2011 Honda Accord EX-L review: 2011 Honda Accord EX-L

Over-powered Accord
Unexpected for such a sedate car as the Honda Accord, the V-6 is a real high point. Although lacking such modern refinements as direct injection, the aluminum block and variable valve timing contribute to a solid driving experience. The output, at 270 horsepower and 256 pound-feet of torque, is moderate for a 3.5-liter V-6, but it almost feels like too much power for the car.

We were pleased with its quick starts, and impressed by the continuous strong acceleration that occurred when we held the gas pedal about halfway down. The engine didn't lose steam, but continued to build up speed to the point where we weren't sure the car could handle it. The steering felt uncomfortably loose and the suspension floaty.

Honda's engine tech is solid, but hasn't advanced much over the last five years.

While the Accord handles everyday driving duties well, its suspension damping bumps and stops excessive body movement so we found it less than impressive as we slung it through the corners of a mountain road. Put in these extremes, at every turn the inside front wheel felt like it was plowing into the pavement.

Around town and on the freeways it proved perfectly comfortable, its cabin and trunk big enough for many different kinds of suburban errands. It steered easily at low speeds, but we didn't care for the amount of play the wheel exhibited at freeway speeds.

Technically, the power train is not particularly advanced, having only a five-speed automatic transmission. Instead of a manual mode, Honda gives the Accord three low ranges. In the second low range we were able to keep the engine in its power band and attack corners, but that is not what Honda intended here.

Honda also still uses hydraulic power steering in the Accord, as opposed to the electric power steering units many other automakers are adopting. An extra gear in the transmission and electric power steering should boost the Accord's EPA numbers of 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. We only achieved 20.2 mpg with the Accord, due to a more aggressive driving style than most people would employ.

In sum
The 2011 Honda Accord EX-L's cabin tech balances between good and subpar. We liked the audio quality from the stereo, but found the navigation system's maps poor. The phone system can download a contact list, but uses a separate voice command system, with separate buttons. These elements bring the Accord's cabin tech score to merely average.

Honda is quite conservative with power-train tech, choosing not to use direct injection or other means of improving engine efficiency. Likewise, a five-speed automatic transmission seems primitive by today's standards. Steering and suspension technology are also very conventional.

Design is also a mixed bag. We like the look of the onscreen cabin tech interface, but too many buttons litter the dashboard and steering wheel. The car is immensely practical, with easy access to all seats and a large trunk, but the exterior styling is very bland. This car would be easily lost in a parking lot.

Tech specs
Model 2011 Honda Accord
Trim EX-L V-6
Power train 3.5-liter V-6, 5-speed automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy 20 mpg city/30 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 20.2 mpg
Navigation DVD-based system
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Disc player MP3-compatible 6-CD changer
MP3 player support iPod integration
Other digital audio USB drive, satellite radio
Audio system 270-watt, 7 speaker system
Driver aids Back-up camera
Base price $32,380
Price as tested $32,380

What you'll pay

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