MAKING ROOM FOR BOOMERS
Honda Motor Co.'s new North American Accord doesn't bowl you over right away. In fact, it looks downright dull. It wasn't until I pulled the 1998 Accord into my garage and parked it next to my 1990 Accord that I grasped the subtle brilliance of the new model. Like the generation of baby boomers who have been buying Accords for two decades, the new model has grown up and become more conservative.
I've been driving Hondas for years. In the 1980s, I had the jazzy Accord with the pop-up head lights. My wife had an even sportier Honda, the Civic Coupe CRX. We were in our 20s, we had no children, and these cars were simple and simply cool. Little upkeep. Few breakdowns. A smart and stylish set of wheels.
FAMILY TEST. But in the '90s, as our family grew to five, our '90 Accord began to feel like the cute little starter house that you outgrow. We moved up to a sport-utility vehicle, and the Honda became our second car. So when I got a chance to take the new '98 Accord home for a night, I was quick to put it to the family test. Car seats were installed, kids were buckled in, and off we drove on the rain-slicked streets of suburban Detroit.
The family liked it--not because it was sporty or cool, but because it was comfortable and roomy. For the first time, the Accord classifies as a midsize car, with as much passenger space as a Ford Taurus. But there are plenty of cushy family sedans to choose from. The real test for me: Could Honda enlarge the Accord without losing the responsive road handling that made it so much fun to drive back in my salad days?
I threw it hard into the curves of a quiet park lane, while my children squealed in the back. Then I punched the accelerator to see if Honda had finally fixed its lackluster power problem with its new 200-horsepower, 3.0-liter V6 engine. The motor's roar was sufficiently muffled inside the Accord's quiet cabin to allow me to easily hear my 6-year-old admonishing me for speeding.
The result of my boy racer antics: The Accord still delivers on ride and handling, thanks to an advanced suspension that keeps the car glued to the road, even around tight corners. And the Accord's V6, borrowed from the Acura CL, is the most muscular power-plant the car has ever had. Even better, the sticker price on the new Accord will be the same as the old Accord on most models and cheaper on some.
That will make the Accord a little cheaper than a Toyota Camry and more expensive than a Taurus. But for the money, the Accord is a better deal than either. It offers more passenger space than the Camry, and it delivers a better ride than the Taurus. And the Accord's record of high quality remains among the best in the business.
In the styling department, the Accord's mainstream, family-sedan look is the tamest of the three. But as I stared at it parked next to my old Accord, I realized it is just a reflection of who we Honda owners have become. A little wider. A lot quieter. But also, more substantial.
By Keith Naughton in Detroit
Updated Aug. 28, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1997, Bloomberg L.P.