2010 Honda Accord Crosstour
2010 Honda Accord Crosstour Expert Review:Autoblog
Its introduction was a case study in how to bungle an automotive social media campaign. Badly. It had people running for thesauruses to find new and fascinating synonyms for "ugly." Its TV campaign has something to do with jazz music and animals. And yet, for all the hubbub, hysterics and lamentations that Honda had completely lost its mind, the 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour quietly showed up and began finding customers.
Last month – its best sales performance to date – 2,587 people drove the odd-looking hatchwagon home. Recently, we took delivery of our own Crosstour EX-L tester, loaded-up with all-wheel drive and navigation, to see how we felt about spending a week with Honda's latest experiment.
Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
There's no question – none whatsoever – that the Honda Accord Crosstour's styling is controversial to the point of distraction. Some might call it upsetting. Others, however, might like it. Such is the reaction I experienced upon bringing it home. Prior to its arrival, I had essentially characterized the Crosstour as being Medusa on wheels to my better half. She, upon walking outside for a look at the car, returned, looked me in the eye and flatly stated, "That's not ugly. I don't know what your problem is."
To some extent, she's right. Not to damn it with faint praise, but from certain angles, the Accord Crosstour is genuinely not bad to look at. It's weird that way. The front three-quarter view actually has a jacked-up sportiness to it, as the fastback roof profile tapers gracefully, and the car's bulbous fanny is hidden from view. From the side, Honda's attempt to grab the Accord Coupe's jaunty visual mojo and apply it to a four-door body (well, five-door, but you get the gist) is plainly evident.
And you know, it has some juice to it; there's a muscular shoulder above the rear wheels, and the variety of additional creases and lines in the sheetmetal do their best to break up the big-car monotony. Even the bootylicious tail section works out fairly well in profile, with its subtle little lip spoiler punctuating the roofline's trailing edge. From the rear, the CRX/Insight-style split-glass tail looks pretty decent, as does the pair of polished exhaust tips fitted to our V6-powered tester. What basically kills the look for us is the Crosstour's face, which is unnecessarily overwrought thanks to its cartoonishly large radiator grille, which extends too far below the headlamps and bears no familial resemblance to either the Accord Coupe or Honda's bread-and-butter sedan. If Tim Burton and Michael Bay joined forces to make the Cheshire Cat into a Decepticon, this is what he'd look like.
Give Honda credit, though. They sure weren't afraid to take some risks with the styling. Sure, we'd bitch less if it were shaped like a traditional wagon (after all, Honda's served up a couple of tasty-looking ones under the Accord nameplate), but the wagon-averse U.S. auto market says that'd probably have been a far riskier business gamble than the hatchback we ended up with. If you're a Honda loyalist who's desperate for a regular wagon, head to your Acura store later this year and buy the TSX, but remember, if you want the V6 and AWD, the Crosstour is where it's at in the Honda Universe.
The leather-clad front seats are heated, wide-bottomed and decently bolstered; they're comfy if not overly sporty, a description that summarizes the Crosstour in general. The cupholders mounted between them are fine at keeping the crucial morning-commute coffee secure, and can be covered when not in use. You'll also find the same automatic transmission shifter used in other Accord models, and the center storage bin is plenty roomy and ready to swallow up all manner of random in-car detritus.
Rear-seat passengers have little, if anything, to complain about. It's spacious back there, with ample legroom even for taller passengers. The Crosstour's aggressively-sloped roofline belies a surprising amount of backseat headroom, too. Average-sized adults will have no problems whatsoever, and even tall folks should find it surprisingly accommodating. If you have kids, mounting a baby seat or booster (or both) is no biggie. The Crosstour lives right up to the Accord moniker's family-car reputation. Our tester's all-black interior will doubtless be popular with many buyers, but we thought it contributed to a somewhat cavelike ambiance. If it were us forking over the as-tested price of $36,930 (the Crosstour ain't exactly cheap), we'd be sure to pick an exterior color that allows the Ivory interior to be selected. We've looked at Crosstours so equipped, and in our opinion, the cabin has a cheerier feel and a more premium (read: expensive-looking) visual impact with the lighter seats and trim.
Outward visibility is good straight ahead and to the sides, but the view out back is sketchy at best, even with the glass panel on the face of the tailgate. When reversing, we were thankful for the tester's included rearview camera, as it's the only way to honestly tell what you're about to back over. It's important enough, in fact, that we'd go so far as to say that if it's within your financial reach, you really ought to take a hard swallow and hand over the added premium for the Navi model, as that's the only way you get the backup cam. The view over your shoulder basically stinks, thanks to the dramatic roof angle. Get those mirrors adjusted properly, folks, unless you want a mundane lane change to turn into some sort of driver's ed cautionary tale.
If you're buying a Crosstour for its voluminous cargo capacity, you should probably check your research, since it trails pretty much every conceivable rival in this regard. Behind the back seats, you get 25.7 cubic feet of space; flipping down the second-row seats boosts total cargo room up to 51.3 cubic feet. As you can see from the sampling below, the competition wins this battle pretty handily. Even some compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue come out ahead in terms of the cargo volume numbers game, thanks to their boxier styling:
The discrepancy is due to a combination of the Crosstour's rakish profile – where you pay the price for the fastback look – and intrusive rear strut towers and wheel wells that crowd the cargo area on both sides, eliminating any possibility of fitting long, wide cargo, even with the back seats folded. As for the space that is available, it's more than enough to handle a big shopping trip to the grocery store or DIY-big-box outlet. Just don't plan on hauling any really tall or bulky stuff. The rear cargo area also features hidden under-floor storage in the form of a removable, easy-to-clean plastic bin. It looks like it'd be handy for carrying messy stuff like trays of flowers, or just keeping loose trunk junk like your flashlight, jumper cables and first-aid kit out of the way.
If you're okay with everything we've discussed so far, you'll be happy to know that the Crosstour is entirely pleasant to drive. The 271 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque delivered by the 3.5-liter V6 is more than ample in town and on the highway, announcing itself with a subdued growl from beyond the firewall. Acceleration is not of the neck-snapping variety, but at the same time, it's no slouch should you give the long pedal a proper workout. As we noted previously, our tester had AWD, which will doubtless help sales in states that deal with snowy winters, but the worst weather we experienced was some rain, which the Crosstour would have tackled equally well if it were a front-driver. Honda's Variable Cylinder management is standard, allowing the engine to switch seamlessly between three-, four- and six-cylinder operation. If not for the indicator light in the instrument cluster, we wouldn't even have noticed when VCM was doing its thing. However, despite the cylinder deactivation we still only averaged fuel economy in the mid-teens in what wound up being predominantly local driving. The EPA rates the AWD Accord Crosstour at 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 20 mpg in mixed use. Your results, as they say, may vary.
Dynamically, the Accord Crosstour is bereft of surprises despite its slightly higher stance and added heft. This is a good thing, as behavior is predictable, with a suspension tune that's reasonably firm and nicely communicative without compromising overall passenger comfort. Probe the limits, and it can get a little squishy when the road gets bendy, but seriously, that sort of driving is outside the Crosstour's prime directive. Nobody buying one is going to go there. Ever. In relaxed, kid-taxi/grocery-getter mode, it's a shining beacon of Accord-ness. Steering feel and response are also nicely dialed-in, and before long, you forget that you're not sold on the looks, because it's such a solid drive.
Ultimately, if you want to compare it to something reasonably similar, the Toyota Venza is the roomier and more stylish choice, but the 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour delivers the clearly superior behind-the-wheel experience. We'd happily road-trip one of these, even though we'd have to bring less stuff along for the ride. If you can get past its (extremely) polarizing styling and the lower cargo capacity that comes with it, the 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour is eminently capable. Enjoyable, even. Is this the Accord wagon so many of us hoped for? No. Instead, it's probably the best Accord hatchback ever. Pity it's not the best-looking one, too.
Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
We hadn't been parked but a minute or two when it happened. After about a half an hour wringing out our test subject on what few curvy stretches of road suburban Detroit had to offer, we opportunistically pulled into a roadside fruit stand to snap a few photos before our ride got any dirtier. It was at exactly this point that a Lincoln MKZ rolled up, a window whirred down, and two gray-tufted heads popped out. "What is it?" inquired the couple in boisterous unison. Silence. "It's the 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour," we eventually blurt out, my co-driver sounding suspiciously apologetic. "It's... it's gorgeous!" The late-sixty-something man isn't being facetious – in fact, he's gushing – taking his hands off the Lincoln's wheel and gesturing as if to reinforce his sincerity.
If we're lyin,' we're dyin.'
"It's absolutely beautiful."
"Really? Would you like to take a closer look?" No sooner had we extended the offer than said window was rolled up and the MKZ hurriedly shepherded into a parking spot. Moments later, our curious seniors were all over Honda's latest like first-in-liners at an early bird all-you-can-eat buffet. They took in its daring fastback profile, sized up its cargo hold, fiddled with its power seat controllers and gooshed its soft-touch plastics. Not only were they clearly impressed, they loved the way it looked.
Photos copyright ©2009 Chris Paukert / Weblogs, Inc.
It is at this point that you might reasonably expect us to fence-straddle a bit and tell you why the Crosstour is better looking in person. Thing is, we're not sure it is. Perhaps you expect us to note how what few photos Honda has released to this point fail to tell the whole story. Fair enough – they don't. And we needn't remind you that auto journalists (us included) are regularly accused of using mealy-mouthed words like 'unique,' 'distinctive,' 'polarizing' and 'intriguing' when what they're trying to say is that a design team has shat the bed. In that spirit and from our vantage point, we'll say this polarizing Honda is uniquely distinctive in an intriguing way.
Having established that Ashton Kutcher wasn't about to spring forth from behind the stand's display of pumpkins, we stood back and watched, surveying the scene while chatting with the stand's owner. Even though the proprietor would later confess to not liking Hondas (her husband being a retired General Motors lifer and all, that kinda thing just wouldn't be right), she had been kind enough to oblige our photography and she seemed to be as curious as we were. We admit it: we did not expect things to go down this way. And in our defense, neither did Honda.
You are the Target Market
You see, earlier that same morning, we attended a press conference and walkaround with company officials, and as it turns out, our elderly snoopers aren't who the Crosstour's blunt prow is aimed at. According to Lee DaSilva, senior product planner, the model is targeted at both fifty-something Baby Boomers that find themselves with newly empty nests and Gen Y types who are just starting their own families. Our admirers were clearly neither.
However, given their newish MKZ, they probably had the educational and financial credentials that Honda has bogeyed, and besides, it's often true of niche cars that they end up selling to vastly different audiences than the one that was originally intended. Just ask Scion. Or Honda's own Element buyers.
Beauty is in the Eye of (Other) Beholders
Regardless of The Lincolns' ardor, it's clear that Honda is facing considerable early pushback with its newest nichemobile. Advanced marketing efforts through social media sites like Facebook haven't exactly gone according to plan, sparking widespread derision studded with the occasional kudos emanating from the Commentariat. The only problem is, the overwhelming majority of these detractors have never seen the Crosstour in person.
First Impression: Like the Accord sedan upon which it's based, the Crosstour is larger than you might expect. At 196.8-inches long, 74.7-inches wide, 65.7-inches tall and 3,887 pounds, our EX-L tester was a big boy. As our new friends illustrate, the Crosstour's design clearly has its adherents, but we can't help but think that its self-described "thick face," oddly dimpled rocker panels and high-waisted Kammback tail tries too hard to be different.
In particular, the dead-on front and rear views are tough to make sense of. The nose is definitely aggressive, and for better or worse, it does have a certain "T-Rex head" quality about it. We suspect some will appreciate its in-your-face quality, while others will just be turned off. When viewed from directly behind, we couldn't find much love for the Crosstour's split-glass arrangement and collagen-injected Porsche Panamera aesthetic. The visual weight of its high rump has been exacerbated by tires that appear too narrow, to say nothing of the odd covering of the undermounted spare that's clearly visible to trailing cars.
To be clear, we think that a 225/60 18-inch radial is normally more than enough footprint for a family car (EXs make do with 225/65 17s), but even if these Michelins are dynamically up to snuff – and they are – they don't help visually. This is particularly apparent when compared with the wider and larger radials of the competition (there's a reason most Toyota Venzas wears dubs). Given the Crosstour's elevated ride height, its upward sweeping rear overhang, and its unconventional hatchback rear graphic, the resulting look strikes us as disharmonious and tippy. We suspect Honda's engineers may have had trouble stuffing a wider tire underneath the Accord-based platform, especially while leaving space for the underslung spare.
Do Not Attempt to Define the Undefinable
Thankfully, during our day with the car, Honda's team largely avoided the shopworn auto marketer's tendency to invent white space. You know, blustery talk of how a model is a new type of vehicle the likes of which buyers have never seen, and therefore it has no real competitors. Oh, program chief engineer Osamu Takezawa did suggest that Crosstour is an "Active Grand Tourer" (fair enough), but the rest of Honda's marketing team refreshingly didn't even attempt to coin a new market segment like "Extreme Lifestage Softroader" for it to occupy.
Admittedly, a bit of confusion would be understandable – even our own government doesn't can't seem to comprehend what this East Liberty, Ohioan is: The EPA classifies the Crosstour as a passenger car, but down the hall, NHTSA maintains it is a light truck. As if to add some context and clarity to this conundrum, Honda thoughtfully provided a pair of likely cross-shops for us to sample, the Nissan Murano and Toyota Venza. Honda says this is a CUV, folks.
All of which brings us to the drive. We've spent entirely too much time dwelling on the sort of superficial stuff that our moms have always told us doesn't matter. It's what's inside that counts, right? So, in that spirit... how's she go? Rather well, as it turns out.
Quick studies among you might reasonably surmise that the Crosstour probably drives like a slightly taller and more portly Accord. And you're right – in much the same way that Toyota's Venza behaves essentially like a taller and more portly Camry. As it is with the family sedan archrivals, Honda once again provides the more entertaining drive, with quicker, more direct steering; firmer brake pedal feel; reduced body roll and front-end plow – in general, a more dynamically 'connected' feel. All good stuff.
As is the case with every Crosstour, our front-drive EX-L tester was powered by Honda's well-mannered 24-valve, 3.5-liter V6. In this case, the i-VTEC motor gives 271 horsepower (at 6,200 RPM) and 254 pound-feet of torque (at 5,000 RPM) – both figures comparing favorably to the Venza (268 hp/246 lb-ft.) and Murano (265 hp/248 lb-ft). However, the Toyota has an extra cog and the Nissan's CVT has a wider ratio spread as compensation.
Despite only having five speeds, the Crosstour's transmission proved to be a sophisticated and able partner, with a new g-force algorithm that prevents the gearbox from engaging in any ill-timed mid-corner shifts, and there's even an unexpected rev-matching downshift feature. Oddly, Honda has elected to not include a manual +/- gate on the gearshift and there are no paddles, either.
While we were initially a bit surprised to learn that no four-cylinder model would be offered, the six has variable-cylinder management technology to help on the economy front. Paired with Honda's keen-shifting five-speed automatic and other fuel-saving measures (example: a humidity control feature on the HVAC system that results in a three percent fuel savings), the Crosstour chips in with some respectable mileage figures: 17 mpg city/27 mpg highway for front-drivers like ours, and 17/25 for the all-wheel drive model. Officials claim they would've only saved about one mpg by going with an inline-four, so they passed. For comparison's sake, a Murano returns 18/23 and a V6 Venza scores 19/26.
Drama on the Outside, Not on the Inside
If nothing else, the Honda's polarizing bodyform helps pay dynamic dividends. With just 6.0-inches of ground clearance (only 0.3 inches more than the sedan – significantly less than its adversaries) and a narrow overall body height from rocker-to-roofline, the Crosstour enjoys a lower center-of-gravity than competitors, an attribute that's noticeable from the moment you take a corner with conviction. Credit also goes to an exceptionally stiff body structure that allows the front double-wishbone and rear multi-link suspension to keep ride motions in check. It's also this rigid chassis that helps keep the interior free from any squeaks and rattles.
In fact, it's very quiet inside – even when the standard sunroof is open. Honda has fitted dynamic engine mounts that help cancel out unpleasant engine vibrations when the V6 is operating in cylinder deactivation mode, and the Crosstour is the first Honda-branded car to employ active sound cancellation through the audio system. We even reckon the CUV's narrower sail area will result in better resistance to crosswinds than its contemporaries.
Realizing that it's toting around an extra 300 pounds or so, engineers upgraded the Crosstour's standard Accord brakes from single- to double-piston up front, with 11.7-inch discs fore and 12.0-inchers aft. Further alterations include model-specific shocks, springs and anti-roll bars. The changes work, and the ride and handling strikes an agreeable balance. In short, the Crosstour may offer a more sporting drive, but it's plenty composed, too.
The Whole Enchilada?
Let's face it, though, this class of crossover is rarely purchased based on dynamic abilities. Buyers want a comfortable ride, commanding visibility, flexible utility and plenty of creature comforts. By this yardstick, the Crosstour has some substantial holes in its repertoire. The interior is nicely done, and despite the rakish roofline, rear headroom isn't far off of its competitors, plus there's legroom aplenty. If anything, the case can certainly be made that the interior looks too similar to the Accord sedan. With the exception of a unique fabric or leather color option, ice blue gauge needles and a different shade of faux woodgrain, the cabin is all but identical to its less adventuresome sibling. At least all Crosstours come with supportive seats, excellent fit-and-finish and generous equipment levels: standard kit includes dual-zone HVAC controls, a sunroof and a 360-watt CD-stacker stereo. Lest we forget, Honda's wonderfully capable but fiddly sat-nav is also available.
On the visibility front, the Crosstour's two-piece rear glass allows one to see objects up close more easily than some of its competitors (think: parking lot poles), but the rear aspect is otherwise compromised with a narrow main window, thick D-pillars and bulky headrests. It isn't just the view out the back that's likely to prove divisive – because the Crosstour sits so low, it fails to deliver the elevated SUV-like seating position and sweeping greenhouse that many crossover buyers crave. Get the backup camera.
Things are somewhat better beneath the rear hatch. If the Crosstour has any surprise-and-delight features, it's back here. The 25.7 cubic feet of cargo space (expandable to 51.3 cubes with seatbacks down) trails its rivals by a good bit – particularly when comparing seats-folded numbers. But the 60/40 split chairs fold completely flat with a tug on the well-placed handles and there's a novel three-piece double-sided floor panel that has carpet on one side and ribbed plastic on the other. If you don't want to soil the carpet with your active lifestyle accessories, the plastic side is the way to go, but we wish it were rubberized to hold items in place. As it is, unless you secure the item using the supplied tie-downs, your belongings are probably going to end up on the carpeted area anyway.
Saving the best for last, the Crosstour's chief party trick is its "Hidden Removable Utility Box," a 1.9 cubic foot sub-floor... well, box that has handles and movable dividers. It's a great place to store valuables out of sight and keep dirty boots away from the week's groceries. It's also the reason why Honda opted to have the spare tire ride underneath the chassis like a pickup, as doing so freed up room for the storage bin.
A Surprisingly Short List and a Question of Price
Unfortunately, for a premium-minded offering, the Crosstour's options list appears to be missing more than a few key attractions. In most new CUVs of this class, you can get a panoramic moonroof, but with the Honda, you'll have to settle for the standard-sized unit. Power liftgate? Rear-seat entertainment system? High-intensity discharge headlamps? Bluetooth streaming audio? Pushbutton start? No, no, no, no... and...umm... no. It's therefore unsurprising that you won't find any advanced safety options like a lane-departure warning system, a blind-spot monitor or intelligent cruise control. We generally don't care for those gewgaws, and to be fair, many competitors do without them, but Honda has made it clear that it's seeking more affluent buyers, and with less-than-stellar outward visibility, it wouldn't be a bad idea to make at least blind-spot technology available.
Then there's the not inconsiderable matter of pricing. Honda has taken a real risk here by deciding to offer high-content V6-only models, and we're not sure it's the right strategy. As it is, the front-drive EX starts at $29,670 and all-wheel drive models start at $34,020, but at least leather comes standard on those models. Add navigation to an all-wheel-drive EX-L, and you're talking $36,220, at which point the barn door is wide open for premium-badged offerings.
We hate to belabor the point, but since Honda themselves brought specific challengers into the equation, it bears noting: Apples-to-apples, the competition is cheaper. A front-drive, six-cylinder Venza starts at $27,800 and a similar Murano (which only comes with V6 power) retails from $28,050. And if you care about such things, at 3,500 pounds, they both offer more than double the highest rated towing capacity of the Crosstour.
As we Autobloggers are good momma's boys and gals, we'll agree to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and leave discussions of this Honda's design at that. We'll even happily agree that it's nominally the better driver's car. But rivals offer more utility, more capability, more choices and more luxuries – and they do it at lower price points. That's going to be one hard Crosstour-shaped lozenge for consumers to swallow – no matter what age or tax bracket they operate in.
Who Might Really Cross Over
As it turns out, our fruit-stand stopping, MKZ-driving admirers would later tell us that they have another car at home in their driveway – an Accord – and they are contemplating replacing it soon. All of which makes a lot more sense. Honda has some of the best customer satisfaction and brand retention ratings of any automaker, and we can see loyalists looking for something a bit different and a bit more capacious finding their way into a Crosstour. We're just not sure about 40,000 of them – the yearly volume company officials are seeking.
Us? We'll wait for the just-announced Acura TSX Sport Wagon, a model that is widely expected to be a ported-over version of the company's tasty JDM Accord Tourer. In the meantime, Honda, might we suggest introducing an all-wheel drive Accord sedan? We suspect you'll have the necessary parts lying around...
Photos copyright ©2009 Chris Paukert / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Solid mid-size sedans and coupes.
The Honda Accord comes in sedan and coupe versions. Either way, the Accord is big on efficiency, be it getting the most power and range from a gallon of gas with the least emissions, making the largest interior available given the exterior space it takes up, or providing the smoothest, quietest ride possible with the lightest weight. Whether moving four people comfortably or enjoying the long way home, the Accord is up to the task.
The Accord was completely redesigned for 2008, when it grew in exterior dimensions and interior roominess, safety, and value. The two model years since have brought little change.
For 2010, all Accord models with leather interiors come with a Bluetooth hands-free phone link. Sedans with EX trim and above add rear seat ventilation ducts, and climate controls on all models have new colors and graphics for easier identification.
The Accord is available with a choice of four-cylinder and V6 engines, manual or automatic transmission, and essentially four trim levels.
The Honda Accord sedan competes primarily against the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, and Chevrolet Malibu.
The stylish, two-door Coupe is available with a six-speed manual and V6, the only Accord with that combination, and it comes with larger anti-roll bars and low-profile 18-inch tires and wheels. The Accord Coupe competes directly with the Nissan Altima coupe.
The 2010 Honda Accord is offered in coupe and sedan forms, with three engine choices.
Accord LX sedans are equipped with a 177-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The LX Sedan ($21,055) comes standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, power mirrors and door locks, power windows, variable intermittent wipers, tilt-and-telescoping steering column and illuminated wheel-mounted controls, folding rear seats, and an MP3/WMA/auxiliary-input 160-watt sound system. Wheels are 16-inch steel with P215/60HR16 tires. The LX-P Sedan ($22,055) is an LX with a premium package that adds alloy wheels, a power driver's seat, illuminated power window switches and express up/down for the front passenger’s window, security system, and a chrome tailpipe. Both LX models come with a choice of five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission ($800).
The Accord EX Sedan ($23,830), EX Coupe ($23,880) and LX-S Coupe ($22,555) get a higher-revving, 190-horsepower version of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. They also come with five-speed manual or automatic transmission ($800). All three add an in-dash CD changer, an information screen controlled by a selector knob, and 17-inch alloy wheels with P225/50 all-season tires; while the two EX models also benefit from a power moonroof, heated mirrors, and premium interior accents. To this the EX Coupe adds a 270-watt stereo, and the EX Sedan adds driver power lumbar adjustment and new-for-2010 rear-seat ventilation ducts,
The EX Sedan is also available with a 271 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and five-speed automatic ($26,805). Along with the V6 engine, you get fog lights, chrome door handles, and dual exhausts.
EX-L stands for leather on the seats and steering wheel. The four-cylinder EX-L Sedan ($26,030) and EX-L Coupe ($26,080) also come with dual-zone automatic climate control, the 270-watt sound system, XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth with steering-wheel mounted controls (new for 2010), heated front seats, compass and exterior temperature indicator, automatic on/off headlights and, for the sedan, an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The EX-L V6 Sedan ($29,105) adds a four-way power adjustment for the front passenger seat and Homelink universal remote. The EX-L V6 Coupe ($29,305) offers a choice of six-speed manual or five speed automatic transmission for the same price. It comes with most of the same amenities as the EX-L V6 sedan, and adds 18-inch alloy wheels with 235/45VR18 tires and a rear decklid spoiler.
An optional navigation system features voice-activation and steering wheel controls. Accords with this package are priced as separate models of the EX-L Sedan ($28,030), EX-L Coupe ($28,080), EX-L V6 Sedan ($31,105), and EX-L V6 Coupe ($31,305).
Safety equipment is standard, with six airbags, including two-stage front airbags, dual-chamber front side airbags, side curtain airbags; active front head restraints, electronic stability control, antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, and tire pressure monitors.
The Honda Accord features contemporary yet conservative design highlighted by a strong character line that slopes down and forward like that of the Acura TL. Last redesigned for 2008, the current Accord features narrow windshield pillars and a low cowl for good forward visibility, Honda hallmarks. The rear door pillars share the kink popularized decades ago by BMW and becoming ever more frequent.
While the driver can see the hood and the top of the fenders where they meet the hood, the edges are not so visible; the swept-back light housings minimize protruding corners and ease maneuverability, but exercise caution until you're certain where they are. Many modern design elements are the result of auto/pedestrian collision standards. The wiper arm mounts are designed to break away when hit, for example.
Forward lights are aptly described as hawk-like and look fiercer on coupes because they use projector headlamps as opposed to the conventional reflector design on the sedans; V6 models include fog lamps. At the rear the lamp elements appear cut off at the style line rather than extending up to the top trunk seam. This contributes a sense of heaviness and more closely mirrors the rounded rear end styling of the Acura RL rather than the taut crispness of the TL.
The current Accord sedan is larger than any before, and although it competes in the mid-size market segment it is by EPA interpretation a large car. It is about five inches longer than primary competitor Camry, and more than three inches longer that the Nissan Altima and Maxima.
The Coupe, on the other hand, won't be confused with a large car. Virtually every exterior dimension save width is 2-4 inches smaller than that of the sedan. The Coupe is sleeker yet still fits the Accord mold. All Coupes use projector headlights, body-color rocker panels and add a passenger side easy-entry feature for rear seat access.
Honda owners will feel right at home in the Accord, one reason repeat buyers account for a good chunk of sales. It is light and airy, spacious, with thoughtful layout and plenty of elbow room. Everything you touch feels right for the price, everything you need seems to be here, and everyone on board should be comfortable.
Accord LX models provide pleasing design and materials and a variety of storage areas for modern conveniences and old-fashioned vices. Stepping up to an Accord EX-L with leather adds features, but the basics like seat design and driver ergonomics are shared by all models.
The tilt-and-telescoping steering column provides a good range of adjustment to complement the adjustable driver’s seat, so all the masses can find a good driving position. There's a clear view of what’s all around outside, and of the instrument panel with its proven dial-and-needle gauges. The information display or navigation screen is inset under a shade at the same height as the gauges, so glare is controlled, and the screen can be viewed with polarized glasses.
Accord EX-L models come with leather on the seats, steering wheel, manual shifter and door panels. The EX-L leather appears of high quality and assembly as does the rest of the car. The driver's seat has multiple power adjustments and good support for the long haul or around-town errands.
Our only complaints with the cabin were minor: The lumbar support on all front seats (regardless of power or upholstery) is stout and we occasionally wished for less of it; and the front seats have lots of room around them causing some slender pilots to say the door was too far away for a comfortable armrest or leg brace. The width of the Accord translates directly into a wide cabin, especially in front. The center armrest was designed to be big enough for two adults to share without awkward glances.
Rear-seat passengers will have few complaints as few do in large cars. Seat cushions and backrest carry right out to the door without wheelwell intrusion, offer space for a six-footer to sit comfortably behind another one, and easy entry and egress. The center seat is better padded than many, and as such it loses a bit of headroom to the outer seats. There are no rear reading lamps.
Three interior colors are offered on the sedans, black, gray, and ivory, while the coupe goes black or ivory only. Although it may show dirt more, the ivory includes wood-look accents where the other colors make do with silver trim pieces, so the ivory interior comes across as more elegant.
Accord Coupe models make use of the larger door panels by adding a return sweep and pull handle to the armrest trim.
Controls for lights and wipers are on stalks. Honda's graphics for the variable intermittent wipers are among the simplest: Rather than bars, lines or dots of differing size, the Accord uses one raindrop for long interval and three raindrops for more frequent wiping. The shifter is right at hand, and the proper handbrake has short travel.
Controls for sound, climate, and navigation are central below the navigation screen and vents. On lower-line models, the big round knob controls volume; on others it is the interface through which you work various menus. Even on fully equipped cars with navigation, the layout is less daunting than the number of buttons first suggests. One row of switches controls audio input (AM, XM, CD, etc.) and another row has six audio presets. Climate controls are to the sides, so you needn't wait to approve the legal disclaimer on the screen before you can ask for heat or air conditioning in extreme weather. For 2010 the climate controls are a lighter gray than the audio controls, which should make finding them even easier; while some of the graphics have been simplified and/or enhanced. As before, voice activation can handle a multitude of chores without a hand ever leaving the steering wheel.
All Accords except the LX sedan include active noise cancellation, but we were hard-pressed to notice the difference between LX and EX. Vibration and engine buzz are kept to a minimum on the four-cylinder engine and are negligible on V6, so all Accords come across as very quiet; with everything off and the windows and roof closed, tire and road noise come in first, but it's never anything more than background. Bottom line: The Accord is smooth and quiet with or without noise cancellation technology.
Trunk space in the sedan is 14 cubic feet in a fairly useful shape, and the contents need not be heaved waist-high to load in. The rear seatbacks fold for more room. A lock is provided on the pass-through behind the armrest on some models. The DVD-drive on the upper edge of the trunk is somewhat protected by a stout steel band.
The Honda Accord is an easy drive with good manners regardless of model, engine or transmission. It comes across as firmer than most Camry models but smoother and softer than the Altima.
The Accord LX 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine matches Nissan's 2.5-liter for horsepower, if not torque, with a bit less fuss or raucousness. Compared to the Camry’s four-cylinder, the Honda delivers a bit more power and (again) a bit less torque. Since the Accord isn't too heavy, its 177 horsepower is plenty to keep up with the Joneses, whether you choose the manual or automatic. Every Accord compares well against competitors in terms of mileage and emissions, and runs on regular unleaded.
Accord EX models get the same basic 2.4-liter engine with some minor changes and a higher rev limit to bring 190 horsepower, clearly besting the competition (VW's 200-horsepoer Passat 2-liter turbo is the exception) with no degradation in economy or emissions. With the automatic this engine delivers instant downshifts and response for passing, and upshifts at full-throttle well before redline. The console-mounted shifter has no manual mode, and the detent between Drive and D3 is soft, so we found ourselves checking the dash indicator to make sure we had selected the most economical choice.
The five-speed manual has low clutch effort with smooth engagement, and the shifter offers good action if not the short, crisp movement of the Civic Si. But the manual allows you to get the most out of the engine, which cleanly revs happily right past the marked redline. That lets a 177-horsepower 2.4 manual keep up with a 190-horsepower 2.4 automatic. Of course, the 190-horsepower 2.4-liter and five-speed manual are the most entertaining of the four-cylinder models and will appeal to that segment of the Accord audience that enjoys driving and believes shifting is done with hands and feet, not thumbs.
If you don't know whether to choose the 177-horsepower or 190-horsepower version (setting aside trim considerations) ask yourself how often you floor the throttle and run your engine to redline: If the answer lies between never and seldom, then the 177-horsepower will prove quite satisfactory.
In terms of fuel economy, all Accords with four-cylinder engines are EPA-rated 22/31 mpg City/Highway with the manual, 21/31 mpg with the automatic. V6 sedans are rated 19/29 mpg. V6 coupes are rated 19/28 mpg with automatic, 17/25 mpg with the six-speed manual.
The 3.5-liter V6 is rated 271 horsepower and 254 pounds-feet of torque. That’s more horsepower than not only the Camry V6, but also the Altima's Z-car-based engine (if only by a nose). The Honda V6 is smooth and quieter than the Altima's, more than adequate for any purpose, and uses the latest version of Honda's Variable Cylinder Management (VCM).
Like GM and Chrysler systems designed to save gas on big V8s, VCM changes the number of engine cylinders working at any given time and load to save fuel. The previous example switched off three cylinders (half the V6) when they weren't needed, but this new one changes between six, four, and three cylinders for more fuel-stretching choices. The system is completely automatic and unknown to the driver except for two things: The Eco light illuminates on the dash when the system is on, and there's a slight hunting sensation as it switches back-and-forth between four and three cylinders at certain speeds. But you'll need to be paying attention to notice that.
Coupes with the 190-horsepower four-cylinder manual or automatic or the VCM V6 automatic use the same powertrain setups as the sedans. However, the V6 used in the coupe with the manual six-speed transmission is a different engine. While size and output are the roughly the same (it is rated 271 horsepower and 251 pound-feet), it uses a different intake system for stronger midrange and no VCM because its intended buyer isn't springing for the sportiest model to save gas by letting pistons coast along for the ride.
The softest-riding model is the Accord LX by virtue of 16-inch tires with a larger sidewall, and the mildest suspension calibration. It's also the lightest and best balanced model. Not as mellow as the Camry but gentler than much of the competition, the Accord LX handles bad roads with aplomb and basically goes where it's pointed. Electronic stability control will help get it back in line if you point it wrong. The Accord LX stays relatively flat in the corners, doesn't nosedive under braking, and makes stable transitions working down a winding road or through city clutter. Steering is light, direct, and makes quick work of a U-turn, though there isn't as much feedback about how hard the front tires are working as some Camrys and all Altima models offer.
Accord EX models receive very slightly firmer suspension calibrations, but most of what you'll notice comes from the lower profile tires on 17-inch wheels: lane divider dots, expansion joints, bridge seams, manhole covers and so on. Apart from slightly quicker response to steering and braking, the EX is essentially the same easy-going Accord. Trips of any duration are accommodated comfortably, with a nice compromise between the isolated, creamy Camry and the adrenaline-induced Altima. Enthusiasts could live happily with an Accord sedan serving as a spouse's daily commuter, or they could opt for a V6 manual coupe.
In general the coupe models trade a smidge of ride comfort for greater handling precision and grip. Most of the change comes from larger anti-roll bars and lower weight since tire choices mirror sedans.
The closest successor to Acura's defunct CL Type-S coupe, the Accord Coupe with a V6 and manual gearbox has a character all its own. The engine snarls and growls under a heavy foot, the shifter and clutch have more weight behind them, and the 235/45VR18 wheel and tire package adds another level to crispness and grip.
The Honda Accord is easy to operate, well-engineered and well-mannered. It's a great midsize sedan and it's also available as a stylish, trouble-free coupe.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale filed this report from Santa Monica, California.
Honda Accord LX Sedan ($21,055); LX-P Sedan ($22,055); LX-S Coupe ($22,555); EX Sedan ($23,830); EX Coupe ($23,880); EX-L Sedan ($26,030); EX-L Coupe ($26,080); EX V6 Sedan ($26,805); EX-L V6 Sedan ($29,105); EX-L V6 Coupe ($29,305).
Marysville, Ohio; Sayama, Japan.
Options As Tested
Honda Accord EX-L Sedan with navigation ($28,030).
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