1976-1981 - 1st Generation
1982-1985 - 2nd Generation
1986-1989 - 3rd Generation
1990-1993 - 4th Generation
1994-1997 - 5th Generation
1998-2002 - 6th Generation
2003-2007 - 7th Generation
2008-2012 - 8th Generation
The bulk of this article was written months ago as a "First Impressions" story, but as it was being written, I realized that with the exception of a single trim level our first experience with the 2008 Accord was far too limited to paint a meaningful picture for our readers. I decided to hold off on releasing the article until I had an opportunity to sample some of the other drivetrain combinations and both body styles, but as of this point, our only followup opportunity has been with an '08 V6 EX-L Sedan. Rather than delay the release of this article any further, we decided to release it as it is now. We hope to be able to spend some time with the 4-cylinder 5MT and coupe models in the future.
Unless you're not much of a "car person", you're probably aware that Honda Accord redesigns are generally considered to be major events. If the significance is lost upon you, consider:
- The Accord has been one of the top 5 selling passenger cars for each of the past 20 years
- Since 2000, the Accord represents nearly 34% of Honda's overall division sales in the US
- Its annual sales represent roughly 20% of the entire mid-size segment.
Winning What Counts
The 7th generation Accord was routinely found perched atop of the results columns in magazine comparison tests, even notching a win against the "next-generation" Camry and Altima in at least one recent comparison test. This fact must certainly be a source of pride for Honda associates, but during the 7th generation Accord's life cycle, the Toyota Camry consistently trumped it in the showrooms. Obviously there were a lot of things that were "right" about the 7th generation Accord, but clearly there was something (or things) missing from the equation that hindered the Accord's showroom results.
What is it that has made the Accord a favorite for so long? Honda likes to call it "Accordness" - a special combination of quality, value, refinement, reliability, driving enjoyment, durability, innovation, and mechanical harmony. In these categories, the 7th generation Accord certainly earned high marks. So what was missing? Judging by the reaction tallied here at the TOV over 5 years ago (when the first published photos of the 2003 Accord appeared), one could conclude that Honda had whiffed on the styling of the sedan. Honda, of course, won't directly admit that they whiffed, but given the extensive reworking of the hindquarters of the 7th generation design for the 2006 mid-cycle model change, and Honda's stated focus on enhancing the emotional aspects of the 8th generation design, it seems that they too arrived at that conclusion.
The 7th generation Accord was good enough that Honda could have probably taken the easy route and simply hung a new bodyshell on the existing floorpan. But this is Honda we're talking about, and we all know they simply don't operate that way. The 2008 Accord features four new motors, a roomier interior, stiffer chassis, more class-leading safety features, improved emissions and fuel economy, and more luxury and convenience features than ever before. One thing to note though, is that the 2008 Accord continues to swell to ever greater proportions, and certain trim levels are now actually classified by the EPA in the "Large Sedan" category. An unfortunate side effect of this growth is that 4-cylinder 2008 Accord models now weigh nearly as much as comparable 2007 Accord V6 trim levels.
Keys To Success
Honda views the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima as its primary competitors. It may come as a surprise to some, but Honda doesn't seem to be very concerned by up-and-comers such as the Hyundai Sonata or even the 2008 Chevy Malibu. As for the two primary competitors, Honda sees them as being positioned at opposing ends of a "Sporty" - "Luxurious" continuum. The Altima anchors the "Sporty" end of this continuum, while the Camry occupies the "More Luxurious" end. Where does the Accord fit? Honda sees the outgoing Accord model as simply splitting the difference between the two, offering a "just right" combination of both. For the 2008 Accord, Honda aims to not only split the difference between these two vehicles, but they also intend to add a new dimension to the continuum, moving beyond the competition in both categories.
In their presentation to the media last summer, Honda spoke about "mainstreaming" luxury items and redefining prestige. In this sense, Honda hopes to position the 2008 Accord as an attainable and exclusive product. To help illustrate this concept, Honda uses Apple's iPod as an example - there have been literally tens of millions of iPods sold to date, so they are clearly attainable, yet Apple has somehow managed to maintain an air of "exclusivity" surrounding the product. This seems to be an approach similar to that which Volkswagen has taken with their product line, so we'll see how it works out for Honda.
Who Will Buy Them?
Honda says that a substantial portion of the Accord's market consists of repeat buyers, so it's no surprise that the median age of their audience has been steadily creeping towards empty-nester territory. Honda is keen on maintaining these loyal buyers, but at the same time they are hoping to bring more youthful buyers back into the fold. The question is, how much overlap exists between these two targets? Honda also aims to broaden the appeal of the Accord to attract shoppers who are looking at larger cars such as the Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima. Additionally, Honda has identified a target group that includes buyers who have grown weary of the thirst of their SUVs, but aren't quite ready to take a big step downwards in terms of vehicle size. In Honda's eyes, these latter groups provide the necessary justification for the Accord's further swelling of proportions and mass, as opposed to developing a larger model to slot in above the Accord.
Read on to the next page to find out more about some of the 2008 Accord's mechanical highlights.