What is it?
The most powerful and expensive version of the new Honda Accord - the flagship of Honda’s new range, in fact – and one of the cars that, Honda hopes, can convince the British public that it can make upmarket, premium saloons that stand comparison with the very best.
What’s it like?
Like all of the new model range, the priciest version of Honda’s new compact executive saloon gets a richer and better-quality cabin than the last car, a more adventurous-looking exterior, and an improved chassis and steering system that, combined, make it much more entertaining-to-drive.
It’s also got an equipment list strong enough to make it the most technologically advanced car in its class. There are few problems, then, with the way this car looks, feels, rides or handles, and none at all with the fact that, at various times and to varying degrees, it’s clever enough to brake, accelerate and steer on behalf of its owner, and to warn him of a potential crash up ahead.
No, the can of worms explodes when you realise that this car costs not much less than a BMW 325i SE – a car with an award-winning, 215bhp, 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine, as well as a riflebolt six-speed manual gearbox, rear-driven handling dynamism to spare, and more genuine premium-brand allure than you can measure in a hundred focus groups.
The range-topping Honda Accord, on the other hand – the model that middle-managers countrywide should surely aspire to own if the outfit’s premium brand ambitions are to be taken seriously – has a noisy, 198bhp 2.4-litre four-pot under the bonnet, which drives the front wheels through a five-speed automatic gearbox that is often slow to kick down and guilty of transmission slip. The Power of Dreams? This is anything but.
In fact, this car needs this powertrain only marginally more than it needs an unscheduled level-crossing meeting with the 7.58 from London Paddington.
The engine’s short on power and torque even relative to a decent 2.0-litre turbo, and married to an automatic gearbox which seems to sap power from it (and disappointingly, has one fewer gear ratio that the manual version), thrashing it way up beyond 6000rpm is the only way to maintain a ‘sporting’ pace. In the real world, if this car is any quicker point-to-point than the manual-equipped i-DTEC Accord, this road tester will eat his notebook and pencil.
Should I buy one?
If you must, get a manual – but if you want a proper premium sports saloon, look elsewhere. That’s not to say there aren’t strong options within this new Accord range. The diesel’s good enough to stand comparison with all-but-the-very-best compact exec oil-burners, in fact, and there are cheaper and better petrol options too.
But in order for Honda to convince anyone that it can make saloon cars as desirable as the Mercedes C-class and BMW 3-series, this car – its range-topping small saloon - needs a richer, smoother and more powerful engine. As it is, the most expensive Accord is by no means the best, and it certainly isn’t a match for a six-pot C-class or BMW.