Honda Accord Hybrid: A more civil approach | SummitDaily.com
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Honda Accord Hybrid: A more civil approach

Special to the Daily The 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid.
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With the great gas panic of 2005 in full effect, hybrid vehicles are suddenly becoming as hot a commodity as Prohibition-era bathtub gin.And while the early wave of hybrid vehicles does provide a modicum of extra fuel efficiency, gas-electric automobiles are hardly the panacea (hint: buy a diesel Volkswagen if you only want to fuel up monthly). There’s also a real cost premium for all of that complicated-looking electric motor technology under the hood and the mileage figures, while admirable, aren’t quite in the triple digits as some might have hoped.

A pleasant example of a realistic, daily-use hybrid model – one that’s without the SUV wrapping – is the Honda Accord Hybrid. Sharp-looking, fast and comfortable for 4.5 passengers, the Accord’s a wonderful vehicle that, conveniently, features a 12 kilowatt electric motor built in to assist the 3.0 liter V6. Honda’s variation on hybrid technology, now in its third generation, is called Integrated Motor Assist. A bank of 120 1.2 volt nickel-metal hydride batteries in the rear of the car (a small ventilating fan in the rear window and the lack of a spare tire are the only evidence you’ll see of the setup) provide power that’s designed to boost and assist the gasoline engine, but not replace it. Unlike other hybrids, there’s no full-electric drive mode, just a somewhat jarring Auto Stop feature that browns out the engine at full stops in traffic (saving a bit of extra gas in the process, I gather).

The combo means great power under full throttle, with 7.5 second 0-60 times and some very capable cruising speeds, but also results in a consistently jerky flow of power and overly heavy regenerative braking that frankly drove me crazy at times.In town it’s not so big an issue, but driving on the highway, each gear automatic upshift or each pump of the pedal for more passing power results in a noticeable push-pull feeling as the electric motor tries to figure out how to help. You can monitor the computer’s thinking at work with a small charge/assist gauge under the speedometer; while it would be ideal to drive smoothly enough to always have the green “Eco” light on, indicating a perfect mix, I needed to nail it a lot to keep the car at highway speed, and that bobbling got old pretty quickly.



Stepping on the brakes also produces a very heavy and sometimes overly abrupt braking motion (the regenerative brakes use stopping power to recharge the batter in the back); I never got used to that, either.True to form, the mileage figures were much less than I’d hoped, although I-70 straight up to the Eisenhower Tunnel is probably not ideal hybrid territory. I got a combined total of 33.5 miles per gallon, quite a bit less than the 37 highway the Accord advertises. The vehicle’s Variable Cylinder Management system, which silences three of the six cylinders under flat, cruising conditions, also adds to the gas savings.

Our Accord came with Honda’s well-organized and relatively easy-to-use touchscreen navigation system and the associated voice recognition function, allowing you to mess with maps, the trip computer and even adjust the air conditioner without fiddling with buttons. Which was good to know, as I’d wondered for a week why there’s no manual controls for fan speed: you just have to learn what to tell the computer and it will do it for you.Keep in mind that this car’s Navigation Lady will nag you a bit (reminding me no less than four times that I was about to take the I-70 exit at Eagle); maybe turn the voice off next time.A full leather interior with heated, supportive front seats and a six-way power driver’s seat with manual lumbar support made for comfortable times during longer rides – I quite didn’t get to experience the 2,000 mile weekend trip to the Coachella Festival, as I’d first planned for the car a few weeks ago, but I figured the Accord would have been up for the journey, despite the occasional power transfer issue.



XM Satellite Radio and a six-CD in-dash audio system were fine touches; very bright, multicolored instruments on the dash (a Honda hallmark) won’t leave you guessing.Overall design is nice and understated, with big eagle-eye headlamps, body colored mirrors and a large rear bumper. My tester also featured a luminous silver/blue paint job and attractive five-spoke wheels with, for some reason, what looked like the old Chrysler pentagram logo in the middle. A strange and synergistic world at times, indeed.


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