Mountain Wheels: Hybrid versions of Honda’s Accord and CR-V emphasize mileage
I managed, somewhat accidentally, to provide perhaps the most harsh real-world Colorado test for one of Honda’s two new hybrids, the 2021 Accord. And while I will also briefly profile the CR-V hybrid, it did not have the misfortune of enduring that minus 11 degree snap we experienced on the Front Range in February.
One would not think that an amply sized, electrically enhanced, Ohio-made family sedan such as the Accord would respond well to that kind of thing. But I was quite amazed that it started right up after a night in sub-zero temperatures and continued doing what it had been doing before the cold, which is getting 48 mpg in city and highway driving. Overall, the hybrid variant of the new Accord boasts a 600-mile range between fill-ups.
That’s a pretty impressive figure for a $37,435 vehicle (in Touring trim level) I felt had more physically in common with a Ford Crown Victoria than Accords I remember in the past. This 10th generation Accord is indeed a large and comfortable cruiser, and despite just 212 horsepower from its electrical setup, it climbed hills and even offered some sporty-lite careening capabilities.
To test that out, I drove it so hard I got 20 mpg for a while, flooring it on hills and finding that the 2.0-liter engine will get buzzy under heavy demand. But for the most part, the hybrid aspect remains invisible, with absolutely no complicated power handoffs when the car switches between generator and engine power.
Its system actually includes a direct drive that uses a clutch to enable a direct transmission when the gasoline motor kicks in, coupled with what is very solid handling and slightly heavy steering. Suspension is also exceptionally stiff and the vehicle rolls flat and smooth, which you may find a little sonically evident when in full hybrid mode on the highway.
You can play with the amount of regenerative braking using control buttons, especially while headed downhill; the Accord is only configured to offer a single mile’s range in all-electric mode, as that is apparently not a priority for Honda customers right now.
There’s a bit of juxtaposition in design as Accord offers increasingly sporty lines and an overall look that borders on flashy. The gleaming samurai sword on the grille, swept headlamps and open-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels plus chrome-edged lower body bulges for better aerodynamics. Inside, however, you won’t find the glitz and glow of an Acura, but you’ll still be impressed by the somewhat sedate, soft-touch interior and broad seating. There are acres of legroom in the back.
I also managed to finally sit down and configure the large display audio infotainment screen for easier use while driving. Data geeks will appreciate what seemed to be about 25 different system metrics and readouts in the left bezel of the instrument display.
Honda’s other mass-market hybrid is its CR-V crossover, which I also drove a while back. Powered by a similar 2.0-liter i-VTEC engine and electric generator system, CR-V got me the promised 38 combined mpg during my travels, which was an impressive number.
Like Accord, if you remember CR-V from the early 2000s, the current model is going to seem more like a Pilot by comparison. It’s so big now I actually had visibility issues while parking and discovered that it ate up a whole garage spot; that also translates into enhanced interior comfort, decent cargo room and a pleasant, solid presence.
My 2020 Touring model, priced at $35,950, features a similar hybrid gas-electric system with 212 horsepower, optimized to allow more fully EV-mode time than in the past (but not true EV range, at least quite yet). The all-wheel-drive system here is based on demand and shuts off power to the rear wheels when no slipping or sliding is felt.
The Honda Sensing package, which includes pre-collision braking and warning, pedestrian sensing and road departure mitigation is standard, and the built-in lane-keeping assist was a little strong in its execution.
I did not get quite the same nuanced power transfer experience as I did in the Accord, for whatever reason, with a noticeable slack between all-electric and gasoline modes, especially at low speeds. Highway cruising was less dramatic, and despite an occasionally slack CVT transmission, the cruising experience was pleasant. There’s also a palpable hollowness to the ride and body feel, perhaps exacerbated by the limited engine noises.
CR-V was also the first hybrid I had in the past eight months to feature really, really loud Frankenstein-styled backup warning sounds; every electric vehicle and hybrid on the market now features some louder variant, but it’s quite present here.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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