Honda 2017 Accord Hybrid tops the lineup


NAPA VALLEY, CALIF. >> Honda refreshed the Accord for 2016, making it much more attractive and appealing.

Now for 2017 they add the new look and features to the Accord Hybrid. This Accord is redesigned, as the non-hybrids were last year. The 2017 Accord Hybrid gets all the changes that entailed, particularly the very good looks of the car.

As this is the 40th anniversary of the Accord being sold in the U.S. Honda wants to do two things with this 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid. First they want to double sales compared to the 2014 model. That year they sold 14,000 Hybrids. So their goal with this car is 30,000 units a year.

As Honda is an engineering company, they naturally improved the bits and bolts a bit. Many little things lead to this Accord being very quiet and firmly attached to the road. But more importantly, the car may have been redesigned, but the drivetrain has been re-engineered.

The result is more power out of less weight, with better battery life and a more intelligent and smaller engine control unit. The power system is made up of a gasoline engine and two electric motors. The gasoline engine is a 2.0-liter double overhead-cam, variable-value four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine producing 143 hp. and 129 lb.-ft. of peak torque.

Both of the electric motors generate more power, yet are smaller and lighter. One motor acts as a generator, pushing energy to the batteries. The other provides additional power, and can actually move the car on its own.

That electric motor is 23 percent lighter, but produces six more units of torque. When you add that power with the gas burner, the Hybrid's total output equates to 212 hp. and 232 lb.-ft. of peak torque. Even with that increase in power the EPA fuel economy ratings are 49 mpg in the city and 47 mpg on the highway. Decent numbers, those.

How fully charged they are determines the ratio of electric to gasoline power. While the Accord can operate in full-electric, or EV, mode, it really doesn't go too far. It might sneak you into your driveway when you're arriving home a bit too late, or around a parking garage while you seek a spot.

Most of the time it will be helping the gasoline motor get and keep things going. Because an electric motor generates 100 percent of its torque instantly, much of that value is making the car accelerate more quickly — and more efficiently. Then the gasoline engine will stop and start depending on demand.

At highway speeds the system will directly attach the gasoline engine through a lock-up arrangement which bypasses the electric part of the hybrid power system. But the car will use the electric power when it's brain says it makes sense. It does this transparently to the driver and passengers.

In practice the car just drives. You are aware of the electric addition to the power, particularly on startup. That's because the electric motors usually are going all out to get the car going, with the gasoline engine coming on and adding in as soon as it's needed. When coasting the car is gathering energy from the wheels, and that's even more true when the regenerating brakes are stopping or even slowing the car.

The Honda Accord is one of those hybrids that prove that they are mainstream now and appreciated by people who want to get good gasoline mileage, even if the costs of fuel are down right now. But being a hybrid isn't the only thing about this Accord.

That's because it is the top of the Accord lineup, and that's a pretty big deal. This year is the 40th anniversary of the sale of the Accord in the U.S. Since this was the first of the Japanese cars to be assembled in a factory here, 12 million of them have been sold here, and of those 10 million were built here.

The most noticeable thing about it is how quickly you forget it's a hybrid.

Okay, it still behaves like one, but there is such nicely balanced power and input between the gasoline engine and the electric motors that simply seems to be, well, normal. For me that's a good thing to say about a hybrid.

For those who have some philosophic attachment to the concept of efficient hybrid power, feeling it at work is a constant positive. But the automobile industry knows those people are already loyal. Now they want buyers to get them because they are good cars that drive well, get good fuel efficiency and have plenty of power.

So that defines the second goal of the 2017 Accord Hybrid. Honda expects it to attract more affluent customers to the car. Chances are it will, as it is designated — and priced — as the model's top-of-the-line trim level.

There are three versions starting with the Hybrid with an MSRP of $29,605, the Hybrid EX-L beginning at $32,905 and the finely featured Touring with a starting price of $35,955. For that price it is a very nice car: well-equipped and comfortable. One could almost say it is almost a stealth luxury car. For those who don't see themselves as a luxury car driver — but really like the comfort and the features — this may be the car for them.

The looks for this refreshed model are more aggressive, more noticeable and simply more attractive. Sit inside it and you are comfortable, and will also have trouble finding anything that is missing. The appearance is more striking than one expects in a Honda, but the craftsmanship and attention to detail fulfills the company's reputation.

The Accord has a restyled front and rear fascia, a Hybrid-exclusive aluminum hood and alloy wheels. The model gets blue-highlighted LED headlights and taillights and, naturally, "Hybrid" exterior badging. The car's interior is attractive and there's plenty of room and features. Because of a more compact hybrid battery pack, the trunk capacity is bigger at 13.5 cu.-ft.

In any car today connectivity is essential, and with the Hybrid that starts with a seven-inch touch screen from which you control most features. This includes the standard navigation as well as expanded satellite radio options.

Plus, you can now get such features as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Other high-end offerings include remote engine start, front and rear parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, heated rear seats and auto high-beam headlights.

The most important new feature spans the range of all Accords, and that's the standard inclusion of Honda Sensing on all models. This is a suite of active safety and driver assistance technologies. These include Collision Mitigation Braking with sensor fusion technology, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist system, road-departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control. Frankly these features simply should be on your next car, whether it's an Accord or not. But Honda deserves credit for making something with such safety value standard on all their cars.

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