars are appliances. They aren’t exciting and massively powered. They don’t cosset you with sumptuous luxury. You just, you know, drive them, and they take you places. The Honda Accord is one such appliance. But the thing about appliances is that they aren’t all the same. In fact, some of them are quite good. You can buy a mixer from Hamilton Beach, and it’ll be alright, and do what you expect it to do. But, if you want a mixer that will not only do a fantastic job, but can be passed down to your great-grandchildren, you buy a KitchenAid.
After a complete redesign last year, the Accord is back with few changes, except for the addition of hybrid Accords to the line-up. The standard 4-cylinder engine is back for the base-spec models, too. But if you want the KitchenAid of Accords, you really have to go with the 3.5L V-6 Accord EL-X, which will give you 100 extra horsepower over the 4-cylinder versions, while losing only 2 MPG. Also, you’ll trade a horrible CVT transmission for a 6-speed automatic, or, if you should desire it, a 6-speed manual.
How it looks
It’s not a bad-looking car. It won’t win any design awards for innovative or aggressive styling, but it has an overall sleek look in profile. Honda went so far as to steal the Hofmeister Kink from BMW for the C-pillar, and frankly, you could do a lot worse than steal design elements from BMW. Like, say, stealing them from Audi. The sedan, though, looks a bit boring. The coupe version looks much better, but then, the coupe version of anything always does, and really, the Accord Coupe is still sort of soporific, if you want to know the truth.
The interior is a slightly mixed bag in terms of looks, because even though the top of the dash is coated in soft-touch materials, the rest of the fascia and door panels are all hard plastic, as are the obviously fake “brushed aluminum” trim bits. On the plus side, there are perforated leather seats—which are heated—and a fully adjustable and telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel. It’s filled to the gills with technology, too. Sat-nav, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, voice command—it’s all there. The controls on the steering wheel for all that technology have been thoughtfully designed, too, with 4-way rocker switches.
The real treat with the Accord, though, is that, like Dr. Who’s TARDIS, it’s way bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside. The room in back, frankly, is unbelievable. There’s a good 8 inches of space between your knees and the back of the front seats, and plenty of head room. If your daughter’s boyfriend has an Accord, you’ll want to reach for a shotgun immediately, because there’s room available for some truly horrific violations back there. You can never truly be called homeless if you own an Accord. The back seat area even gets its own air conditioning.
Up front, it’s comfortable and roomy as well. The front seats aren’t really well-bolstered at all, which is OK, because, however good a travel appliance the Accord might be, it is in no way a sports car. It’s presumed that you’ll drive it sanely.
There are two center screens, one of which is a touch screen for the entertainment system, and the other of which is the screen for the sat-nav. If I had a real nit to pick with that setup it would be that the navigation screen is pretty small. It’s just large enough to make the rear-view camera system useful. The rear-view camera, though, is far too light-sensitive, has truly bad color saturation, and isn’t full HD, but really, now I’m just looking for something to complain about.
Overall, the interior is on the high-side of average, which means it’s light-years better than the interior on any Chevrolet. That, by the way, is really beginning to be an obsession with me. Every time I write about cars now, I want to complain about how awful Chevrolet interiors are. I mean, I’m getting to the point where I approach random strangers on the street, and say things like, “have you seen the interior of the new Malibu? It’s awful, right?” I’ve been in the $55,000 Camaro Zl1 with magnetic suspension and 558 HP, and all I could do is point at each item of the cheap crap inside and say, “Sucks.” Point. “Sucks.” Point. “Sucks.”
Anyway…Accord interior: not bad. That’s the take-away, here. The Accord E-LX V6 costs about $32,000, and it has more or less as nice an interior as you would expect from a car at that price.
How it drives
The Accord’s V-6 power plant puts out 278 HP at 6,200 RPM and 252 torques at 4,900 RPM. Those are relatively high RPMs on a motor that redlines at 6,500 RPM, so the Accord isn’t going to light up the tires, or win any stoplight-to-stoplight drag races with an Audi S4, since all the power is pretty high up in the rev range. But what this does mean is that in real-world driving, passing power is readily available. Moreover, the 6-speed transmission does an adequate job of keeping you more or less in the meat of the torque range in normal driving conditions.
Still, this is a car that hits 60 MPH in 5.6 seconds and does a quarter-mile in 14 seconds. That’s properly quick by modern standards. Forty years ago, it would have been considered almost suicidally quick. Thirty years ago, when emissions-control-crippled American muscle cars were putting out 178 horsepower, it would’ve been considered impossible.
The transmission, though, isn’t anything special. Despite being a 6-speed, there’s no manual shift mode, or Tiptronic setup. It’s a bog-standard automatic tranny that shifts when it’s supposed to, so you can forget about having to do it yourself. What it does have, surprisingly, is both a “Drive” mode that’s biased towards fuel economy, and a “Sport” mode that gives you a bit crisper throttle response, and shifts closer to the redline. It downshifts on shorter notice to add a bit more power, too. Again, it’s set up to deliver the V-6’s power when you need it in everyday driving situations.
Even in Sport mode, though, it doesn’t shift too close to the redline That would approach true sportiness and compromise the appliance-centered philosophy that characterizes Honda today—though that philosophy has not, happily, taken over Honda’s motorcycle division. Yet. What you end up with is a relatively peppy car, with decent passing power. There’s just enough power to move the 3,559 lb. sedan with some authority when you truly want to.
It’s a front-wheel-drive car, and with 278 horses on tap, it has traction control, so that it can try to keep you from understeering into a telephone pole in the corners. Surprisingly, the motor will try to give the traction control system a bit of a struggle before the traction system clamps down hard on the fun. Also, when your right foot gets a little stompy, there’s noticeable torque steer, but it’s no big deal to control it. When you press the limits a bit, the V-6 Accord is actually mildly entertaining.
The steering is not, though. It’s light, without the variable power system that adds more resistance at speed. It’s OK, I suppose, for an electric power steering setup, but it really doesn’t have loads of feel. Again, the Accord is not a sports car. For commuting every day, it’s perfectly fine.
The Accord’s ride is the real gem here. It’s comfortable and compliant, and smooths out the imperfections in the road. At the same time it’s not too loose and cushy, and delivers a tauter feel than you might expect, while still providing a very comfortable and composed ride.
The mileage is pretty good, too, delivering 34 MPG on the highway, compared to the 36 MPG of the 4-cylinder motor. It’s helped in doing this by Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management system. When you’re cruising along on the highway, the Accord simply shuts down three of the cylinders.
There’s also a big green button with white leaves inscribed upon it on the dashboard that puts the Accord in “Econ” mode. As far as I can tell, Econ mode does two things: it detunes the throttle response so it’s a bit mushier, and it turns on some green highlight lighting on the dash. I hate it. Enough with you and your green, eco-friendly, conservationist propaganda. Every time I see it, I want to go out and buy a Shelby GT 500 Mustang immediately. Not only would I never touch the green Econ button on purpose, I would have it physically disabled so that if I ever did push it inadvertently, absolutely nothing would happen. Take that, commies.
Seriously, it almost ruined the car for me.
The Accord also has something called Lane Watch, which consists of a blind spot camera in the right-hand mirror that displays on the center screen whenever you hit the right turn indicator. But only the right side. The driver’s side just has a blind spot mirror integrated into the outer quarter of the driver’s rear-view mirror. It is strange when you look at it, and takes some getting used to. Honda didn’t put a Lane Watch camera on the driver’s side because they say it’s unnatural to look to the right and watch the center screen when you’re moving to the left.
What’s good about it
The V-6 Accord has decent power, and it puts the power where it’s most useful for everyday driving. The ride is very good. The front seats are comfortable, especially since Honda has taken out the awful lumbar support/medieval torture system they used to have. It has all the technological bells and whistles. There’s enough room inside to comfortably make sweet, sweet love to your lady. It offers a more lively driving experience than you might expect for what is essentially a modestly upscale commuter car.
What’s bad about it
It’s not a truly fun car. It is, at the end of the day, a driving appliance. It’s not really pretty, with a relatively boring design. It has an Econ mode button, which is really just there to irk enthusiasts and placate communists. There’s a fair amount of down-market plastic inside. There’s nothing about it that really gives you an engaging driving experience. The steering is average. There’s noticeable torque steer when you put your foot down.
The V-6 Accord is not a car that any auto enthusiast will truly like. At the end of the day, it is a driving appliance—something we usually refer to as a “beige car”. But here’s the thing about appliances: They’re useful. They perform a task that we need to have performed. And if you’re going to buy an appliance, you might as well buy a really good one. One that will be reliable, and do the job well for years.
As appliances go, the Accord is a really good one. It’ll be reliable and, at least in V-6 trim, will provide a little more pleasure than most. Since Honda sells about 1,000 of the things every day, a lot of people must agree with me. And here’s another thing. The 2014 Accord also comes in a V-6 Coupe version with a 6-speed manual transmission. I’ll probably be driving one in the next few weeks. And you know something? I’m looking forward to it.