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Sun 24 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Going for big numbers

Forget the economy modes, this V6 Accord is up for burning rubber, finds Shahzad Sheikh.

Forget the economy modes, this V6 Accord is up for burning rubber, finds Shahzad Sheikh.

The accord is a big seller in the region, making up for over half of all Hondas sold here. The manufacturer is determined to make it even bigger, projecting sales of 90,000 by year 2010 - double last year's sales. So the new eighth generation Accord has to embody not only Honda's much-admired traditional traits of reliability and dependability, but also a hefty helping of showroom appeal and driver desirability combined with kit and refinement.

Firstly let's get the looks out of the way. It stands out from the crowd a lot better than the anonymous previous version and appears best in light colours, with a steeply raked waistline that accentuates the new car's longer length. The front of the car is handsome with a jutting lower spoiler and angular lines, but then as you run your eyes along the car, the creases become curves and you end up with a rounded off posterior that is very Germanic.

Frankly speaking, Honda could do better, a lot better. But clearly going for the common denominator, the designers have plumped for safe conservative, rather than radical cool. Shame that.

Inside the build quality could again shame German rivals, and there's vast room for front and especially rear passengers with tons of kit (yet no external temperature indicator or trip computer on the range-topping EX tested).

A smaller than the norm steering wheel does intrigue, and hints at sporty undertones. The 271bhp 3.5-litre V6 also bodes well. To save fuel it can go into four- or even three-cylinder mode when cruising with little more than an ‘ECO' light on the dash to tell you it's at work. There's even a clever noise cancellation system to reduce the muffled sounds of unused cylinders.

But don't let this talk of economy modes put you off. This is an incredibly eager and torquey unit. Get this, you'll get wheel spin from rest with the traction control on, and with it off this family saloon will lay down two long streaks of black on the tarmac, and even squeal on upchange to second, despite the quick-changing five-speed auto's ‘suppressed shift shock' system. Frankly the sheer performance is a most unexpected hoot.

My only moan is that the rather mundane looking shifter should be replaced with a good sequential changer to really exploit the performance. A sweet Honda manual 'box would be even better.

Turn-in is a tad lazy, this is clearly a nose-heavy car, but once you're into the corner, it's capable and entertaining with good carry-through speed, should you want to punch it out of the turn - and you will, with the VSA off. Of course driving this way will mean frequent front tyres changes.

In this guise the Accord presents a formidable case for itself and overlaps significantly into the Executive and Sports saloon sectors. No wonder Honda has set itself bold targets.

Need to knowPrice:$32,600

Engine:3471cc V6 i-VTEC, 271bhp @ 6200rpm, 250lb ft @ 5000rpm

Transmission:Five-speed auto, front-wheel drive

Performance:6.9sec 0-100kph, 210kph (estimated)

On sale:Now

Rating:4/5

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