Accord Type S i-DTEC
The perfect A road tool?
(No pics? you need to register to see them)
I recently had the chance to do about 800 miles in the new Accord Type S i-DTEC. I took it to work and back (160 miles round trip on the motorway), I took it for fun blasts and I even did a very long day to Brands Hatch and back (from Leicester). I have plenty of experience of the Honda diesel - having owned a Civic 2.2, previous Accord (Sport GT) 2.2, CRV 2.2 and having tested numerous new and old Accord 2.2s.
So, is it any good?
The official line
The standard 09 Accord is a good, solid, well made D sector car. It rides and handles well, and has a spacious and luxurious interior that makes cars like the 3 series feel small and cramped. But it has always felt a little bit left behind in the power department - not so much that it doesn't quite have enough, but it would always benefit from a little more.
So Honda have kindly come along and made a range topping sporty version. Loaded with every extra from the standard range, some lovely sports leather seats and then a bonus 30PS onto the standard lump (so 180PS total), and an extra 30Nm of torque for good measure (so now 380 Nm at 2,000 rpm). These improvements come from a revised turbocharger, modified cylinder head and a bigger intercooler.
The backwards i-DTEC:
A bigger intercooler:
0-62 drops from a stately 9.6 to a slightly chirpier 8.8. Economy only suffers by 1.7 mpg, now down to 48.7. Allegedly.
The exterior has a few exclusive features that you'll never spot, funky 18" alloys, the optional bodykit from the standard car and two new colours (lovely pearl white and dubious maroon). A couple of colours are not available, including black.
The only option (other than colour) is saloon or tourer? With or without CMBS? We'll come to that later.
Here ends what you will read on the Honda website, and a million other sites with the bare facts. What is it like to drive? Contrary to normal practice, we'll do the driving bit first and then finish up with the boring stuff.
On the road
Snap open the flip key (at last!) and click your way in. The door feels fantastic - as good as any Merc. Climb in and just feel that seat. It has to be as perfect a seat and seating position you'll find this side of a Mugen. It's only when you jump into another car do you really appreciate how supportive and curve-following the ATS seat is. You sit low, and the interior feels big and solid. The steering wheel is chunky, the dials are clear and good looking and the bonnet is just visible and looks strangely mean and flat. The switchgear is high quality and satisfying to operate, and the toys are everywhere. Adjust the electric seat - and as you memorise the position, notice the high quality materials on the door. All good stuff.
Start her up.
Ah. We are in a diesel still. It's a lot smoother than the early standard 09 Accord I drove, but it's still a diesel. Not too bad, but not nearly as good as the 07 Accord Sport GT, which leaves you cocking your head slightly to see if that can help you hear any diesel clatter (it doesn't help, it still sounds like a turbine). The i-DTEC here has been refined, but has a subdued growly character. No vibration, no nasty clatter, just a growl. If you had never experienced the Sport GT, and all you knew were Mercedes and BMW 4 cylinder diesels, then you would describe it as "well, quite good really".
And off you go for the first time.
I really don't know how to describe what happened here. You know - you have a mental picture of what the car should be like, derived from pre-conceived ideas about Accords, what an 8.8 second to 62 car will feel like and so on. But it's not like that. The car just shoots forwards with no effort at all. You find yourself having to go for the next gear well before you expected it, and to your further surprise the gearchange is as light and precise as the smallest French hot hatch. And whilst gawping at the muscular and sprightly acceleration, there is the next revelation... you turn into a corner. The suspension is fairly firm, firmer than a CTS but not nearly as firm as a CTR. The ride is, as expected, miles better than both. The steering ratio is quicker than a CTR. But that's not it. There is no roll
. Just none. You couple this to a very fast rack, very light steering, effortless acceleration and you have a road eater. It's amazing - and it left me with a massive grin etched on. It was like the car mysteriously weighed 800 kg, not 1550.
At max cornering, the car remained impeccable to the end. Massive grip, a tiny amount of roll, and good feedback.
So the net result of driving the ATS at 50% is a little like driving a decent Porsche at 50%. You would honestly guess that the car was a good 250bhp, and that you would give that Porsche a strong run for it's money round the high speed bends at the 'ring. You just give it a quick squirt in each gear (where every gearchange is a light, mechanically precise pleasure) and flick it around the corners. It really does feel like it's on rails, and it takes no effort at all. Somebody somewhere has been aligning roll centres with centres of gravity, and that man needs his hand shaking.
Forum rules dictate that I cannot tell you how much fun roundabouts are.
You will have to use your imagination.
. This car, with its massively grunty engine and perfect steering consumes A roads as a light snack. The instant surge of the mighty engine and the light flicks of the wheel with the car following your orders like a Caterham leave you wanting to just go on and on. Overtake? A small squeeze of the throttle and a light movement of the wheel has the car straight round with no effort at all. Fast bend? No roll, light squeeze, no drama. Bend done. It really is eye opening. It gives that sense that you own the road - something I haven't felt since I had the 968CS. A caution though - you will need to watch your speed. It is that effortless and inviting that you will possibly forget to keep it legal.
Surely there's a catch?
Well, just a couple of small ones. When you open it up, it's good. It's growly, starting at jack russell at mid revs and reaching german shepherd near the red line. And then it becomes a 180 hp car, not a 250 hp car. It's still quick, but not as quick as the illusion was earlier. You also notice that the throttle is a hair trigger - the first couple of mm provide about half power - and the remaining travel is needed for the rest. A cheap trick maybe (Audi drivers will know all about this), but a pleasing trick nonetheless.
Take it onto a small single track road, and you feel big and the suspension will crash over bumps. Better dampers are needed - but no review of a Honda is complete without a moan about damping. But there is another issue. It's....
Now, you could argue that this car doesn't belong on the Motorway. But then there are many people who have a permanent synaptic connection in their brains that connects the requirement to do many miles on the motorway with the purchase of an Accord. And the ATS is a nice choice - best looking, correct amount of power...
Firstly the suspension is quite firm, and this is good on the motorway, but not great. Certainly my Sport GT with the factory "Sports Suspension" is just a bit more supple, and it is more relaxing.
Then there is the road noise - the 09 Accord doesn't have the road noise from the rear that the 07 car has, but the ATS re-introduces noise in the form of tyre noise from the front. Again, not too bad, but it makes the car as noisy as the 07, and it would be nicer if it was a tiny bit quieter.
The steering is similar to the old car, but again not quite as good. It is marginally less stable (but still stable) and has much less feel. The hydraulic system on the 07 gives a firm weighting and you can feel every movement, but the electric system on the new car is light and devoid of feedback. Again, no major issue, but not as perfect as the past.
Finally, this car likes a drink. Sometimes. Let's look at results at 70 mph, where my Sport GT does 54 into a headwind and 60+ with a tailwind. It's odd - occasionally it will do just 42 or so for the first 35 miles (maybe DPF regeneration) and then it will creep up to 47. Maybe 48. If you were to speed up to keep up with the traffic, expect mid to high thirties. If you drive at 60 in total hypermiling mode, you might nudge 50. Most of the time expect 42 to 45, which is 10 mpg less than the outgoing Sport GT. If only it had the economy of the new E class, which is in the high fifties despite making more power from a slightly smaller 4, driving an auto box in a heavier car.
The net result is that the car is good on the motorway, where the Sport GT is brilliant. Jumping back into the Sport GT the trip is just a bit quieter and easier and more relaxing. But this small price I still think is worth paying for the massively improved dynamics of the new car.
Overall to drive - this car is very, very good. I loved it. On A roads, it is peerless, especially when you consider it's price. Mondeo anyone?! But do remember - in the suspension and steering departments it's more CTR than CTS. Do not apply if you want to waft.
In and around the car
So, we have already established that the seats are perfect and the dash is cool. Working from right to left, the wing mirror gives a good field of view. The door is beautifully solid - though Jayne objects to the numerous different black materials on the door. The dash materials are solid and high quality - though the large part that runs along the top and in front of the dash is odd - it is high quality soft feel stuff that looks a bit like low quality hard plastic. The centre console is again high quality, and the centre dash has lovely feeling buttons illuminated in Lexus-style white. The satnav is the same as the Civic (ie very good) but with a much larger and clearer screen. It also represents colours correctly (unlike the Civ) so night mode is now usable, and the rear camera is much clearer.
A notable point is the quality of the ICE. It really is very good - possibly the best OE system I have heard. It is assisted by a centre speaker in the top of the dash, and a subwoofer in the middle of the rear parcel shelf.
Visibility forward and rearward is fine, and the parking system is clear and easy with a display on the dash. The HID headlights are very good with a razor sharp cutoff and even illumination (unlike the Civic). However the test car had the left light set too high, which was slightly annoying for me, and very annoying for the truckers. Luckily the rear view mirror is auto dipping, thus eliminating all those trucker's kind reminders (by means of their full-beam) that I need to get it sorted.
The 09 Accord gets some criticism over rear legroom - this one seemed slightly better than the standard car, possibly down to the different seats. Using my scientific "Jayne" test, it's about the same as the 07 Accord.
Jayne in the 07 Accord (front seat set for me):
Jayne in the 09 ATS (front seat set for me):
Me in the back with the front seat set for me (5' 11"):
The boot is large, and comes with a through-load fold-down rear seat.
Outside, the car is gorgeous. I have a real soft spot for the new Accord, and in ATS form it is the best of all. And factor in creamy pearly soft off-white and you have a winner. It looks expensive, purposeful, modern, high-tech and solid. It's difficult to get that feeling into a photo, but in the flesh it's just lovely. And after a good prod and poke the fit and finish is spot on too.
This car was fitted with the optional CMBS. It has a forward looking radar, a camera in the top of the windscreen, and connections to the car's brakes, steering and throttle. Is it worth specifying? Does it stand the test of real life use?
Adaptive Crusie control.
The ACC on the ATS is quite cool. A nice digital display of the set speed - and best of all when you change gear the system re-engages automatically. Then there's the adaptive bit, it will slow down (applying the brakes if necessary) if the car in front slows, or gets too close. You can set the system to how close you want to follow the car in front - there are three settings, Audi A5 (with LED DRLs) style, Accord style, and old man in E Class style. I first tried the system on a winding A road behind a line of traffic, and it was quite impressive, keeping the Accord with the traffic nice and smoothly. But then to the real test - 0330 on the M1. The snag is this - you're pootling along at 70 in lane 2 with the lorries in lane 1 doing 56. Then one pulls out and just as you are starting to move into lane 3 the ACC sees the lorry and slams the brakes on. Not what you need. And there's the rub - you can't turn the radar bit off. So in the end, I didn't use it.
This is a clever system that steers the car by looking at the white lines and keeping you in the middle of the lane (by small adjustments to the steering, which you can feel). You carry on steering as normal; in fact if you don't make a steering input for about 20 seconds then the system beeps and disconnects. If you want to change lane, when you indicate it disables the system until you are in the new lane, and it shows it has re-engaged by the white line symbols on the dash becoming solid. If you don't indicate you get some resistance in the steering as you head towards the white line followed by a beep and orange warning to wake you up. So far so good. But driving with it on is a bit like driving on a rutted road. The car sort of tramlines as the steering moves in your hand. And it's not that accurate - it has a tendency to weave slightly from the left of the lane to the right and back again, or it will hug one side of the lane. You run the risk of being pulled over for a breath test. After a few hours switching between on and off, I found it less effort to go with it off.
But... I imagine that there will be those who will engage LKAS and ACC on the motorway while they need two hands to attack the Ginsters BLT.
This detects imminent frontal doom. It is on the whole time and if it thinks you are heading for an impact it firsts beeps, then yanks your seatbelt and then slams on the brakes to reduce the speed before impact. As I managed not to crash the Honda UK test car, I have little to report. I did get it to beep once, by whizzing up behind a lorry before overtaking at the beginning of a dual carriageway. I took the lesson like a man and humbly accept that I was maybe a bit too keen with the overtake, and I promise not to do it again. All in all, a worthwhile safety feature.
Overall: I wouldn't go out of the way to spend the money on this option, but it felt good knowing the CMBS was there.
Value for money
The key is that this car comes with all the toys and luxuries. Looking at the car configurators on the internet, we can spec up some of the competition to ATS level and see how it comes out:
- A 320d M sport saloon (177 bhp) with the same equipment as the Accord costs £33,470. Cramp-tastic!
- The 316d ES with a sadly-not-a-misprint 116 bhp, again specced up to Accord Type S standard, will cost you £30,315.
- A booted Mondeo 2.2 (177 bhp) Titanium X will cost you £29,170.
- The rattly Lexus IS 220d SE-L is better value than the BMW and Ford at £27,560.
- A 2.0d (160 PS) Vauxhall Insignia with the options and "styling pack" (to make it like the Type S) is £27,165. You may even get a free VXR cap to wear backwards.
- The Accord Type S (OTR) is £26,920. Hello?
I'm not even going to look at Audis, because we are looking at cars that are good to drive.
Razor sharp handling
Powerful, and grunty
Light and accurate controls
Smooth, quiet and refined nearly all the time
Only reasonably economical for the performance
Not perfect on the motorway
Not available in black
Me - I'd have one in a flash. Polished Metal Metallic, with no safety package. Why are the roads not stuffed full with these cars?
Finally, some photos.
07 Sport GT vs 09 Type S:
Some exterior shots: