2016 Honda Accord Review: New Tech Makes A Difference
With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Accord is the family sedan to beat.
The song “Over the River and Through the Wood” was originally written about a Thanksgiving day sleigh ride through the city of Medford, Massachusetts.
Incidentally, Medford was also the starting point for my own Thanksgiving travels this year. Instead of a horse-drawn sleigh, however, I was driving the newly refreshed 2016 Honda Accord.
Normally, this would’ve been a minor disappointment. Yes, Honda builds some great cars, but the company’s navigation and entertainment setups have lagged behind the competition for the past few years, thanks to clunky dual screens and hard-to-read maps. For the hours I’d be spending behind the wheel—stuck in traffic and heading to destinations unknown—a subpar setup just wouldn’t cut it.
Luckily, Honda’s updates to the Accord include an all-new optional infotainment system, boasting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And thanks to a holiday weekend filled with driving, I’d have a chance to see how it would hold up under pressure.
Aside from a refreshed nose, it’s hard to spot how Honda updated the Accord for 2016. Inside, the interior has been nipped and tucked, but the driver will still find a two-screen infotainment system, with a touchscreen in the center console and a secondary display on top of the dash.
With the new software, however, the two screens make more sense: The top one shows overall vehicle data, including turn-by-turn directions, fuel economy, and what song is playing. The bottom screen is for changing the radio station, entering a destination, adjusting settings, or viewing a map with real-time traffic data.
It might sound complex, but a significant amount of work clearly went into the new design to make it as intuitive as possible. Navigation now comes from Garmin, and it looks much better than the hard-to-read maps found on older Hondas. What’s more, heating, air conditioning, and other frequently used functions are controlled by physical buttons—lthough a volume knob is still conspicuously missing.
Alternatively, you can plug your smartphone into the Accord’s USB outlet and let your Android or Apple smartphone do the heavy lifting. With my iPhone 6 connected, the car’s touchscreen morphed into an iOS-like interface, Siri replaced Honda’s voice recognition software, and Apple Maps told me where to go. Other perks included the ability to read and respond to iMessages, and use certain apps like Spotify and Pandora.
USA Today’s Jefferson Graham gave a great overview of CarPlay when it first debuted. But, as it turns out, a car’s individual hardware makes a difference. That means the experience of using CarPlay on a Honda is slightly different than if you’re driving a Chevrolet.
An example: Tired of turkey leftovers, a friend and I headed out to a favorite Thai restaurant. But when I told CarPlay, “find Amarin of Thailand in Newton, Massachusetts,” Siri kept trying to send me to the closest Bank of America branch. I disconnected my phone and used its own built-in mic, and Siri had no problem hearing me. Puzzlingly, the next time I turned on the car, CarPlay recognized the name of the restaurant.
Later in the week, CarPlay wouldn’t let me exit Apple Music when I tried to launch Spotify. I had to pull over and select Spotify from my phone before CarPlay would recognize it. This only happened once—but it shows that the system isn’t perfect.
Still, there’s no denying that CarPlay and Android Auto make for a more seamless experience than even the best in-house infotainment systems automakers have to offer. Once I got the hang of the Honda's CarPlay-specific idiosyncrasies—its on-screen Home button doesn’t perform the same function as the car’s Home button, for instance—I couldn’t think of another system that did a better job putting technology at the driver’s command.
It’s not just about entertainment, either. Opt for the Sensing package, and the Accord gets host of optional technology to keep you safe. Like the upscale Acura TLX, the Accord can now grab the wheel if you depart from your lane, or keep you from crashing into another car in traffic—not bad for a car that tops out around $35,000.
The Honda Accord has been a perennial bestseller for a reason: It’s a comfortable, sporty family sedan with a stellar reputation for reliability and resale value. But the technological advancements added for 2016 make the Accord an even more appealing package. That's something car buyers can give thanks for.
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