Drives by Patrick Sauer, and this installment by Allen Roberts, offers an Inc. view of the latest cars to hit the streets. To see more car reviews, check out the Drives archives.
Very few of us would say that weight gain is a good thing--especially if it's over 100 pounds. But the folks at Honda have shown that putting on an extra hundred can actually be a good thing.
The new Accord V-6 Hybrid--that's right, V-6 Hybrid--cruises out this winter and with it, a whole new way of looking at cars will follow in its wake. It used to be one or the other, V-6 power or four-banger mileage. But the super-geniuses at Honda have corralled an additional 15 horses under this Accord Hybrid's hood (up to 255 hp) for those who like having their six cylinders but are feeling the pain at the pumps -- by the way, this car will never, ever need to be plugged in. And here's the best part, with that main course of horsepower comes a free side of better mileage--up from 24 city and 34 highway in the standard V-6 to 30 and 37 in the Hybrid. That means 633 miles per tank, in the fast lane--talk about wallet weight gain, ka ching.
Besides the usuals: leather, power everything, seat warmers and coolers, the Hybrid also sports a six-disk CD changer with AM/FM and XM radio, standard. There are also some technological innovations that make the car very forward thinking. Honda has thought of everything with this car, from using lightweight metals in the engine and suspension to re-engineering the power steering to run electric while allowing the AC to work with either electric or combustion motors, both in an effort to save precious petrol. They even added pedestrian safety features, making the Hybrid the safest car in its class to get hit by--honest, I didn't make this up. There's also a feature called Integrated Motor Assist, which puts three of the six cylinders to sleep while the car is cruising and uses the electric motor as supplemental power (232 ft lbs of torque at 5,000 RPMs), just in case an 18-wheeler decides to change into your lane without checking with you first.
Another forward-thinking innovation is a feature that completely shuts the engine down when the car reaches speeds below 10mph. Honda has developed an electric motor with enough low-RPM torque to turn the engine over and get the wheels rolling before the gas comes back on--allowing the car to sip fuel on those gas-chugging, off-the-line starts (this took a little getting used to but performed well). And just for the record, the Hybrid goes 0-60 in 6.7 seconds, not bad for a granola-friendly car.
Most of the weight gain came from the Hybrid technology, i.e. heavy motors, batteries etc., but by slapping on an aluminum hood and cutting the usually standard moon roof and doughnut-style spare (which was replaced by a fix-a-flat goop system) the Hybrid was able to restrict the weight gain to just over 120 lbs.
Unfortunately, the sticker price couldn't pull off the same feat -- plumping up to around $30,000, a gain of more than $3,500 over the standard V-6 Accord, which is a lot of money for a car without a moon roof. But the trade off is that the Hybrid V-6 gets nearly 40 mpg, making owners feel a bit heavier--in the wallet that is.