First Drive: 2016 Honda Accord

Looks like the days of “bumpers and headlights” mid-cycle refreshes are on their way out. Things happen fast in the world of the family sedan, and today, more updates come more often, and lately, more deeply, than ever.

Not long ago, a mid-cycle update consisted of new lights, bumpers, and a new piece of trim around the instrument cluster. In human terms, it was like changing your lipstick and shoes, or getting a shave and a haircut.

Looks like the days of “bumpers and headlights” mid-cycle refreshes are on their way out.

Today, mid-cycle updates are altering vehicle structural properties, suspension systems, chassis components, safety equipment, connectivity features and plenty more – and the latest Honda Accord is a rolling example of the trend.

The recent Canadian Car of the Year award winner and much-loved-by-many family sedan sales superstar has just gone under the knife. Lipstick and shoes be damned: 2016 sees the new Accord tweaked on the exterior with a new fascia, new taillamps and extended use of LED technology throughout. Sedans get a new hood that’s made of aluminum and sculpted for additional aerodynamically greasiness, saving 8 kg and a bit of fuel in the process. The fascia is more aggressive, changing its message from “Oh, hello, I’m a Honda Accord!” to “Move. Now.” when seen in another driver’s rearview.

The Accord’s structure is beefed up, reinforced where the suspension bolts to the body for a more precise foundation from which to tune ride and handling. New premium shock absorbers and higher-volume bushings work to fine-tune the ride on rough roads, while a revised steering knuckle design helps increase response as the wheel is first turned. That’s all dialed in against a new steering rack that’s heavier at speed, lighter during parking, and feels more polished and refined overall – even if Accord is still no pinnacle of steering feel or feedback.

The trick new steering system can even act on its own, self-steering slightly to neutralize the wheel-pull inherent when driving in a cross-wind, or on an uneven surface with lots of road crown. It even lets the new Honda Sensing system take control, slightly, if the car is leaving the roadway, lighting up an alert in the dash, and then providing a wriggle through the steering wheel to encourage the car back into the roadway via a slight and discreet amount of self-steering.

Other features of Honda Sensing include collision mitigation braking, lane departure alert and adaptive cruise control. Notably, Honda’s making this system available or standard on every non-manual Accord sold (that’s about 85 percent of them), marking the heaviest roll-out of advanced safety tech in this segment yet. Honda Sensing is available on models as low as the LX with automatic CVT transmission, and is standard on EX-L grade and higher.

Outbound: Test Drive: 2015 Honda Accord V6

Ultimately, though, your thirty-something tech-obsessed writer left most impressed with an update that’s taken place right in the Accord’s dashboard.

As advanced, next-level and high-tech as systems like Android Auto and Apple Car Play are, they operate with a polished simplicity, the first time you meet them. You pair your phone via Bluetooth, one time, in about eight seconds, with no lagging, waiting, or swearing. Then you plug in a USB cable, hit a button on the 7.0-inch nav screen, and (drumroll, please) your Apple iPhone or Android handset display is up-scaled into the dash.

Whether you use an iPhone, or an Android, the premise of CarPlay and Android Auto is simple: the same gestures, menu structures, icons and fonts, pop-up alerts, settings and applications you use from your phone, are available right in the dash. Used to be that you’d use your Smartphone and tablet all day, and need to switch to a different interface to control numerous functions in the car. Different alerts. Different maps. A different arrangement of your contact list and media and a totally different (and typically messier) voice-command structure.

Now, the same interfaces, programs and functions you’re using with your handheld devices are available on screen, while your phone is hidden away. Heck, users get Siri or Talk to Google functionality with a tap on the steering-wheel mounted voice button.

Justin: “Text Mom: 'HI MOM, I’M HEADING OVER NOW, SEE YOU SOON!'”
Google: (reads message back) “Do you want to send this message?”
Justin: “Yes.”
Google: “Your message is sending.”

The message is never displayed on the screen, only read back to me.

Or

Justin: “Navigate to Okinawa Sushi.”
Google: “Your route is clear, and you’ll arrive in nine minutes.”

I made the connection with my Android phone, and immediately, my current Google Now cards popped onto the screen, as well as a list of my recent navigation destinations and contacts. I pressed the music button, and Slacker radio (which my phone knew was my listening app of choice) popped up on the Accord’s screen. Same menus. Same buttons. Same interfaces. A high performance graphics processor keeps the whole thing smooth and fast when flicking between menus and screens, and the Google Maps program proved excellent, since it’s powerful, includes real-time traffic, and never needs an update, since your phone does that automatically on WiFi, while you’re asleep, for free-ninety-nine. Beats heading to the dealer to buy a pricey new map CD.

This is delightfully slick, next-level stuff.

Of course, distracting functions are blocked. You can’t watch YouTube puppy videos while driving, or ask Siri to show you a picture or put some text onto the screen to read.

Maybe you shouldn’t text or stay connected while driving at all – though you’ll probably try anyways, and Apple Car Play and Android Auto make it fast, easy and all but distraction free.

Elsewhere, typical Accord traits remain untouched. Rear seat legroom is adult-generous, at-hand storage is above average, and the four-cylinder VTEC engine’s high-revving powercurve feels expertly tuned to the programming logic of the CVT transmission, for a peaky and seamless flow of power to the front wheels during spirited driving, refined all the while. Typical Accord complaints remain, too. Your writer found himself wishing for less road noise at speed, and the turning circle is on the hefty side, as mid-sized sedans go.

The 2016 Accord lineup is on sale now, with pricing from $24,150 with six-speed manual.

Accord Coupe MSRP NRCan Ratings
(city/highway/combined)
ACCORD 2D L4 EX 6MT $27,090 10.3/7.2/8.9
ACCORD 2D L4 EX CVT $28,390 9.1/6.8/8.0
ACCORD 2D L4 EX-HS* CVT $29,390 9.1/6.8/8.0
ACCORD 2D L4 TOURING 6MT $31,090 10.3/7.2/8.9
ACCORD 2D L4 TOURING CVT $33,390 9.1/6.8/8.0
ACCORD 2D V6 TOURING 6MT $35,830 12.9/8.3/10.9
ACCORD 2D V6 TOURING 6AT $36,830 11.4/7.3/9.5
Accord Sedan    
ACCORD 4D L4 LX 6MT $24,150 10.3/7.2/8.9
ACCORD 4D L4 LX CVT $25,450 8.6/6.4/7.6
ACCORD 4D L4 LX-HS* CVT $26,450 8.6/6.4/7.6
ACCORD 4D L4 SPORT 6MT $26,690 10.3/7.2/8.9
ACCORD 4D L4 SPORT CVT $27,990 9.1/6.8/8.0
ACCORD 4D L4 SPORT-HS* CVT $28,990 9.1/6.8/8.0
ACCORD 4D L4 EX-L CVT $29,990 8.6/6.4/7.6
ACCORD 4D L4 TOURING 6MT $31,090 10.3/7.2/8.9
ACCORD 4D L4 TOURING CVT $32,990 8.6/6.4/7.6
ACCORD 4D V6 EX-L 6AT $33,270 11.3/7.0/9.4
ACCORD 4D V6 TOURING 6AT $35,790 11.3/7.0/9.4
Looks like the days of “bumpers and headlights” mid-cycle refreshes are on their way out. 11/25/2015 8:47:40 AM