From the November 2017 issue
Here we are, 17 years after the millennium, creeping toward a driverless future discussed elsewhere in this issue. Robocars will ask very little of us, only that we sit there and wait. After a few years of this, our driving skills are likely to atrophy like leg muscles in a cast. We’ll all become as helpless as Miss Daisy, reliant on a robotic Hoke to drive us around.
Except maybe that’s not what’s going to happen because we just hopped into the cabin of a redesigned 2018 Accord and there’s a manual gearbox with a leather-wrapped knob between the seats. That shifter shouldn’t be there, not this far into the driverless century. It’s almost like finding out that Cadillac offered a hand-cranked starter in 1959. Of course that didn’t happen, but if the robots win and the computer-driven car dominates mobility, this family sedan with a manual will certainly confuse the fossil record.
The tach side of the gauges is reconfigurable; John Cuellar is sure to be upset about the directional wheels.
The rest of the interior holds few surprises. Climate controls are simple, just three knobs with a few logically marked buttons. A convincing digital facsimile of an analog tachometer is set to the left of an actual analog speedometer. It’s possible to change the tachometer display to show trip-computer, audio, and other information, but, this particular car being a manual, we left the tachometer displayed. We do wish that Honda gave drivers the option of putting a digital speedometer in the vast darkness between the two gauges.
Maybe it’s because we’ve been visually assaulted by other new Hondas, such as the Civic and fuel cell-powered Clarity, but we find the new Accord attractive. In front, a broad black grille is topped by a large chrome band that makes it look as if the Accord is wearing a wrestling-championship belt (an acknowledgment of all its past 10Best wins?). Honda’s Intercontinental tag-team belt is flanked by LED headlights that look as if they could’ve come from an Acura and shine brightly at night.
The Accord’s outward appearance may conform to class norms, but Honda isn’t a follower. Offering a manual transmission in the Accord is a protest of sorts, a secret handshake from Honda that lets us know that you shouldn’t have to give up driving just because you’re buying a family sedan. Life may get lost in a repetitive blur of cubicles, choosing paint colors at Home Depot, eating meatballs at Ikea, and picking up the kids from karate. But a manual Accord—a really fun and powerful Accord at that—serves as a reminder of the joy and freedom we used to have as drivers back in the 20th century. Call it an anachronism or an anomaly, but the stick shift belongs to us, those who love driving. We will not give up and let our left legs and right arms wither away. The manual transmission’s therapy is as much mental as it is physical.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
ESTIMATED PRICE AS TESTED: $30,000
(estimated base price: $30,000)
ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 122 cu in, 1996 cc
Power: 252 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 273 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 111.4 in
Length: 192.1 in
Width: 73.2 in Height: 57.1 in
Passenger volume: F: 54 cu ft R: 49 cu ft
Trunk volume: 17 cu ft
Curb weight: 3276 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 6.1 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 15.3 sec
Zero to 120 mph: 21.8 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 7.0 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 10.8 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 7.6 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 14.7 sec @ 98 mph
Top speed (gov limited): 125 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 164 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad*: 0.87 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY:
Observed: 28 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST):
Combined/city/hwy: 28/25/34 mpg