The new Bluetooth cell phone system has a feature we haven't seen in a Honda or Acura yet--it lets you import your phone book. We tried it with a Samsung SGH-D807, but the system said our phone was incompatible with that feature. Check Honda's Web site to see if your phone is listed as being compatible with the car.
We've previously raved about the voice-command system in Hondas. It is very intuitive and has a wide range of commands, even responding to "What time is it?" But we did notice problems with the system while we were driving down the freeway. It had a lot of trouble recognizing our commands, probably because of road noise.
The navigation system is little changed from previous model years. It has many good features, such as a complete points-of-interest database, but it is losing ground compared with other automakers' systems, which use hard drives and higher resolution maps. Of course, we still like the Zagat restaurant guide incorporated into this navigation system, and it seems to have improved a bit with more route options.
The stereo in the Accord EX-L isn't much changed from previous iterations. Its six-disc changer plays MP3 CDs, it can tune in XM satellite radio, and there is an auxiliary jack mounted in the console. The interface can be a little difficult--we found the touch screen easier. The big change with the Accord's stereo is that this one sounds decent. Oh, it's not fantastic. But its arrangement of two tweeters in front, four mids, and a subwoofer on the rear deck make its audio quality about average for today's cars.
Under the hood
As mentioned above, you can get the Accord with a 2.4-liter four cylinder or a 3.5-liter V-6, which we had in our car. The V-6 uses some impressive engineering, which is best shown in its performance. It puts out 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, all of which you can definitely feel when you put your foot down on the gas. But the car also gets an EPA-rated 19 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, that latter number being particularly high for an engine of this size. During our driving, we observed an average fuel economy on the low side of this range, down at 22.3 mpg. But we rarely see a number even that high from a 3.5-liter V-6. More impressive, the car gets a partial zero emissions vehicle rating, or PZEV, from the California Air Resources Board. That is a particularly impressive rating for an engine that puts out this kind of power. Honda has developed an engine that gives impressive performance all around.
But we wish Honda had followed through with the rest of the driving gear. The steering is plagued by loads of understeer, forcing you to crank the wheel far around while cornering. During our time with the car, we didn't push it particularly hard, and we didn't drive on any of our accustomed twisting mountain roads, as it was clear from the start that the 2008 Honda Accord is a sedate cruiser and commuter. The five-speed automatic transmission follows through on this theme. It has three low ranges, but no manual-shift function, and is solely programmed for fuel efficiency. You won't find it holding low gears as you attack corners. No, the Accord is meant for less-thrilling use.
As you would expect with a sedan such as the Accord, it's loaded with standard safety gear. Road-holding electronics include traction and stability control, antilock brakes, and tire-pressure monitoring. It has curtain airbags on both sides of the cabin, plus front and side airbags for the front seats. There are also side door beams and day-time running lights, all standard, showing that Honda wanted safety to be a primary feature of the Accord.
For our test car, we had the 2008 Honda Accord EX-L with a V-6 engine and the navigation system, basing at $30,260. At the low end of the spectrum, you can get an LX-trimmed Accord with a 2.4-liter engine, manual transmission, and no navigation, for $20,360. With no other options and a $635 destination charge, our Accord came out to $30,895.
For the price, the Accord makes for a well-equipped and comfortable techie cruiser. Its environmental credentials put it in league with many hybrids and its fuel economy is better than average for this type of car. But the cabin tech isn't cutting edge, so there are some things you might miss, such as an iPod connection or an internal hard drive. Likewise, if you enjoy driving fast on mountain roads, this isn't the car you want. A base Mercedes-Benz C300 comes in at just a bit more expensive, with more interesting driving characteristics, but optioning it up with tech will push the price much closer to 40 grand. A Ford Taurus, with all the tech and the new Sync system, offers an equally agreeable ride for a couple thousand more than the 2008 Honda Accord.