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Honda has historically sold the Accord in great numbers to people who don't like unpleasant surprises. The all-new 2013 Accord proudly carries on that tradition, adding lane departure warning, side-view cameras, and even an alarm that sounds if you walk away from your car with the engine still running.
With the enhanced smartphone connectivity of HondaLink, however, the new Accord goes a step further and leaves almost nothing to chance. It will use your smartphone to connect to Yelp to ensure you can avoid a bad meal. It will let your friends know exactly where you're headed so you can meet them there. And if you don't want to take the chance of hearing a song that's anathema to your ears, you can even listen to the same streaming radio station on a cross-country trip.
Our only complaint? An infotainment system is only as good as its interface, and this one is clumsy. For that reason, we really hope Honda has a quick fix up its sleeve, because the tech itself is pretty solid.
If you think you've never missed something in your blind spot or drifted out of your lane, you're overestimating your own abilities. That's the reason Honda gave the Accord a whole bunch of systems that protect you – not to mention other motorists – from your own occasional foolishness.
The coolest trick is a blind spot camera called LaneWatch. It captures video of what's in the passenger-side blind spot – a full 80 degrees of coverage – and displays it on the dashboard LCD screen. We found it more useful than a simple alarm, as it gives the driver more information to make his or her own decisions rather than a one-size-fits-all flashing light or loud beep. It especially came in handy while we were driving on urban streets filled with cyclists. Honda's lane departure warning system is a bit overzealous, however, beeping whenever you get even close to a center line, but you can always turn it off. Same goes for the dynamic cruise control, which worked better on clear roads than stop-and-go traffic.
Unfortunately, Honda's infotainment system – though so close to seamlessness – also overestimates its own abilities. Our tester was equipped with the HondaLink suite of connectivity software. So optioned, the new Accord is also the first in-car system to feature Harman's Aha smartphone link, which uses your phone's data plan to run apps developed specifically for in-car use. Cool features include a text-to-speech function that reads text messages, search results and reviews. It's supposed to work as well as having your signifiant other or best friend in the passenger seat, searching on his or her phone while the driver concentrates on the road. In practice, it's a bit less useful.
At best, it tripped over annoying glitches. It told us a coffee shop was on Washington "Saint" instead of Washington Street. It rambled off a list of grocery stores and catering companies in a garbled monotone when we asked it to find a nearby coffee shop. When we wanted to go back just one screen, it instead forced us to start from scratch. At worst, it froze up over a Bluetooth connection. One time, it even got into an argument with the navigation system that would put any backseat teenage sibling rivalry to shame. We caught that on video. Voice recognition was also sub-par. All those are teething issues, and we really hope they'll be sorted out in the near future.
The Accord still suffers from Honda's insistence on using two screens, one which responds to touch, the other – called i-MID – that requires the user to turn and click at a jog wheel that wouldn't look out of place on an early-'90s Aiwa boom box. Those two screens often duplicate each other's functionality. For instance, the smaller touchscreen will show radio presets, but it's necessary to use the larger screen to find out what song is playing. Lexus, BMW and others have proved that a wide split-screen is a more elegant solution. It's also a safer one, since such a screen can be programmed to show only relevant options instead of cluttering up multiple LCDs with a myriad of options.
Otherwise, the interior is quite straightforward, with chunky buttons and big fonts placed thoughtfully throughout. The optional heated leather seats were supportive on long drives, and there was plenty of legroom in the back for adults. Fitting a car seat wasn't a problem, though we weren't thrilled with the small pass-through between the front and rear seats. If it's cargo room you're after in a Honda, the Accord is OK, the Crosstour is better, and the CR-V has it in spades.
Oh yeah — there's a totally new exterior design. The car sits a bit lower than the previous model, giving it a more athletic stance, while tasteful chrome trim breaks up the monotony of the car's rear end. Visibility is superb.
The Accord has always had a reputation as the slightly sportier choice in the family midsize sedan segment — a robust cup of half-caff, if you will. That reputation continues into the 2013 model, along with excellent fuel economy that's EPA rated at 21 city and 34 highway for the car we drove, which was equipped with the 278-hp V6. It was more than capable of any task we gave it, from around-town traffic to heavy acceleration. It has a neat cylinder deactivation trick, too: At cruise, it'll shut down some of the engine's cylinders in order to burn less fuel. We never noticed it in action, which is a good thing.
On the Touring model we drove, the engine is mated to a six-speed automatic that effortlessly acquiesced to the demands of our right foot. Cars equipped with the fuel-saving four-cylinder have a choice of a manual or continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Our sole complaint was with handling. We like to get a little bit of road feel through the suspension and steering wheel, since it helps us stay in touch with road conditions and how well the car is adhering to the pavement. Instead, the Accord gave us too much dampened suspension travel, floating us over bumps. The electric power steering setup feels a bit disconnected, too. It's alright for long highway slogs, but it's not communicative enough for anything more sporting.
We were very excited to see the debut of the 2013 Accord. It finally brought some impressive in-car tech — smartphone connectivity, lane-departure warning, a side-view camera — to a car that wouldn't top $34,000 new if the dealer filled the gas tank and left five hundred bucks in the glovebox.
Our excitement was squelched, however, by Honda's less-than-stellar i-MID interface. It's admirable that the company is bringing technology to the masses, but it's a worthless pursuit unless that tech is easy for the masses to use.
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