The 2018 Honda Accord is about to hit just as regulatory requirements for fuel efficiency are rising and the price of fuel is dropping. And while political agendas are in constant flux, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for automakers are currently set to increase by approximately 10 mpg over the next 8 years. Those standards have forced every car company to rethink its drivetrain approach, with many leaning on smaller-displacement engines and turbochargers to balance performance with fuel-efficiency needs.
Honda’s latest drivetrain approach reflects this larger industry trend. The company recently let us experience its next-generation Accord at its R&D center in Japan. The 2018 Honda Accord, debuting as a fully redesigned model later this year, will no longer offer a V6 engine. Instead, it will be powered by either a 1.5- or 2.0-liter engine, both of them turbocharged 4-cylinders. The larger 2.0-liter engine will be paired with an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission, though the smaller 1.5-liter engine will stick with the current Accord’s continuously variable transmission (CVT). Both will also offer a 6-speed manual transmission.
We only drove the 2.0-liter, 10-speed version of the 2018 Accord at Honda’s facility, and we’re happy to report it lives up to the previous V6 in terms of balance and refinement, while surpassing it with regard to performance. The engine features a host of advanced technologies to maximize the turbo’s power and efficiency. These include an electrically controlled wastegate, an intercooler, a water cooling channel near the upper cylinders and comprehensive weight-reduction efforts.
These elements, combined with engine tuning for high torque at low RPM and the new 10-speed transmission, give the 2018 Accord immediate and rapid thrust, even at low speeds with moderate throttle input. With 10 speeds to choose from, the transmission can make the most of the 2.0-liter’s torque curve, returning consistent full-throttle acceleration from zero to 80 mph as we circled Honda’s test track. Better still is the engine’s smooth, refined nature due to the lightweight rotating components and secondary balance shaft. This lets the new Accord maintain its placid demeanor versus the buzzy, high-strung personality one might expect from such a powerful 4-cylinder.
Honda hasn’t released horsepower, torque or fuel efficiency numbers for the new Accord yet, but based on our driving experience (and government regulations), we’re confident it will meet or beat the current V6 Accord in each area. The real question is: How will fuel economy hold up in real-world driving versus the EPA’s test cycle? We’ve seen other vehicles successfully improve their fuel efficiency EPA ratings with smaller engines and turbochargers, but many of them can’t maintain those mpg figures in practical everyday use. If the new 2018 Honda Accord can deliver the acceleration we experienced along with higher mpg in real-world conditions, it will be a powerful player in the highly competitive midsize sedan category.