Reviewing a midsize sedan is typically as thrilling as talking about a Kitchen Aid blender. So I couldn't muster much excitement for the innocuous 2013 Honda Accord V-6, especially when compared to its sleeker competition like 2014 Mazda6, Ford Fusion—or pretty much any midsize besides the polarizingly dull Toyota Camry. Fortunately, there's more to the new V-6 Accord than unflappable reliability and volume sales.
The 2013 Accord strikes a similar profile to the previous generation, but trimmer and smarter. The jutting front overhang is dialed back, contributing to an overall length that's shorter by four inches. The side profile apes the BMW 3-Series with the Hoffmeister-esque C-pillar kink, and the front and rear design echoes the look of the sixth generation model. It won't dazzle urban jetsetters or budding marketing execs, but I've had people complement the car. Sit inside and the all-business interior won't quicken your pulse; with the phony silver metal trim inspired by an old Nokia cell phone, it looks like yesteryear's Korean luxury sedan.
But Honda's mainstay midsize goes against the form-over-function trend that most automakers offer, and that's refreshing. The windows sit low and the greenhouse offers a wide vista, unlike others that have the visibility of a medieval murder hole. Sure I'd prefer the Aston-Jag style of the beautiful Ford Fusion, but then again Honda doesn't skimp on rear headroom. It's utilitarian to the core, and for those that want a no-nonsense family hauler, that's key.
Although the Accord's as seductive as a Maytag fridge, it would be a mistake to dismiss the sedan as something only the non-enthusiast masses want. Driving dynamics have been a hallmark of Honda, and diehard Accord fans (a rare breed, admittedly) have lambasted the switch from the double-wishbone setup up front to MacPherson struts, but the Accord drives like a luxury sedan double its price. The road feels as though it's been overlaid with velvet, and the Accord scrubs out the high-frequency, low-amplitude bumps with German efficiency. Its stout chassis is Audi-like in rigidity, and leaves cars like the rickety Chevrolet Malibu far behind.
Honda has long resisted direct-injected engines, and as the 278-horsepower V-6 shows, it was well worth the wait. Friends that first sat in the Accord thought the car was a hybrid—at speeds below 15 mph, it's almost imperceptibly quiet. At low speeds engine vibration is non-existent, adding to the premium feel. Like other Hondas, the throttle tip-in and overall response feels natural—having none of the miserly throttle-mapping seen in other mpg-conscious cars. On a 400-mile excursion from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back, it averaged between 32 and 34 mpg—even with holiday traffic jams and spirited driving.
Copious power aside, the touring trim Accord has no ambitions of tearing up a road track. The six-speed automatic transmission futzes through a couple gears when flooring it, and lacks the snappy downshift response of a Kia Optima. The weighted steering crisply and accurately responds to inputs, but has the tactile feedback of an old Buick. With the lack of flappy paddles on the steering column and the moderate body roll in corners, it's clearly meant to be a cruiser. Although you could get a Sport trim Accord, that comes with the weaker four-cylinder making 189 hp, leaving a gap for those that want a sporty V-6.
The touring trim does come with appreciable high-tech amenities, however. The blind spot rearview camera is a less intrusive alternative to the annoying (and increasingly common) A-pillar blind spot lights, which flash and glare at the corner of your eyes. But it's a strange omission to have the camera only on the passenger side. The Adaptive Cruise Control gently speeds up and down to the flow of traffic unlike the clumsier systems on some Acuras, which vacillate between the gas and brakes like a petrified Volvo soccer mom.
But maybe I was ready to embrace the suburban lifestyle, because after returning the car I surprisingly felt a sense of loss—even a longing—for its silky ride. As a family-hauling midsize, it's peerless in not only practicality, but engineering quality. If only the Accord had the style and character to match its luxurious underpinnings.