2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring drive review: 252-hp premium cruiser

Following Ford’s recent pullback frmo, sedans amid admittedly flagging popularity of this bodystyle across the industry, there are really only two heavyweight champions left in this still-crucial segment. Once the default bodystyle for a daily driver, the choice for many for the past two decades has been Camry or Accord. And for many, it still is, even as crossovers and SUVs of all shapes and sizes are becoming the default family car.

The 2018 Accord is back for a 10th generation, and this time around it doesn’t plan to get ahead by sitting still or by delivering very incremental progress, lest it upset buyers who have been with the nameplate for half of those 10 generations.

The new model sports a fastback profile and more luxury accommodations than ever, keenly aware that it now has to compete not only with the Camry and the myriad also-rans, but with taller, wagon-like crossovers that want to push it out of view entirely while undercutting it in price. The 10th-generation model makes a strong case for itself at a time several competitors look like they’re about ready to capitulate, or are only now coming to terms with the fact that they’ve capitulated to the Accord a long time ago.

In the engine department, there are three main choices: a 1.5-liter DOHC direct-injected turbo four-cylinder producing 192 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque, paired with a six-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) kicks off the range. Up next is a new 2.0-liter direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder, churning out 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. At the top of the range is the Accord Hybrid with a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle engine teamed up with two electric motors producing 143 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque.

The base engine is expected to be the volume leader, while the 2.0-liter Turbo will be the performance variant now that the V6 version is gone for good. The Accord Hybrid, meanwhile, will serve up greater gas savings but won’t exactly be the least expensive way to get into Accord ownership. But that’s the price of hybrid hardware.

Honda’s 10th-generation Accord opts for a fastback bodystyle, in keeping with industry trends.PHOTO BY AUTOWEEK

Fastbacks are the new three-box sedans, and Honda is taking advantage of this design direction to benefit the passengers, in addition to shaving 110 to 176 pounds off the curb weight compared to the outgoing model and achieving greater chassis and body rigidity. High-strength steel now makes up 54.9 percent of the sedan’s body, and it’s 32 percent stiffer when it comes to torsional rigidity. The wheelbase is now 2.16 inches longer — not an insignificant jump when it comes to something as studiously consistent like the Accord — and the gain for passengers are 2.5 extra cubic feet of interior space. The Accord also borrows quite a few design themes that debuted on the Civic earlier — also a fastback now — and the result is a consistent and modern look for Honda’s sedan lineup.

On paper, there is plenty to be optimistic about, but the 2.0T Touring model requires a good workout on back roads for the reengineered body and chassis to really shine.

Though crossovers have become the preferred mode of travel for many families, there are still plenty of drivers who prefer the traditional sedan. Dynamically, the benefits of the midsize sedan over a …

The Execution

The Accord still errs on the side of comfort rather than sport, but the combination of a intuitive gearbox and 252 horses underhood are enough to entertain when called upon. In the corners the 2.0T produces modest to moderate body roll but never loses its composure or lets its tires perform stock sound effects from ’70s car chase films. In fact, the Accord is eerily quiet even when pushed a little outside of its comfort zone on back roads, permitting only a little wind noise and other whoosh-type sounds signal that scenery is racing by outside.

The 252 horses are more than enough to make a sedan of this size hustle, and it does so from a standstill without tucking its tail or generating huge revs or engine noise in order to sprint. Plenty of torque is on tap early on, making racing up on-ramps and back roads alike a drama-free experience. Likewise, accelerating from 50 mph to 70 mph and beyond is a breeze and the reactions of this powerplant and transmission combo are some of the best I’ve sampled in this segment. It is evident that Honda made these 252 horses as domesticated as possible; in a different state of tune this is a lot of power for a relatively small sedan, power that could be hard to manage or reconcile with the car’s luxury-oriented mission.

10-speed automatics are the new 9-speed automatics, I’m tempted to say, but there is more to this new gearbox than cogs for speeds that one can’t really approach in any of the 50 states and territories. The transmission goes about its work without any fanfare like rev build-up or bobbing back and forth as it rows through the gears — the days of painfully obvious automatics are long behind us. In fact, it’s really hard to tell that the transmission is doing much shifting at all — it’s that subtle when upshifting and downshifting.

Comfort is still a priority and this means a ride that’s more forgiving and isolating than it could be and the steering could be more communicative. But it’s good to remember that the Accord was designed to cope with the daily indignities and perils of the modern commute rather than some twisty roads one only sees in car commercials. (I took the Accord to twisty roads one only sees in car commercials anyway).

The interior of the new Accord remains conservative and visually muted than some of its rivals, but it works well with the car’s character. The Touring model offers an 8-inch touchscreen bookended by two rotary knobs for the audio system, and easy to use shortcut buttons lining the left and right sides of the screen. This user interface is intuitive and it won’t overwhelm those still intimidated or irritated by infotainment screens with a lot of submenus; Honda kept the most important stuff regulated by buttons and dials. Still, perhaps a few opportunities were missed when it comes to interior design, as Honda’s rivals like Nissan are using design, materials and colors to dazzle buyers, and a sea of gray and black plastic and leather in the Accord does not exactly overwhelm the senses. In other words, few buyers will likely be sold on the exciting looks of the interior; it’s the overall package and the reputation for reliability that does most of the selling here.

The interior of the new Accord offers a modern but not dazzling design in Touring trim.PHOTO BY AUTOWEEK

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