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Honda Accord V6 VL

 

Smart, spacious and designed for drivers who won't accept bland

Welcome to the flight deck. This is your captain speaking… The V6 Accord’s bulging dash is almost as coated in buttons and dials as an airliner’s. But though it’s superficially complicated, it’s well set up and easy to use.

Bit like the whole car, really. Where its predecessor was so bland it disappeared into the wallpaper, this Accord is in-your-face in a chunky and ever-so-slightly over-designed way. It’s the automotive equivalent of a power suit – big shoulder pads, aggressive trouser creases, and a caricature profile that lacks the smooth elegance of an Armani but certainly makes a statement.

Actually, it makes more than one – but in these days of rising fuel prices the most important is rather subtle. Yes, there’s a 3.5-litre engine with a rather useful 202kW at 6200rpm and 340Nm at 5000rpm. But it’s not as thirsty as expected as it deactivates cylinders when the ECU decides they’re not needed.

If you give it welly, all six will fire for maximum mumbo. When cruising at high speed, or accelerating gently, it drops one per bank. And whenever the revs are low – when you’re trailing the throttle, for example – it’ll drop all three cylinders on one side.

You’d think it’d lurch like a pitbull on a chain as cylinders cut in and out, but in real world conditions it’s impossible to tell what’s happening, when. The change from six to four to three and back is seamless – only the green ‘eco’ light on the dash tells you the engine is slurping more frugally. Shame this VL-spec car doesn’t have the full-function trip to tell you how much 91-octane you’re burning, as official fuel test methods don’t show the system off at its best. Still, the ADR claim of 10l/100km isn’t bad for a car of this size (0.1 over a similarly-specced Toyota Aurion and 0.5 less than the 4.0-litre five-speed FG Falcon, though Honda insists it doesn’t have the Falcondores in its sights).

The news gets better if you drive it. Given the editor’s too much of a tightwad to give me a fuel card, I borrowed Honda’s own 7.5l/100km figure for an Auckland-to-Taupo return drive. That involved more open-roading than the official ‘overall’ test, and Honda doesn’t publish extra-urban figures to compare, but 7.5 isn’t bad for a car this size.

Also not bad is this large and not especially sporting front-drive sedan’s predictable handling, though I found the suspenders overly soft. There’s more body roll than I’d like, however well controlled, and hitting a normally innocuous bump at high speed – don’t try this at home, folks – resulted in a bowel-loosening moment as all four tyres briefly lost contact, marked by a blaze of warning lights as the dampers firmly hauled it all in almost as if nothing had happened.

Indeed it’s a smooth operator all round, with stability control and a barrage of airbags standard, vibration control measures aplenty, and even active noise cancellation, or so they say – it sounded just as expected to me, but there we go.

Overall? This Accord V6 VL is smart, spacious, well set up, generously-featured and designed to appeal to drivers who don’t want excitement, but won’t accept bland.

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