Honda has a cool new feature available on its 2013 Accord: Signal for a right turn and a camera shows us—on the bright 8-inch screen in the dashboard—the entire starboard side of the car plus the part of the road we’re about to veer into.
It’s a bit startling at first, but then we notice three horizontal lines in the picture too.
These mark car lengths, to indicate whether there’s room to dart into the next lane. Just the thing for frenzied commuters slaloming through traffic.
Honda calls this LaneWatch, and it’s clever enough to make me smile and think, Yay, Honda’s back! Followed by, Why didn’t someone think of this sooner? And finally, Hey, why not the other side too?
There’s no camera to scan the left side of the car because when we move to the left we need to be looking to the left, not turning our eyes back to the middle of the dash to check out the screen. Nor is there a complicated electro-optical blind-spot monitor on the left side; instead, that mirror is simply curved a bit, to widen the field of view. Also clever.
LaneWatch is not at all the only safety feature on the new Accord. Along with the usual airbags, crumple zones and anti-skid technology, it’s bristling with sensors that warn us about everything from imminent front and rear collisions to drifting out of our lane and from soggy tires to cataclysmic weather events and our passenger’s blood pressure. (OK, not those last two.) Hop out of the car—at the drycleaner’s, let’s say—and still another alarm goes off. It was enough to put me in mind of WWII movies, but it’s not approaching enemy fighter planes, I’ve just left the engine running. Phew!
This is the bigger motor, a transverse six-cylinder that churns out 278 horsepower, but it’s so quiet that I had to get out and check the badge on the rear deck to see if this was a hybrid. It turns out that all Accords now have Active Noise Cancellation, which uses the stereo system to create sound waves that erase engine noise. No, really. Honda sweats every detail.
It wasn’t all that long ago that German über-sedans were less powerful than this. A V6 Accord, with its new 6-speed automatic transmission, will accelerate hard enough to make the front tires squeal like butchered hogs and then rush, very smoothly, far beyond 100 miles per hour.
The 185-horsepower four-cylinder Accords—the EX, LX and Sport models—with less weight over their front axles, may be a bit more agile. (They’re even available with clutches and 6-speed manual gearboxes!) But that’s not to slam this car, a near-luxury $34,000 Touring version, in any way. It’s light on its feet and taut, the structure is billet-stiff, and the controls require so little thought that they simply fade into the background.
Accords are conservative, mid-size family sedans or coupes, not sports cars, and as such they have been Honda’s daily-toast-and-jam approximately since the continents separated. This is the ninth generation of the Accord; evolution has been hard at work, and it shows. Stiffer steels, lighter alloys, smarter on-board microprocessors, aerodynamic underpanels and roughly a zillion other unseen improvements have given us an Accord that’s three inches smaller on the outside than last year’s, yet a whisker roomier and more comfortable inside. Despite more-powerful engines, fuel efficiency is up too, right across the model range. We’ve been bumbling around town at an average of 22-plus miles per gallon; on the interstate the Touring should go 30 to 34 miles on a gallon of regular. The 4-cylinder Accords, whose prices start at just $23,000, will do better yet.
And yes, there’s the famous ECON button. Pushing it “automatically configures the Accord’s fuel-consuming systems to optimize efficiency.” At least with the V6 under the hood, the changes in performance are almost unnoticeable in normal driving—but presumably polar bears everywhere will thank us.