San Francisco: If
you think hybrid cars are tiny or weak, the Honda Accord Hybrid is here
to prove you wrong. Itís actually more powerful than the normal
V6-powered model, and has fuel mileage numbers 33 percent better.
Honda first introduced
hybrid technology with the tiny Insight. This aerodynamic econocar was
meant to deliver the absolute best possible mileage, so it was built
with expensive and lightweight materials, had fender skirts for reduced
wind resistance, and, of course, carried only two people. It appealed
only to the most fervent save-the-earth extremists, who were willing to
sacrifice power, practicality, and room for their overriding goal of
superior fuel efficiency. You can still get one, in blue, red, or
Then, in 2002, Honda
put the same Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system into the compact Honda
Civic four-door sedan. This time, it was hard to even tell if the car
was a hybrid, with subtle badging and grille changes were the only
visible changes. The biggest change was in the higher price. The mileage
was good, if not as spectacular as the Insightís.
Now, Hondaís hybrid
system is available in a potent V6-powered midsize car - the Accord -
one of Americaís favorite rides. The 3.0-liter V6 puts out 255
horsepower to the regular models 240. The car flies down the road just
like a non-hybrid. And fuel economy is much improved, with EPA ratings
of 29 City, 37 Highway.
The best thing about
this car, besides the mileage, is that it is loaded with all the
wonderful trimmings that make a good car even better. The exquisitely
detailed interior exudes an upscale feeling, with leather on the seats,
door panels, and steering wheel. Very attractive burl wood trim in my
test car (was it real?) presented a posh gloss. The turn lever clicks
gently like a master watchmaker carefully built it. Perhaps because the
Hybrid is a $30,000 car, Honda felt it should feel like one.
The Hybridís IMA system
works like other Honda hybrids. It uses the electric motor next to the
engine to kick in power as needed. Its battery recharges by recapturing
kinetic energy through the electronic transmission
When ever the car is
braking. Hondaís Variable Cylinder Management technology deactivates
some cylinders in the engine when they are not needed during steady
cruising, saving more fuel. The car goes into
AUTOSTOP mode at stops,
and then automatically restarts when you touch the gas pedal. What the
car does not do is run only on the electric motor.
The Accord Hybrid uses
Active Noise Control to quell sounds coming from outside the cabin. I
was astounded at how quiet the car was, it really felt like a $50,000
car on the open road.
The IMA system works
automatically, but you can monitor it via the special instrument panel.
Integrated into the gauges is a modest display that shows when the
electric motor is working (blue lines) and when the battery is
recharging (green lines). You can also check how full the electric
motors battery is. The Variable Cylinder Management may work silently,
but when the ECO light goes on, you know youíre saving fuel. The goal is
to avoid stomping on the gas and lowering your mileage.
You can set each of the
two trip odometers separately, and each has its own fuel economy number.
I zeroed one out to test for the entire week, and then used the second
one to check out different trips. I averaged 23.7 mpg overall, somewhat
disappointing, but I did have a figure of 29.6 one day on a lucky,
unobstructed 20-mile trip to work.
My car had Hondaís
navigation system with voice recognition. Accurately touching an exact
spot on the screen was a little dicey, but it was otherwise easy to use.
The navigation system adds $2,000 to the price of the car, which, for
some people, would surely be worth it.
Besides showing maps
and directions, the screen displays audio information and mileage data.
That was especially handy because my car also contained XM Radio, with
its 100 CD quality channels. Again, the only drawbacks I found, other
than Channel 6 (the Sixties station) reawakening my fantasies of flower
power, were the way the system truncated the names of the songs
(sometimes hilariously), and the momentary cutouts under overpasses.
My Desert Mist Metallic
(tan) car looked especially elegant with its 16-inch alloys, which are
special for the Hybrid model. Other than that, the badging, and a subtle
spoiler, there were no signs that this car was a hybrid. Thatís what
Honda believes people want.
My tester came in at
$32,505, including destination charges. That makes the EX model with
standard V6, at $26,700, seem like an incredible deal. The most basic
Accord, the four-cylinder DX, starts at just $16,195.
Hybrids deliver fuel
savings, at some cost for the advanced technology. But until hydrogen or
super batteries or magic magnets give us a better power source, any way
to cut fuel consumption is a good one, and we should expect to see more
and more hybrid vehicles in the future. By
Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Honda Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
Hybrids deliver fuel savings by advanced technology
2005 Honda Accord Hybrid
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2005 - 08
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