2008 Honda Preview
Date: April 12, 2007 08:30
Model Year 2007 has been a pretty big year for Honda, with the launch of the all-new 2007 CR-V and the addition of the Civic Si sedan and 2007 Fit to the lineup. For 2008 we only have one FMC in store and an MMC, but the FMC will be a big one.
Accord The 2008 Accord launch is the biggest event this year at Honda. It's been a while since the Accord has trumped the Camry in the sales charts, but it remains Honda's top selling model so there's a lot at stake for Honda when it comes time to redesign the Accord. We've already seen the '08 Accord Coupe Concept at the Detroit Auto Show, and it's quite a stunner. We've been told that the Concept's design is very close to what the actual production version will look like when it hits the streets late in the summer. Revisions are said to be limited to fairly minor changes to the front bumper and rear bumper and exhaust cutouts. The sedan is said to share some of the coupe's styling cues, but as with the past two Accord generations, it will not be nearly as sporty in appearance as the coupe. For the record, the photoshopped images that have been floating around the net are said to be pretty far off the mark. Content-wise, the new Accord is said to offer more upscale features and luxury items than anything else priced below $35k. Interestingly, we're also hearing that the output of the new engines will put the Accord back in front of the class. One of Honda's first applications of Advanced-VTEC is nearly a given on the 4-cylinder models - to purely speculate, we're expecting around 190-200hp and a superb torque curve from 2.4L of displacement. There was a brief time late in 2006 where we heard some chatter about a possible turbo motor in a special coupe model, but that was an isolated rumor that has not been substantiated. As for the V6, we've heard mutterings of an increase in displacement to 3.5L but this point has not been substantiated by any reliable sources to this point. If what we're hearing about the motor's performance (relative to competitors is correct), the new V6's horsepower could be in the 280+hp range.
What it needs: The current Accord is an excellent automobile and delivers one of the best driving experiences in its class. We believe that the biggest thing that has held it back during this generation has been its controversial styling. Beyond that, we also thought that the chassis of the V6 model wasn't quite up to the task of dealing with the V6 motor's speed potential. Whether the rumors of big-HP V6s pan out or not, the chassis needs some upgrades to better cope with the V6's power - more powerful brakes and better damping characteristics should be the first items addressed.
What it doesn't need: First of all, let's hope the trend of the ever bloating Accord stops with this generation. Ideally it will shed some pounds this time around, but we're not holding our breath. And this may sound blasphemous coming from an enhusiast, but while we love high performance automobiles, at some point enough is enough. In the case of value-oriented family sedans, 0-60 times in the 5 second range and 100+mph 1/4 mile trap speeds is probably more than enough, and the current Accord V6 is already approaching that range. So we're not sure Honda needs to keep upping the ante in the horsepower wars, particularly if it means more and more mass and or a decrease in fuel efficiency is involved. From a styling perspective, Honda needs to play it a little safer with this generation and stick with what works.
Expected in Showrooms: September, 2007.
- Accord Hybrid We haven't heard a thing about the Accord Hybrid's fate. It's no secret that the Accord Hybrid has not been a big seller, so it wouldn't completely surprise us if it fades quietly out of the picture for the 2008 model change.
- Civic Through March of this year (which was actually a pretty good month for the Civic), sales are off by over 15% compared to this time last year. Prior to the March '07 uptick, Civic sales figures have been on a double digit skid (percentage-wise) for basically the entire first half of the 2007 model year. While Honda reps have blamed supply issues, we can't help but think that these explanations only tell part of the story. As we've heard from dealers and Civic shoppers, there are in fact supply issues for certain trim levels, but many trim levels are in ample supply. That said, we don't expect to see any meaningful changes to the Civic until the MMC, which should take place in the '09 model year. It would be interesting to understand the impact of the new Civic's more daring styling, both in terms of the interior and the exterior. Are potential buyers turned off by the Star Trek command center dashboard? If so, will that be something that Honda addresses in the MMC? We have more questions than answers at this point, but as soon as we hear something, we'll let you know.
What it needs: We love the Si Sedan and Coupe trim levels, but we'd like to see the EX (or perhaps a new trim level) fitted with a 160-170hp 2.0L (ideally, the K20 from the departed EP3 Si). It would provide a "just right" combo of performance and efficiency for people who think the EX's 1.8L isn't potent enough and that the Si's demeanor is a bit too racy. In the past, the EX level has always had some distinction from the lesser models underhood, but that's no longer the case, and that could possibly be impacting sales to an extent.
- CR-V As we predicted, the all new CR-V's has been hugely successful. The CR-V is like the TSX of crossover sport utes - everything just feels "right" when you drive it, and the combination of styling flair, packaging, quality, efficiency, value, and driving feel are a tough combo to beat. We certainly miss the 5MT that was available in the previous CR-V, but its omission doesn't appear to be impacting sales significantly. The widely rumored diesel variant should be appearing sometime soon - perhaps as early as the latter part of 2008 as a 2009 model.
What it needs: Frankly, not much. Don't mess with success. But we want to see one offered with a manual transmission. A 6MT would be perfect.
- Element The Element just went through its mid-cycle model change, so we're not expecting any dramatic developments for the 2008 model year. If you haven't driven the SC model yet, I encourage you to give one a try. The handling simply defies logic - if it were able to put more power down in the lower gears it would be even more fun. The Element would also add to its appeal the 2nd row of seats could accommodate 3 passengers. A proper 4-door "Element Unlimited" could be an interesting idea as well, though part of what makes the Element so useful is the gigantic side apertures afforded by the current door arrangement.
What it needs: 5-passenger seating capacity would help a lot. A 6MT in the SC model and a limited slip differential would improve performance further. We'd also love to see a beefed up Element offered with the upcoming diesel drivetrain to provide a bit more towing capacity and efficiency as well.
FCX Honda will begin limited sales of the next generation FCX in 2008. The car's styling has been sexed up exponentially and supposedly performance has been increased dramatically as well. It will be some time before the FCX is available on a widescale basis, but for now Honda will continue to enjoy the limelight as the only manufacturer to sell fuel cell vehicles.
- Fit As anticipated, the Fit has been selling very well, easily surpassing Honda's conservative initial projections - limited strictly by supply. The next generation Fit is due to be launched soon in Japan but it's not likely that we'll see a version of it over here for some time. There had been some speculation that the new Honda plant in Indiana might begin domestic production of next-generation Fits to save costs, but Honda announced recently that the Civic would be built there first. This announcement seems to indicate that the current US Fit may be in the lineup for another few years and Honda's official response to our query on this topic was that they can't comment on how much the US introduction will lag other markets, but it will definitely lag them. Our thinking is that model year '09 would be the absolute soonest we might see a Fit here, but more likely it will be 2010 or even 2011. UPDATE: This is unconfirmed, but a TOV'er has posted a date of August '08 for the introduction of the next generation Fit.
What it needs: A lower price tag (achieved through local production) would help it fend off competitors. And we'd love to see a Fit Si equipped with the 1.8L motor from the Civic. Assuming that motor would even fit, it would inject a healthy dose of performance and we'd expect little to no penalty in terms of highway fuel economy.
- New "Global Hybrid Small Car" Honda has already announced that they're working on a new dedicated hybrid model that will be more affordable than the Civic Hybrid yet sized suitably to serve a family. Honda has also confirmed that the "Global Hybrid Small Car" will be introduced within the next two years. At this point, that pretty much sums up the extent of our knowledge on that particular vehicle. Our expectation is that Honda will leverage the next generation Fit platform, but there has been no confirmation of this.
- Odyssey The Odyssey was redesigned in the 2005 model year and will be going through its mid-cycle model change for 2008. Few details have emerged surrounding that, but we have heard from one reliable source that the asphalt crushing PAX tires will no longer be standard issue on the Touring model (yay!). It's not clear whether they're going away altogether, but it sounds like you will no longer be forced to accept them as part of the Touring package. Otherwise, the Odyssey has been a strong seller for Honda, so we don't expect to see too many fundamental changes. We've heard that the typical grille/lighting refreshes are in the plans, but little else in the way of exterior revisions. As feature packed as the Odyssey is, we'd love to see a few technological upgrades including a Bluetooth handsfree system, xenon headlamps, and MP3/WMA enhancements to the audio system: a PC card reader (such as the one in the Civic/CR-V Navi models), CD-R/DVD-R MP3/WMA playback, hard disk-based storage system, USB jack, or at the very least, an analog input jack would all be excellent. Also, we think the power liftgate should be available on the EX model.
What it needs: Bluetooth Handsfree Link, support for MP3/WMA audio playback, Xenon headlamps, realtime traffic on the Navi, larger (17"), more attractive wheels on non-Touring models. 110V AC Inverter should be included in ALL models with DVD-RES.
What it doesn't need: More weight. Let's hope that this generation is the heaviest Odyssey we'll ever see.
- Pilot 2008 should be the final model year for the current Pilot bodystyle. So far the only thing we've heard about the '08 is the addition of SE and VP models, both to be offered in 2WD and AWD trims.
VP is based on LX with the following added features:
SE is based on EX with the following added features:
- Privacy Glass
- Machined Alloy Wheels
- XM Satellite Radio
- 6CD audio system with 7 speakers
- Roof Rails
- Steering Wheel Audio Controls
- Body Color Door Mirrors, Door Handles and Rear Spoiler
Little is known about the FMC Pilot (2009 model) at this point, but there should be a V6 diesel engine in the pipeline for '09 or perhaps 2010. UPDATE A TOV'er in the forums indicates that the all-new '09 Pilot will go on sale next May.
- DVD Rear Entertainment System
- XM Satellite Radio
- 115V Power Outlet
- Conversation Mirror
- Ambient overhead console lighting
Ridgeline One of the most innovative products to be introduced by Honda in recent memory has been keeping a fairly low profile the past two years. 2008 marks the third model year for the Ridgeline and things will mostly be carry-over. The MMC should happen in 2009, when the Ridgeline may be fortified with Honda's first diesel V6. We also expect incremental upgrades to the gasoline V6 as well, but otherwise little is known about what the future holds for the Ridgeline.
What it needs: Navi models should include a backup camera. The long rumored diesel V6 should improve fuel economy and tow ratings and should also spur more interest in the Ridgeline. The majority of folks who are currently buying the Ridgeline is composed of previous Honda owners, so the switchgear should be redesigned so that it's familiar to Honda owners rather than GM/Ford owners (I'm looking at you headlight switch, wiper stalk, and column-mounted shifter!). A 6 speed automatic would help with fuel economy and performance. An available manual transmission would make a nice offering as well, but maybe that's just us.
S2000 Honda's already broken the big news for the 2008 S2000. The S2000 CR (Club Racer) will begin appearing in showrooms later this fall. Beyond that, we're not expecting to see the new "sportscar" product from Honda until around 2009 as a 2010 model. Little is known about that car but we sincerely hope that the rumors concerning it moving down in class to take on the Miata turn out to be unfounded.
What it needs The next generation S2000 needs to stay true to its roots - lightweight, with a high-specific output motor with a dizzying redline (bring back 9000 rpms, please). A fully built 2.0 or 2.2L K-series motor with 250+ horsepower and big dose of midrange torque would be a great start. Keep the weight to a minimum and offer the car in both roadster and fixed-roof forms, as a competitor to the Cayman and Z Coupe. A stripped out 'Club Sport' model could be offered as well, perhaps on a special order basis. Most importantly, the S2000 should be evolved steadily through its lifecycle. We feel that Honda needs to capitalize on the legacy of cars like the S2000, NSX, and Type Rs and continue to build pure sports cars in that spirit.
What it doesn't need: More weight, more luxury, automatic transmission, fewer revs, less power, a 6-cylinder engine.
Honda EU6500is We're not sure how Honda kept this one quiet for so long, but somehow it snuck in under our radar. Introduced just last month, this new generator from Honda boasts of 6.5kW output from a low-distortion (less than 2.5%) inverter, a super-quiet (only 60dBA at rated load!) Triple-chamber chassis design, and Honda's legendary refinement and efficiency. All of this engineering excellence comes at the low price of $3995
Last edited by JeffX on
April 14, 2007 17:57