It’s been 29 years since Honda’s first American-built Accord rolled off of the assembly line. Since then the iconic vehicle has won the hearts of drivers across the country thanks to its exceptional driving capabilities, styling and affordability. For its 30th year, Honda is pulling out all of the stops, giving the Accord lineup an all-new look, a cavalcade of new powertrain options and a plug-in hybrid edition. But the real star of the revamped Accord (starting at $21,680, $29,995 as tested) is its impressive array of new tech.
From its new HondaLink hands-free connectivity system to the inventive LaneWatch Blind Spot Display, the 2013 Accord is the closest thing you can get to a supercomputer on wheels. We packed our bags and headed to beautiful Santa Barbara, C.A. to try out the new Accord, and see if its 30th is its best yet.
From a design standpoint, the 2013 Accord has a far more athletic look than the previous generation. You’ll definitely recognize it as an Accord when you first lay eyes on it, albeit one that's seems to have been hitting the gym hard. Standard daytime running lights and a reworked grill give the 2013 Accord a more aggressive face, while a character line running upward from the front fender to the rear helps build on its muscular appearance.
The Honda Accord’s new smartphone integration system, HandsFreeLink, allows users to connect their smartphones to the vehicle’s infotainment system via Bluetooth or USB. Once connected, users can access any music stored on their phones, as well as listen to text messages and make hands free calls using a steering wheel-mounted call button.
The Accord’s infotainment system has one of the most unique layouts on the market. Instead of giving users one large display from which they can control their music and navigation systems, Honda gives you two. The first, a beautiful 8-inch 800 x 480 VGA screen dubbed the “intelligent” Multi-Information Display (i-MID) sits at the top of the center stack and is used solely to display information such as track listings, directions, phone numbers and system settings. Below the 8-inch display is a smaller 6-inch touchscreen used to control the Accord’s audio system.
Underneath the touchscreen sits a large rotary knob that allows users to navigate the i-MID’s various menus. Additional physical Nav, Phone, Info and Audio buttons situated just above the knob allow you to quickly switch from listening to your favorite artist to entering an address in the navigation system with a single button press.
In addition to Bluetooth streaming audio, the Accord offers streaming music via Pandora, as well as XMSirius Satellite Radio. Don’t have your smartphone on you? An available USB port allows you to connect any USB-enabled device to the infotainment system, letting you stream music and even upload photos for use as a background for the i-MID display. The USB port also lets iPhone users control all aspects of Pandora via the Accord’s touchscreen, including skipping, liking and disliking tracks. If you connect via Bluetooth, you’ll only be able to control the volume of your Pandora station, which is pretty lame.
Having two displays and a series of knobs and buttons to for the infotainment system, not to mention the physical controls for the HVAC system, can seem overwhelming the first time you get behind the driver’s seat of the Accord. But in actuality, Honda has made the center stack both ergonomically pleasing -- nothing was out of reach -- and intuitive to use. We did find ourselves having to stretch a bit to reach the controls while in the passenger seat, but it wasn’t bad enough to be a knock on the setup.
HondaLink with Aha
While smartphone connectivity and a gorgeous navigation system are all well and good, you need to bring something extra to the tablet to wow car shoppers. In the Accord’s case, that something is Honda’s new cloud-based HondaLink connectivity system. Whereas HandsFreeLink lets you just listen to music stored natively on your device and make hands-free phone calls, HondaLink takes advantage of your smartphone’s data connection to bring apps stored on your phone into your car.
Custom user settings are uploaded from your HondaLink app to the automaker’s HondaLink Data Cloud servers, letting you store information such as points of interest, routes and preferences for the Navigation system, among other settings. This allows each driver to have a more personalized experience than they would if their settings were saved natively.
The first app to get the HondaLink treatment is Harman’s Aha Radio. Available for iPhone and Android devices, the app helps you curate on-demand radio stations, audio books, podcasts, news and even stream audible Facebook and Twitter updates. We got to use the Aha app for HondaLink and were impressed with both the presentation and simplicity of the controls. Users navigate Aha using the Accord’s touchscreen.
Want to listen to a radio station in L.A., but you live in New York? No problem, just find the station on Aha and start rocking out. Hungry? Navigate to the Hungry station and start looking for restaurants via Yelp Location Services. Honda reps told us that the Yelp feature calculates your car’s direction and will only provide restaurant options located ahead of you, so you won’t have to turn around to find a place to eat.
The coolest part of Aha is the ability to listen to your Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds. Before you listen to either service, you’ll have to add them to your Favorite stations list in the Aha smartphone app and connect to HondaLink. Select Aha as your audio source on the Accord’s touchscreen, and the display will switch over to show you your Favorite stations. Tap the Facebook station and Aha will begin reading your newsfeed.
A brief description of each post will also be displayed on the Accord’s i-MID display, including how long ago it was posted. If a post contains a link, Aha will skip over it and simply say, “A link was posted.” HondaLink also lets you “Like” posts via the touchscreen, although you can’t yet post to your own newsfeed.
Honda has outfitted the 2013 Accord with variety of new safety features. Forward Collision Warning uses sensors located at the front of the Accord to detect other vehicles and uses your speed to determine if a collision is possible. If the system thinks an accident is imminent, it will automatically provide you with visual and audio warnings alerting you to stop.
Honda’s new Land Departure Warning system uses cameras mounted in the Accord’s rearview mirror to read lane markers as you drive down the road. When you cross over a marker without using your turn signal, the system will alert you with audible and visual prompts. We found found this feature to be more sensitive than the one we tried on the 2012 Mercedes Benz E350, which will certainly be welcome for safety minded drivers.
Like many cars on the market, the 2013 Honda Accord features a backup camera that automatically streams video to the 8-inch i-MID display when you put the car in reverse. If the standard view isn’t to your liking, the Accord allows you to switch between two other available angles, an overhead view and a wide-angle view.
The Accord’s most ingenious safety feature is its LaneWatch Blind Spot Display. Using a camera mounted under the Accord’s right side view mirror,the system automatically streams video to the i-MID display whenever you flip on the right turn signal. Honda says LaneWatch helps reduce the driver’s blind spot by providing an unobstructed view of the two adjacent lanes. Pressing the LaneWatch button on the turn signal stalk causes the camera to continuously stream video to the i-MID display.
During our time in Santa Barbara, we drove both the automatic and manual versions of the Accord EX-L V6 Sedan and Accord EX-L V6 Coupe. As we drove past lush vineyards and picturesque mountain vistas, we were continually struck by how well the Accord handled both the sweeping curves of the Pacific Coast Highway and the sharp banked corners of the region’s back roads. Although the coupe was the clear leader, thanks to its sport-tuned suspension, the sedan proved it was no slouch.
The 278 hp V-6 packs a hefty 252 lb-ft of torque. Hit the accelerator and that power grips you tight and doesn’t let go until you slam into the red line. The 6-speed automatic transmission knew just when to hold shifts and when to kick down for a quick getaway. As we tooled around in the 6-speed manual coupe we cackled maniacally as we smashed the accelerator and dumped the clutch, blurring Santa Barbara’s undulating hillsides and sending rows of grapevines flying past the Accord’s windows.
Ride comfort in the sedan was top-notch. The driver’s seat hugged in all the right places. Wind noise, a problem in the previous generation Accord, was nearly undetectable. We did notice that the sedan tended roll over ruts and bumps in the road, though nowhere near enough to have you reaching for the Dramamine.
One of the Accord's biggest selling points is just how much you get for it's relatively low $21,680 starting price. All models from the base LX to the top-of-the-line Touring edition receive Honda's HandsFreeLink connectivity system, USB/ iPod integration, a single-angle rearview camera, 8-inch 480 x 320 information display, Pandora integration and auto-reply text messaging functionality.
Step up to the$24,605 EX model and you'll get all of the aforementioned features, as well as the inventive LaneWatch Blind Spot display. The $27,995 EX-L model comes with all of the previous features and adds the slick HondaLink interface, XM Radio, a multi-angle rearview camera and the Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning systems.
Moving up to the the $32,070 EX-L V6, the same models we drove, will get you access to the sleek Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation system. The addition of the navigation system also gives the Accord's 8-inch display a resolution bump from 480 x 320 pixels to 800 x 480 pixels.
Rounding out the lineup is the top dog, Accord Touring edition. Priced at $33,430, the Accord Touring gets you all of the tech and safety features available in the EX-L V6 and Honda's Adaptive Cruise Control.
It’s been 29 years since Honda first began building the Accord in the U.S., and its 30th year is looking just as good as the first. With its improved styling, aggressive V-6 engine and competent body control, the 2013 Accord both looks and feels like a car that should cost twice as much. Add to that more tech than most competing mid-sized cars and a host of compelling safety features and you have an exceptional vehicle that’s equal parts fun and smart.