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2005 Honda Accord Hybrid 

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San Francisco: If you think hybrid cars are tiny or weak, the Honda Accord Hybrid is here to prove you wrong. Itís actually more powerful than the normal V6-powered model, and has fuel mileage numbers 33 percent better.

Honda first introduced hybrid technology with the tiny Insight. This aerodynamic econocar was meant to deliver the absolute best possible mileage, so it was built with expensive and lightweight materials, had fender skirts for reduced wind resistance, and, of course, carried only two people. It appealed only to the most fervent save-the-earth extremists, who were willing to sacrifice power, practicality, and room for their overriding goal of superior fuel efficiency. You can still get one, in blue, red, or silver.

Then, in 2002, Honda put the same Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system into the compact Honda Civic four-door sedan. This time, it was hard to even tell if the car was a hybrid, with subtle badging and grille changes were the only visible changes. The biggest change was in the higher price. The mileage was good, if not as spectacular as the Insightís.

Now, Hondaís hybrid system is available in a potent V6-powered midsize car - the Accord - one of Americaís favorite rides. The 3.0-liter V6 puts out 255 horsepower to the regular models 240. The car flies down the road just like a non-hybrid. And fuel economy is much improved, with EPA ratings of 29 City, 37 Highway.

The best thing about this car, besides the mileage, is that it is loaded with all the wonderful trimmings that make a good car even better. The exquisitely detailed interior exudes an upscale feeling, with leather on the seats, door panels, and steering wheel. Very attractive burl wood trim in my test car (was it real?) presented a posh gloss. The turn lever clicks gently like a master watchmaker carefully built it. Perhaps because the Hybrid is a $30,000 car, Honda felt it should feel like one.

The Hybridís IMA system works like other Honda hybrids. It uses the electric motor next to the engine to kick in power as needed. Its battery recharges by recapturing kinetic energy through the electronic transmission

When ever the car is braking. Hondaís Variable Cylinder Management technology deactivates some cylinders in the engine when they are not needed during steady cruising, saving more fuel. The car goes into

AUTOSTOP mode at stops, and then automatically restarts when you touch the gas pedal. What the car does not do is run only on the electric motor.

The Accord Hybrid uses Active Noise Control to quell sounds coming from outside the cabin. I was astounded at how quiet the car was, it really felt like a $50,000 car on the open road.

The IMA system works automatically, but you can monitor it via the special instrument panel. Integrated into the gauges is a modest display that shows when the electric motor is working (blue lines) and when the battery is recharging (green lines). You can also check how full the electric motors battery is. The Variable Cylinder Management may work silently, but when the ECO light goes on, you know youíre saving fuel. The goal is to avoid stomping on the gas and lowering your mileage.

You can set each of the two trip odometers separately, and each has its own fuel economy number. I zeroed one out to test for the entire week, and then used the second one to check out different trips. I averaged 23.7 mpg overall, somewhat disappointing, but I did have a figure of 29.6 one day on a lucky, unobstructed 20-mile trip to work.

My car had Hondaís navigation system with voice recognition. Accurately touching an exact spot on the screen was a little dicey, but it was otherwise easy to use. The navigation system adds $2,000 to the price of the car, which, for some people, would surely be worth it.

Besides showing maps and directions, the screen displays audio information and mileage data. That was especially handy because my car also contained XM Radio, with its 100 CD quality channels. Again, the only drawbacks I found, other than Channel 6 (the Sixties station) reawakening my fantasies of flower power, were the way the system truncated the names of the songs (sometimes hilariously), and the momentary cutouts under overpasses.

My Desert Mist Metallic (tan) car looked especially elegant with its 16-inch alloys, which are special for the Hybrid model. Other than that, the badging, and a subtle spoiler, there were no signs that this car was a hybrid. Thatís what Honda believes people want.

My tester came in at $32,505, including destination charges. That makes the EX model with standard V6, at $26,700, seem like an incredible deal. The most basic Accord, the four-cylinder DX, starts at just $16,195.

Hybrids deliver fuel savings, at some cost for the advanced technology. But until hydrogen or super batteries or magic magnets give us a better power source, any way to cut fuel consumption is a good one, and we should expect to see more and more hybrid vehicles in the future.  By Steve Schaefer  © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name: 
 Honda Hybrids deliver fuel savings by advanced technology
 The 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid
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The 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid
Photo Credits:  
Honda Internet Media
Series #:   2005 - 08

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