Back in the good old days, Honda was an engineering-focused company that gave us scintillating driver’s cars such as the 1990s NSX, DC2 Integra Type R and S2000 roadster. But for the past decade or so the Japanese carmaker has been content to adopt a much more conservative posture, churning out good quality – but vanilla-flavoured – offerings.
Pretty much every model in the current Honda line-up is capable enough, albeit not brimming over with dynamic or visual flair.
One case-in-point is the ninth-generation Accord – launched in 2012 – which has just received a midlife nip-tuck to keep it fresh until an all-new replacement arrives in a couple of years. The subject of this week’s review is the full-fat, V6-powered Sport flagship, the Dh137,290 price tag of which puts it on a par with entry-level German prestige saloons – ie the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class.
Resplendent in its San Marino Red paintwork (an unusually bright and bold hue for a family saloon), the Accord Sport scores 18-inch alloys (lesser Accords get 17-inchers), and new visuals that include a more sharply creased and intricately structured bumper fascia. Housed within this is a blingtastic chrome-laden grille, of which the centrepiece is a thrusting “H” badge.
Also new are the headlight clusters, which feature LED daytime-running lights as standard across the model range. On the rear, there are LED tail lights and a mildly tweaked bumper fascia.
The range-topper we’re testing also gets a sunroof and touchscreen infotainment system with satnav, but this is infuriatingly tedious – and occasionally totally non-cooperative – to use.
As before, the Accord’s interior stands out for its roominess and quality feel, accommodating four adults with great comfort. All models from EX trim upwards score an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with personalised settings for two drivers.
First impressions once on the road are of how creamy-smooth the 3.5-litre V6 power plant is, and likewise the six-speed auto it’s hooked up to. In Drive mode the transmission tends to shift up to higher gears as early as possible in the chase for fuel economy, but in Sport mode it’s a little too enthusiastic to downshift. There is a third option – the flappy paddle shifters that enable you to take charge manually.
The 1,640kg saloon cruises in silence and the ride is supple, although sharp corrugations can unsettle the car. I was curious to see whether the Accord flagship’s “Sport” suffix translated to agile handling and limpet-like cornering grip. The answer: it’s fine when driven with moderate intensity, but push harder and you’ll encounter body roll and understeer. In other words, don’t expect dynamics to match a 3 Series or C-Class – or even a Mazda6 – and you won’t be disappointed.
All in all, the Accord Sport comes across as a smooth, refined and well-screwed-together saloon, even if it’s not especially sporting to drive. As alluded to earlier, its hefty price tag puts it up against the German brigade, not to mention larger, more luxurious opposition, such as the surprisingly impressive new Kia Cadenza.
That said, Hondas are generally reliable and have strong residuals, so it’s still a sensible buy.