Accord hybrid the best one yet
CARLSBAD, Calif. — Each new gas-electric hybrid model leapfrogs previous ones in refinement, power, familiarity. Predictably, then, Honda's 2005 Accord hybrid is the best so far, by far.
The Accord hybrid, not on sale until December though gas-power '05 Accords are already at dealers, can claim several firsts or bests.
It has the biggest gas engine — a 3-liter V-6 — yet mated to an electric motor to create a hybrid. It's the first hybrid more powerful than the gas-engine equivalent: 255 horsepower vs. the gas V-6's 240 hp. It's the first hybrid that shuts down half the engine's cylinders under light load to save even more gas.
And it's the first that drives so conventionally that you honestly wouldn't know if somebody didn't tell you, or you didn't spot the small "hybrid" badges.
One reason the Accord hybrid has such an easy familiarity is that it uses a conventional automatic transmission instead of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) that Toyota and Ford favor for hybrids. The normal feel of the Honda gearbox is a welcome respite from the rev-happy CVTs.
The Accord hybrid's only significant drawback is price, about $3,400 more than the similar gasoline model, which is more or less typical of hybrid pricing. Honda says the Accord hybrid will be about $30,000, offered only as a high-end EX model, luxed up with leather and such.
Honda's hybrid system — IMA, for integrated motor assist — always uses the gas engine, then kicks in the electric motor for more power when needed. Toyota and Ford do the opposite, relying on the electric motor as long as possible, then starting the gas engine when needed.
Honda's IMA hybrids typically get better fuel economy on the highway, as conventional gas engines do. Toyota and Ford systems are better in town.
Interior of the Honda Accord Hybrid.