I Go to Texas With Honda, Part 3: Driving the 50 MPG Accord


50MPG Accord

Here it is, the revolutionary new for 2014, 50 MPG Accord Hybrid. Before we get too far into my driving impressions of the car, though, I want to make a few things clear. First, the new Accord hybrid is a revelation. Second, In-n-Out Burger is seriously overrated. It’s all about the vastly superior Whataburger, and that was the first stop I (and the similarly burger-wise Jeff Palmer, from Temple of VTEC) made in Honda’s newest toy.


At that point in the drive, the Whataburger manager rushing into the parking lot to ask us why we were taking pictures of the Whataburger was the most exciting thing about the drive. I was riding along in the passenger seat. The roads weren’t particularly twisty or elevation-change-y. The Accord was, from the front passenger seat, an Accord. It was excellent, in typical Honda, but it didn’t seem like the kind of thing you’d fly a dozen journalists out to a swanky hotel to ooh and aah over, you know?

I was about to express something along those lines to my eager pilot, in fact, when the roads started to get twisty, and some kind of sick change came over him. Out of nowhere, he decides he’s some long-lost Andretti Earnhardt Senna heir, and we are screaming into corners – which are clearly marked “35” – at almost 70 mph. I know how fast we were going, because I was afraid, the tires were howling, and I pulled the bitch move of looking at the speedometer.

“It’s not me,” said Jeff, noticing my- let’s call it “anxiety”. “It’s the car!”

“Sure it is,” I thought. Still, I stayed mostly quiet about the speed we were carrying into corners, thinking about how I’d been on racetracks with guys named Andretti, Kendall, and Frentzen (among others) at seriously Serious speeds, and how I was going to die in the middle of Texas because some frustrated race-car-driver-turned-blogger wanted to see how the new Accord Hybrid compared to the S2000.

We drove until we saw the giant armadillo …

armadillo art

… then switched seats.

I spent some time adjusting the Honda Accord’s driver’s seat. Height, seat angle, steering wheel – they’re all adjustable. I made sure I could see out the mirrors, and I took a quick inventory of the dash. Big speedo. No tach. Looking down, I saw “P R N D B” in the console. I drove around a bit in “D”, like a good little auto-journo, until we pulled into a Honda-designated checkpoint at a golf course, where Jeff got out to snap some pics of the car.

“What’s ‘B mode’?” I asked Jeff, now happily buckled into the passenger seat.

“Braking,” he explained. “It uses the engine and electric motors to slow the car down and charge the batteries. Put it in ‘B’, that’s what I was using.”

Fair enough. We pulled out onto the twisty, hilly roads outside of San Antonio in a 50 MPG Honda Accord Hybrid, and I immediately started speeding.

I couldn’t help it.

It was the car.

“Damn!” I said, whooshing through another corner way too easily.

Jeff just nodded.

In “D”, the car feels limp and stupid. Avoid D.

In “B” mode, with an almost 1:1 connection between your foot and the Accord’s speed, it’s perfect. Understand, too, as you read all this, that I am supremely jaded when it comes to “sporty” cars. I ride motorcycles. In addition, over the last 15-16 years I’ve been driving Moslers, Ferraris, AMG Mercedes, Corvettes, Lamborghinis, Porsches, and (of course) 1000+ HP Nissan GTRs fairly regularly. None of them were as bonehead simple to make go fast in real-world conditions as the Honda. None of them were as smooth, and – with the exception of a particularly eager blue Mosler Raptor maybe a dozen years ago – none of those cars actually made me smile.

I also know that there are “B” modes in cars like the Toyota Camry Hybrid, which also use engine braking- but those engines are connected to the wheels with a CVT.

This new Honda is different. Its engine is directly connected to the drive wheels with clutches that use variable input from the electric motors to make up for the lack of torque multiplication at low revs. I’ll cover that in my next Honda Accord Hybrid article, though – all you need to know is this: the 50 MPG Accord Hybrid drives exactly, precisely, and inimitably like a slot-car.

Want to slow down? Back off the gas pedal. In my tester, backing off hauled the car down from 50-ish mph to 20-ish quickly enough to make braking through the twisty roads optional. Even in stop-and-go, there was almost no coasting. Give it a bit of gas, it rolled forward slowly. Take your foot off, and the car stopped. Go into a corner too hot? Back off the gas. Tires still quiet mid-corner? Give it a bit more … now, maybe a bit more. I SAID GIVE IT MORE, DAMMIT!! All of that, and we never – no matter how we pushed the car in B mode – saw MPG drop below 46.

Most of the time, we saw more than 60 mpg.

All that said, the only thing this new Accord Hybrid needs to be the perfect everyday car is a set of tasteful-looking performance wheels to replace the factory hubcap simulators and a set of grippy tires to replace the low-rolling resistance nonsense the cars were saddled with during our test drive. Make that swap, paint the thing mouse gray, and you’d have a perfect high-speed Q-ship to blast down the highway with.

“That’s what we wanted,” said Art St. Cyr, head of Honda’s motorsports program and one of the company execs on-hand at the event. “We wanted it to be a hybrid and we wanted to hit a number (presumably, he meant that 50 MPG mark), but we wanted it to be fun.”

Based on my experience driving Honda’s gas-powered V6 coupe version of the Accord (with the 6-speed manual), as well as the 4 and 6-cylinder gas versions (also on hand) I think Art’s nailed it. The 50 mpg Accord Hybrid is the best Honda Accord. It’s the most fun Accord you can buy – and also the most expensive. But, hey- you get what you pay for, right?


Original content from Gas 2.

About the Author

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.
  • anderlan

    50MPG: eco-hot.
    Goes fast and gropes the road: performance-hot.
    Does this in what seems like 1 gear by mixing ICE and e-motor power in brand new way that makes regular CVTs want to kill themselves: engineering-hot.

    I now understand the giant BUY IT NOW watermark. Must definitely test drive.

    • You nailed it. They nailed it. If it had a 3-pointed star on the hood it would cost twice as much and couldn’t possibly be better. Definitely drive one. In B mode.

      In “D” the car is limp and stupid … 😉

  • jameskatt

    This is a fantastic car. Thanks for the review. The Honda Accord Hybrid 2014 is not only inexpensive, it is both economical and fun to drive. You can finally have your cake and eat it too. Wow. Thanks Honda.

    If only they can come up with a wagon version of this. Or a Civic version of this.

    This hybrid engine and drive-train is absolutely fantastic.

    For the Honda NSX, just give it a bigger engine and a bigger electric motor. It can use a similar motor to that of the Tesla Sedan – 400+ HP, tons of torque.

    Honda is now back in the game.

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  • Chris Morrone

    Toyota’s “hybrid synergy drive” does not use a traditional transmission either. The Prius uses an Atkinson cycle engine paired with two electric motors through a planetary gear set. The power from the different components is controlled by a large electronic control system. For lack of a better term, Toyota calls this an “e-CVT”.

    An e-CVT is _not_ at all like a normal physical CVT. I think that is the mistake made in this article. The Camry hybrid is _not_ using a normal CVT. It uses an e-CVT.

    From other sources, it sounds like this new Honda full hybrid system also uses an Atkinson cycle engine paired with two electric motors, very much like the Prius and full hybrids from Ford.

    While Honda’s new system may be very nicely put together, it hardly seems like the first of its kind.

    • Correct, but the Toyota does use the same kind of eCVT that Honda’s eCVT is. It’s just a term they all use, and it’s not being “policed”. From everything I read and saw, it was a much more conventional layout than what you get in the Accord and is remarkably different in feel when driven back to back. Still, I’d like to give the Toyota another chance- I reached out the them, we’ll see what they say!

  • GregS

    This drive train could finally get Americans to love Hybrids.

    • You have no idea. Go drive it- you’ll like it.

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  • DWilson

    I have the PHEV version, get about 100 mpg, have driven 16K miles with 120 gallons of fuel. 180 horse power is enough for most freeway driving.

  • AaronD12

    Buy it now because Honda just discontinued it……….