Honda has announced that the 10th generation of its Accord sedan will make its debut for 2018 and will be fully revealed later this fall. That timing shouldn’t come as much of a surprise (the car has been on a lockstep five-year product cadence), but two decisions break with recent tradition: First, the V-6 is being booted from the lineup in favor of a new turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. Second, the new Accord sedan will offer more ways to get a six-speed manual gearbox, making it available with either nonhybrid engine—not just with the base engine as in today’s model.
There’s other big news under the hood: Every Accord but the hybrid will use a turbocharged four-cylinder. The new base engine is a turbo 1.5-liter four that’s essentially the same engine used in the current Civic and CR-V. Those who don’t choose the manual will get a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), while the automatic option for the 2.0-liter turbo models is Honda’s own 10-speed automatic—a version of the transmission in the new 2018 Odyssey, although using different gearing and distinct torque-converter calibration.
Honda hasn’t yet released specs for the new 2.0-liter turbo. Chief engineer Junji Yamano confirmed that it uses the same block as the 2.0-liter in the Civic Type R, but said much else about the engine is different—including the turbocharger hardware and its ability to run on regular gas.
Honda said that the engine’s optimum combination of power and fuel efficiency was achieved through “a comprehensive focus on engine cooling.” That includes sodium-filled exhaust valves and a two-piece water jacket that almost completely surrounds the exhaust manifold, which itself is integrated with the cylinder head. Honda also has cut the weight of reciprocating parts and said that, among vehicles in its class using regular gasoline, the Accord has the best weight-to-torque ratio.
Hoping You Won’t Miss the V-6
A brief drive consisting of a couple of high-speed laps around the banked oval at Honda’s Tochigi proving ground in Japan demonstrated that the new 2.0-liter/10-speed combination won’t leave us missing the V-6 in high-speed passing maneuvers or flat-out acceleration. Yamano expects that performance numbers will be about the same as those for the outgoing V-6, but mashing the accelerator to the floor is a different experience. The engine doesn’t rip off the line with the same scramble, snarl, and surplus of torque as the V-6; instead, a very low first gear helps quickly get to this engine’s torque plateau (at around 2500 rpm), and then the transmission clicks deftly through the gears.
Honda describes the way it wants the engine and transmission to behave together as “continuous and strong,” with a linearity at part throttle, and the new 10-speed supports that, aiming to provide satisfying acceleration at relatively low revs. The gearbox is Honda’s own transmission, configured around four planetary gearsets and claimed to offer a 20 percent improvement in transmissible torque and a 10 percent weight reduction overall versus the six-speed it replaces. The upper couple of gears are very tall. During our drive, the transmission didn’t choose to use them much in the car’s Normal mode and not at all in Sport mode.
The 2.0T models will trim “a significant amount” of weight versus the current Accord V-6—on the order of a couple hundred pounds, Honda said, although that’s including other weight savings in the new model.
Other Accord Details Remain Veiled
Honda stressed that what we drove was an engineering prototype. While its steering, suspension, braking, trim, and other details weren’t ready to be evaluated, its engine and transmission were close to their production form for the U.S. market.
The automaker notes that both engines are produced at the company’s Anna, Ohio, plant, while the CVT is made at Russells Point, Ohio, and the new 10-speed in Tallapoosa, Georgia. The 2018 Accord will be assembled in Marysville, Ohio.
Driving enthusiasts, including all of us here at C/D, can cheer the availability of a manual. But we’re more conflicted about the retiring of the V-6, an engine that we’ve said positively shames the turbo 2.0-liter four in the Mercedes-Benz E-class—a much more expensive car.
Even though Toyota remains a V-6 believer with its 2018 Camry, the era of mid-size V-6 sedans is fading, and the Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima have each gone all four-cylinder.
The turbo strategy might not have been one that Honda was eager to take on, but it’s noteworthy when a company that has staked its reputation on engines decides to go that route. And based on this first, early sample, it should serve them well.