- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2002

Agility and performance are only two of the assets exhibited in the 2003 Accord.

It is the mainstay of the Honda lineup and has sold a consistent 400,000 vehicles each year for the past 10 years. So do not think for one minute that Honda is going to make radical changes to the Accord.

As the Accord's executive chief engineer Charlie Baker pulled the wraps off the 2003 Accord he said, "We wanted to give customers what they expect of Accord, but we also wanted to surprise them." The Accord continues to resemble previous models, but the 2003 model takes on a new sleeker look. Doing so has improved aerodynamics, lowering the drag coefficient to .030.

I am not going to tell that you I follow Mr. Baker's line that this new design reminds me of the cheetah Honda says it used as an inspiration. But his comparison of the curves of the front fenders to the cat's massive muscles seemed appropriate. I love the way the curves flow in and out along the fender.

The double contours of the fenders are a work of art. All this begins with a convex curve at the top of the headlights running rearward, transforming into a concave curve at the top of the fender. As the lines of the fender flow rearward, they return to convex as they transition to the "A" pillar in a manner that makes light dance off these contours in different directions. The making of this fender had to have been incredibly complex but worth the effort. These complex curves make a subtle statement about the Accord and the whole package. Triangular headlight assemblies similar to those of the S2000 sports roadster and a Honda-style grille accent the new Accord front end.

The interior is a mixture of the innovative, and tried-and-true Honda style. Again Mr. Baker explains, "I can sell this car with just the front seat." Meaning that the redesigned front seats are so exceptional in their comfort and support that once you experience their comfort you will be sold on the rest of the car. The seats were certainly comfortable, but it takes the whole package to impress me into considering parking it in my garage. It takes an entire vehicle working in harmony before it gets my acceptance. And the new Accord does just about everything better than well.

Mr. Baker explained how the design of these seats is so revolutionary. The bottom cushion springs are designed to place the tailbone in the proper position, which makes the rest of the body follow to remain in the appropriate position. Drivers tend to slump down in the seat the longer they drive. This seat, by positioning the tailbone correctly, reduces fatigue and may improve our posture. The side bolsters are firm without being overly rigid so they remain comfortable.

The way in which Honda uses light-emitting-diode lighting in the instrument panel makes the interior more inviting. It lights up in stages. Unlock the door, the gauges glow dimly; insert the ignition key and the instruments light up. As you start the engine, the needles light in a glowing red in contrast with the white-on-black gauges. They dim in an opposite way as you follow the shutdown procedure.

The 2003 Accord seems larger from the passenger compartment, but the wheelbase has increased by just an inch. The reconfiguration has improved rear-seat room, plus it makes the passenger space seem quite large. The suspension has been reworked as has the steering, resulting in precise and agile handling.

The new Accord is much more balanced, poised and responsive. The V-6 engine has a whopping increase of 40 horsepower while becoming more miserly with a gallon of gasoline.

Going on past sales records, the four-cylinder engine appears as though it will remain the most popular engine of choice. Although, the performance numbers from the V-6 make it the enthusiast's choice. It sure would be mine.

There is no doubt that the stiff competition between Camry and Accord will continue. However, Honda seems to be quite happy to just keep on year after year maintaining a sales level of 400,000 Accords and letting the chips fall where they may.

I think deep down, however, in every Honda executive's heart is the desire to have the Accord continue to be the top-selling vehicle it has been in nine of the past 10 years. With the performance, styling and agility exhibited by the 2003 Accord, it seems they are on their way to make that 10 out of 11.


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