It's time to wave goodbye to the Honda Accord V6. The Japanese automaker has announced that the 2018 Accord will feature an all four-cylinder lineup when the 10th generation model launches later this year, powered by a pair of smaller turbocharged engine options. But don't despair; the V6's replacement at the top of the new lineup is a powerful 2.0-liter turbo mill derived from the Civic Type R. I was able to score an early test drive at Honda R&D in Japan.
This is part of a larger trend across the industry. Audi, BMW and Volvo, to name a few, have also moved to small turbos for most of their passenger cars. The smaller engines all make the same promises: They offer the same (or better) power while sipping less fuel. So while Honda's move to smaller, turbocharged engines may not be unique, it is promising.
The replacement for displacement?
Let's start with the most exciting of the three powertrains: the new 2.0-liter turbo. This engine is actually based on the 2.0-liter block from the Civic Type R, but with a different low-inertia turbo and a different tune that will allow the 2018 Accord to run on regular octane fuel (rather than requiring premium). The engine also features a secondary harmonic balancer to help smooth out the four-banger's operation to more V6-like levels.
The new engine will be mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission -- a first-ever for a front-wheel drive car, according to Honda. A six-speed manual gearbox will also be an option. (Would you look at that, the manual's not dead yet!) Compared with the old V6/6AT setup, the new 2.0T/10AT combo is and more compact and lighter. Actually, the entire car will be lighter overall relative to the current generation, but Honda hasn't specified exactly how much.
Honda is being tight lipped about numbers at this point, promising that we'll learn all we need to know when the next Accord is fully unveiled later this year at one of the international auto shows. What we do know is that its 2.0-liter turbo should be less powerful than the Type R's 306 ponies, but potentially more robust than the 278-horsepower V6 it replaces.
A taste of the new turbo
I was able to get a very early taste of the 10th-generation Accord's new engine behind the wheel of a camoed prototype on the high-speed testing loop at Honda's R&D facility in Tochigi, Japan.
My first lap was with the powertrain control system set to its Normal mode where I noted its confident acceleration and very smooth and quiet operation at high speeds. It did feel as smooth as a V6 at first blush. During my second (and final) lap, I toggled the drive mode into Sport and noted that not only did the throttle get more responsive, but the exhaust note became more pronounced.
Two laps on a course designed to be as straight and stable as possible isn't nearly enough time for a full evaluation, but I came away from the experience pleased with the performance and pedal feel and looking forward to spending more time with that powerplant once the next generation Accord debuts.
New 1.5T and 2.0 hybrid models, too
The rest of the Accord lineup will also stick to the four-cylinder configuration, shifting from a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated engine to a more compact 1.5-liter turbocharged engine. The smaller engine will be available with either a continuously variable transmission or six-speed manual gearbox.
Honda isn't talking numbers here yet, but the 1.5-liter turbo makes between 174 and 205 horsepower when used in the Honda Civic EX-T and Si models, so its numbers, at least, should line up with the current Accord's stated 185 horsepower.
The 2018 model year will also see a new Accord Hybrid among its ranks with an updated version of the Honda's 2.0-liter two-motor hybrid powertrain. Details are slim, but I'm expecting this to be more of a collection of tweaks and improvements than any revolutionary change to the current hybrid formula.
We'll surely learn more about the 2018 Honda Accord's four-cylinder engine lineup and get less camouflaged peeks at its "new, more aggressive design direction" as we approach the new model's launch later this year.