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Honda Accord V6


The targets are obvious to any manufacturer coming on to the New Zealand market with a big, moderately big-engined car.

Put simply, the targets are the big car kings, the Holden Commodore and the Ford Falcon.

Mitsubishi with its Diamante and Nissan with its Maxima have been sniping away at the two big Aussies for years. The two Japanese V6s have offered increasing performance to take on the larger-capacity Holden V6 and Ford inline six.

They've been joined in the battle in recent years by Toyota's ill-starred Avalon.

If television advertising were to have any real effect, the Avalon would have succeeded - after all as it drove down the street in the TV advert, it knocked the mirrors off parked Falcons and Commodores.

It didn't happen in real life, though. The big Toyota was expected to sell three-figure totals a month but struggled to crack double figures.

In truth it was too little - its V6 offered nothing over Toyota's own Camry V6, let alone the two Aussie sixes - and too late: the Australian-built Avalon used the bodyshell and styling from the then-recently-superseded US Avalon.

The Avalon had been a big success in the USA, but so too was the Ford Taurus V6 and we know how well that did here!

The only hint I saw that an Avalon may have been about the place was a taped-in-place right-hand exterior mirror on an especially-dilapidated Falcon taxi.

Now Honda is tilting at the Aussie big sixes and like Toyota is doing it with an American-derived car.

Honda's offering, the Accord V6, is however as up-to-date as Toyota's Avalon was outmoded.

The Honda is a fine-looking car. It's also finely-appointed, especially in leather-trimmed V6L form and keenly priced at $42,000 for the L.

You can option the V6L with a sports spoiler body kit for an extra $2800 or as a Mugen (after the famed Honda tuning house) for an all-up price of $50,500. The Mugen has a distinctive body kit, 17-inch alloy wheels with 215/45 tyres and a more raucous sports-style exhaust system.

The Accord's 3.0-litre V6 pumps out strong maximum power of 177kW at a lofty 6000rpm in true high-revving Honda style.

Peak torque of 287Nm, arrives only 1000rpm lower in the rev range.

The output compares more than favourably with the Holden Commodore 3.8-litre V6's. The naturally-aspirated GM six develops 152kW.

The Holden has more torque - 305Nm - developed at a more user-friendly 3600rpm.

Honda's V6 is a four-valve-per-cylinder single overhead camshaft unit which uses a drive-by-wire throttle.

The American-derived Accord is big - 4830mm long to the Commodore's 4891mm; 1820mm wide to the Holden's 1842mm; 1455m high to the Commodore's 1425mm.

Its wheelbase of 2740mm compares with the Commodore's 2788mm.

So the Honda is pretty close to the money as a genuine big car.

At 1510kg, the Honda's kerb weight is a significant 63kg lower than the Holden's.

So its power-to-weight ratio is better.

On paper things are looking good for the Accord.

They're not bad on the road either.

The engine is as silky-smooth as it is free-revving; and is quiet and refined.

The Buick-derived Holden V6 has never been particularly refined, especially when it's working at high revs when it becomes raucous.

The Honda unit is unobtrusive and whisper quiet in most running, delightfully cammy-sounding at high revs.

You can perhaps understand why Honda NZ is offering the more aggressive-sounding Mugen exhaust system. You can hardly hear the V6 in standard form.

The 177kW and 287Nm give good acceleration, especially when the revs rise into the critical power and torque zones.

But it's the motor's smoothness and quietness at open road speeds that impress most about the Honda V6.

The five-speed automatic gearbox shifts unobtrusively and adds to the feeling of silkiness. It kicks down instantly and without fuss and even under hard acceleration retains a smoothly upshifting nature.

The cabin is well appointed and the leather-trimmed seats are comfortable, though passengers and driver would appreciate greater lateral support if the car is pushing-on on winding roads.

Handling is a little on the soft side for my taste. The Accord V6 turns-in to corners eagerly enough but overall there's a little too much understeer and a general feeling of softness and imprecision.

Drivers used to the generally tauter and crisper Commodore and Falcon - especially the latter in BA form - would be unconvinced.

Pushed hard on bumpy roads, the Accord V6 makes moderate use of its standard traction control system as either of the front wheels loses grip momentarily.

The Honda's roadholding is good and ride comfort is high.

Noise levels are especially low and road noise is well-muted even on harsh chip surfaces. In this respect we felt it was much better than the 2004 model Maximas we drove briefly on the Nissan's media launch. Cruising on the motorway the only noise you get in the Honda's roomy cabin is wind noise - and that's well-muted.

The V6L is well-equipped. To the leather trim and alloy wheels add a six-disc, six-speaker Compact Disc audio system with excellent sound; electrically-adjustable driver's seat and exterior mirrors; power windows; central door-locking with keyless entry; woodgrain interior trim; dual zone climate-control air-conditioning, and an exceptionally roomy, easy-to-load boot.

The Accord V6 is a good, front-wheel drive big car even if its handling is a little soft for our tastes.

It's a true rival for other Japanese front-drive V6s like the Maxima and Diamante.

But we don't see it as a real rival for the less powerful Commodore V6 or the Ford Falcon. Though the same applies to the Nissan, Mitsubishi and Toyota offerings.

The rear-wheel drive Aussie big sixes and the front-drive Japanese V6s are as different as chalk and cheese.

And that's becoming increasingly-evident at a time when even the softest of the Ford and Holdens - the Fairmont and the Calais - are being reinvented as more refined sports sedans with significantly tauter suspensions than their predecessors.

The handling and dynamic gulf between them and softer set-up cars like the Accord V6 and newly-introduced 2004 Maxima is only growing greater.

Instead we think the Accord V6 should be judged against its real peers and rivals - the Diamante, Maxima and lack-lustre Avalon. Then it emerges as a supremely-refined long-distance express and plush commuter par excellence.

On brief acquaintance I'd give the Nissan the dynamic edge, but the Accord is the more refined.

It really is a whispering giant and probably the quietest car we've tested in recent memory.

And at $42,000 - and Honda's guarantee of a no-haggle, no-discount retail price - it's outstanding value for money.

Story by Mike Stock. Photographs by Honda.

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