Even without taking into account Japan's recent natural disasters, Honda has struggled of late, seemingly having lost its prominence as a technology innovator. With much riding on next year's models, there was a lot of interest when Honda took the covers of the new Accord Coupe Concept at the 2012 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) recently, revealing the first official glimpse of a new styling direction, as well as revealing a host of claimed new technologies for the all-new, ninth-generation 2013 model, set to go on-sale this fall in America.
Tech TalkAs is the norm these days, the 2013 Accord is designed to accommodate a variety of powerplant options, including a 2.4-liter direct-injected, 181 hp internal combustion engine, with either a 6-speed manual or a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), a 3.5-litre SOHC 4-valve V6 matched to a 6-speed automatic, and a plug-in hybrid system that moves continuously through three modes - all-electric, gasoline-electric and direct-drive - to maximize driving efficiency and fuel economy.
In all-electric mode, a 6 kWh lithium-ion battery and a 120 kW electric motor provides a range of approximately 10-15 miles (16 - 24 km) in city driving mode and a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h) . Fully recharging the battery will take less than four hours using a 120-volt outlet and less than 1.5 hours using a 240-volt charger. Hardly electrifying in terms of performance, but seemingly adequate in city driving mode.
Safety InnovationsHonda claims the 2013 Accord introduces numerous new features for "enhanced driver safety, visibility and security". The vehicle sees Honda's first application of Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Forward Collision Warning (FCW) technology. Both systems use a camera mounted behind the windshield to alert drivers if the car is moving out of its lane or to warn drivers of a potential collision in front of them.
In an attempt to improve situational awareness the Accord will also come equipped with Honda's LaneWatch blind-spot display, which uses a camera system mounted on the passenger-side mirror for an expanded view of the passenger-side roadway. The Accord will also receive a rear view back-up camera and an expanded view driver's mirror.
More hi-tech features that will be found on all 2013 Accord models include hands-free Bluetooth phone interface, a full-color, intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID) and an SMS text messaging function, which can read received texts from compatible mobile phones aloud over the audio system.
Another standard feature and first for the Accord is the introduction of a Pandora Internet Radio interface, compatible with the Apple iPhone, which works with the vehicle's audio controls and i-MID. With all these gizmos, you can see why the need for the LaneWatch, Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Warning functions may be needed. Like all Honda vehicles, I am sure the new Accord will be nice to drive, but the marketplace will determine if Honda has leap-frogged the opposition or is still playing catch up.
Manufacturing HistoryThe Honda Accord, currently in its eighth generation, is one of Honda's best-selling vehicles worldwide and remains one of the top-selling automobiles in the U.S. The Accord was launched in 1976 with subsequent major re-designs in 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2003 and 2008. More than 11 million Accords have been sold in the U.S. since 1976.
Since its introduction, Honda's Accord has been praised for its quality, reliability and drivability. Car and Driver magazine has awarded the Honda Accord its prestigious and highly competitive annual "10 Best Cars" award a record 26 times. It will be interesting to see what is made of the 2013 model. As Honda's most popular and recognizable model, much will be expected of it, but competition looks fierce.
In 2012, Honda will celebrate 30 years of Accord production in the U.S. The first Accord Sedan rolled off the Marysville, Ohio assembly line in 1982 and was the first Japanese-nameplate car assembled in the U.S. Since then, more than eight million Accords have been produced at Honda's U.S. auto plant.