More Efficiency, More Power, More Tech
Honda is celebrating the Accord’s 40th anniversary this year, and after 12.7 million sold in the US, popping some champagne corks is understood.
To begin its fifth decade, Honda has brought back the Accord Hybrid after it sat out for a year to move production from Ohio to Japan.
The new hybrid comes to market with a new look, more power, more standard safety features, more tech options and improved efficiency.
Like the 2015 edition, the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid is offered in three trim levels beginning with the well-equipped base model with a sticker price of $30,440, including a $835 destination charge—$3,075 more than the gasoline-powered Accord EX.
This is followed by the EX-L, which sells for $33,740 and features a leather interior along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
At the top of the lineup is the $36,790 Touring. Along with all of the features of the EX-L it adds heated front and rear seats, a navigation system and LED headlights.
First, Let’s Talk Fuel Economy
The 2014-2015 Accord Hybrid touted an EPA rating of 50 mpg for city driving, a number that made all other car companies with hybrid offerings green with envy. While the 2017 model is more fuel efficient, the highway fuel economy drops to 49 mpg. Why is that?
Well, first one needs to look at the combined fuel economy, which has increased by one mpg to 49, while the highway number remains at 47-mpg.
According to Honda, the reason for the city drop is a change in the EPA’s city test protocol for fuel economy. If the new hybrid Accord used the same test as the previous model, it to would be 50-mpg, while also earning an extra mpg in combined driving.
Even with the minor dip in combined driving, the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid is still tops in the midsize sedan category, including the new Chevrolet Malibu hybrid, which is rated at 47/46/46 mpg city/highway/combined.
Now with that out of the way, here is what it’s like to drive.
Driving the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid
A characteristic of the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid’s handling package is torque steer, which plagues lots of powerful front-wheel drive cars. Put a foot heavy on the accelerator pedal and the hybrid will reward you with a slight tug to one side on the steering wheel and a chirp from the tires, which is only the churning brew of gasoline and electricity under the hood trying to assert itself.
Yes, that sort of driving defeats the purpose of hybrid fuel economy, but the positive is—it shows the car is powerful enough to avoid anxious moments pulling into fast-moving traffic or the passing lane.
From a stop, Honda engineers did a remarkable job of eliminating the flutter-rumble that many hybrids make when transitioning from electric mode to gas engine and vice versa. There is no vibration or shimmying when the gas engine kicks in to help the electric motor to get things moving.
However, the action of the electric transmission acted like a poorly engineered continuously variable transmission. When getting up to speed, or hammering the gas pedal on the highway, the
engine rpms raced ahead of actual speed, an annoyance that didn’t go away.
I found keeping the powertrain in electric-only mode in town to be easy at speeds of 35 mph or less. On one level road stretch, the hybrid traveled for nearly five miles before the gas engine had to kick in to help climb a short hill.
On the highway, the drive experience was Honda Accord smooth, and no midsize car beats the Accord’s firm but composed ride quality. The suspension is clunk- and thunk-free. It simply deals with road irregularities with casual competence, whether the challenge is a hole in the asphalt, a gravel shoulder, uneven paving or rough surfaces.
The hybrid sat tight even when taking curves faster than most folks would. Steering had a distinct natural feel and braking action from the regenerative system offered a solid feel without the grabbiness of other hybrids.
For most of the 419 miles we drove during our week with a Touring model, we engaged the Eco mode. It softened the powertrain response and operated the climate controls at a conservative setting.
The combination of Eco, a light foot on the accelerator that resulted in driving on battery power much of the time in town and careful braking yielded a mpg of 49.1 — 1 mpg better than the EPA’s 48-mpg combined rating.
Innovative Hybrid System
Honda calls the Accord Hybrid’s elegantly designed two-motor full hybrid system Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD).
The system combines a 2.0-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine dedicated for hybrid vehicles with a pair of electric motors, a 1.3-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack and an innovative transmission. One motor powers the front wheels, while the other, the motor-generator, is dedicated solely to making electricity, not unlike the current Chevrolet Volt’s system.
For 2017, the four now develops 143 horsepower and 129 pounds-feet of torque, up from 141 hp and 122 lbs-ft. The two new electric motors are smaller and lighter, yet are more powerful. The traction motor’s output is 181 horsepower, while the generator motor produces 142 horsepower.
With a total of 212 horsepower, the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid has 16 more than its predecessor and 27 more than a standard four-cylinder Accord. At 232 pounds-feet, the system also creates impressive torque.
The system switches between three drive modes — electric-only, hybrid and engine drive. The mix of power sources is managed largely by onboard sensors that combine the optimum acceleration and energy usage according to the driving situation.
The car will operate on electricity only until the energy from the 1.3 kilowatt battery pack located in the trunk is depleted—around two miles in careful city driving. But electric driving can also occur during cruising speeds on flat or downhill roadways.
The electric transmission uses the two electric motors to control both the engine and electric motor rotation via a lock-up clutch. At highway cruising speeds, the clutch is engaged, connecting the drive motor to the generator motor to transmit engine torque directly to the drive wheels. In EV mode, when the battery-powered drive motor is used for either acceleration or regenerative braking, the clutch disengages the stopped gasoline engine from the drivetrain.
The Outside and Inside Story
While the Accord Hybrid took a year off in 2016, Honda refreshed the standard Accord, and the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid inherited the changes.
Exterior updates include new front and rear tweaks, including a thick chrome bar that dominates a slimmer grille. Even with the minor changes, you’ll never mistake this as anything but an Accord. It still looks like a family sedan, although it’s not as conservatively styled as in past years.
Inside, Honda preserved the high-grade passenger-compartment materials and workmanship. Every surface the driver and passengers are likely to is suitably padded with high-quality looking materials.
The hybrid has its own dedicated gauge cluster. Centered is a large, round speedometer with simple numerals on a field of matte-black. To the right, battery charge and fuel level gauges are shown and on the left is a power use gauge. There’s also a power flow meter that shows where the power is coming from: engine, electric motor or both.
Also continued is the dual touchscreen in the center stack; the infotainment system now includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (in EX-L and Touring models). However, what’s really needed is proper volume and radio tuning knobs.
Standard on all Hybrid models is Honda’s double-pane Expanded View Driver’s Mirror, cruise control and a tilt/telescope steering wheel with audio controls.
What’s new is all 2017 Honda Accord Hybrids come standard with a suite of safety features called HondaSensing. It includes lane departure warning, forward collision warning, road departure mitigation, collision mitigation braking and adaptive cruise control.
With cheap gasoline, consumers are switching from family sedans to crossovers in large numbers. But for those who are friends of the environment and prefer a sedan body style, the 2017
Honda Accord Hybrid’s stellar fuel economy and low CO2 emissions can’t be overlooked.
While it may not be the most exhilarating car to drive, the 700- miles of range doesn’t sacrifice drive quality. Add that to a nicely furnished cabin and Honda’s reputation for quality and reliability, and the Accord Hybrid deserves a test drive.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy (Previous Honda Accord tests and competitive midsize sedans)
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Road Test: 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid
Road Test: 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid
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Road Test: 2016 Kia Optima LX
First Drive: 2016 Toyota Prius
Road Test: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
First Drive: 2016 Nissan Altima
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