It hasn’t been all that long since Bentley launched its latest third-generation Continental GT, but they’re already showing us what’s possibly in store for the not too distant future.
The new EXP 100 GT Concept “reimagines the Grand Tourer for the world of 2035,” states Bentley in a press release, the swoopy new design exercise boasting a large grille surrounded by big circular headlights, a long elegant hood, a two-door coupe body style with a sweptback roofline, much like the current Continental GT, but the prototype’s grille is illuminated almost as brightly as the dazzling headlamps, its eye-shaped taillights are reminiscent of today’s GT albeit much larger and detailed in OLEDs, and its hind end protrudes much farther rearward than anything we’ve seen from Bentley since the 1950s-era R-Type Continental.
Today’s Continental GT uses a lot of aluminum highlighted with carbon-fibre in some trims, but the EXP 100 GT is mostly carbon-fibre and aluminum, while its uniquely sculpted body panels come coated in “paint made from recycled rice husks,” adds Bentley. It no doubt takes a lot of rice husks to cover 5.8 metres (19.0 feet) of car, not to mention 2.4 metres (7.9 feet) from side-to-side, but Bentley wasn’t about to make a small statement as part of its 100th anniversary celebrations.
Hence the “100” in the EXP 100 GT’s name, the automaker having come to life in North London during 1919.
“Today, on our Centenary, we demonstrate our vision of the future of our Marque, with the Bentley EXP 100 GT – a modern and definitive Grand Tourer designed to demonstrate that the future of luxury mobility is as inspirational and aspirational as the last 100 years,” said Bentley Chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark. “Bentley has, and will continue to enhance and enrich every single journey and the lives of every single person who travels in, or has the honour to be a part of creating our extraordinary products.”
As visually captivating as the EXP 100 GT is, there’s a lot more going on than just dramatic styling. Indeed, it represents much of the advanced ideas and ideals that Bentley hopes for its future. The car is all-electric, expected of future-think concept cars these days, although instead of the usual single battery and one or two electric motor combination the EXP 100 GT’s “Next Generation Traction Drive” system mounts a single electric motor in each of its four wheels, which provide electronic torque vectoring while combining for an astounding 1,100 pound-feet of torque (1,500 Nm).
Bentley claims standstill to 100km/h in “less than 2.5 seconds,” which is shockingly quick when factoring in just how big this car is. Some of this can be attributed to a relatively light curb weight of only 1,900 kg (4,189 lbs), which is a lot less than today’s Continental GT that hits the scales at 2,244 kg (4,947 lbs), much thanks to previously noted lightweight materials usage, while Bentley projects a maximum range of 700 km (435 miles), which would presuppose it wasn’t cruising at its 300 km/h (186 mph) top speed.
This impressive range and performance is due to “future battery technology” with “intelligent power and charge management,” says Bentley, which will provide “five times the conventional energy density,” thus recharging the battery from near empty to 80 percent in just 15 minutes. Incidentally, optimal charging gets taken care of automatically by the Bentley Personal Assistant, a bit of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) tech that acts like a personal valet for all EXP 100 GT occupants.
“The Bentley EXP 100 GT represents the kind of cars we want to make in the future,” commented Stefan Sielaff, Director of Design. “Like those iconic Bentleys of the past, this car connects with its passengers’ emotions and helps them experience and safeguard the memories of the really extraordinary journeys they take.”
Another high-tech advancement promised in the EXP 100 GT is autonomous self-driving ability, transforming this driver’s car into a commuter’s dream. It’s cabin is just as pampering as any current Bentley offerings, with amply sized seats for two or four, plus all the leather, fabrics, glass, wood and metal expected from one of the most luxurious brands the world has to offer.
This said, while Bridge of Weir once again provides the EXP 100 GT’s hides, they’re an alternative material made from 100-percent bio-based winemaking byproducts, whereas the embroidered door panels are recyclable too, and made by UK-based Hand and Lock employing “traditional techniques that date back to 1767 and are used on Royal and Military Dress uniforms.” What’s more, the car’s interfaces aren’t covered in glass, but rather Cumbrian crystal, while 5,000-year-old peat bog-, lake- and river-sourced Copper Infused Riverwood is used for the interior’s trim, along with real aluminum and copper, this last combo apparently paying homage to an alloy developed by W.O. Bentley for the BR1 Aero engine piston, which played a major aeronautical role during World War 1.
The mostly clear rooftop seen in photos is used for naturally harvested light, but the innovative roof also synthesizes light via “prisms that collect light and transfer it into the cabin using fibre optics.” At the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll want to remove your shoes and socks just to wiggle your toes within the deep British Farmed Wool carpets, while embroidered cotton interior surfaces add to the recycled and recyclable atmosphere, making the EXP 100 GT a rolling test bed of sustainability.
Additional tech includes seats that incorporate intelligent, adaptable three-way biometrics, with positions that depend on whether you’re doing the driving or being driven. Yet more biometric sensors monitor the automatic climate control system as well, plus the passengers’ positions, and the exterior environment’s conditions before providing ultimate comfort, while additional biometric sensors are embedded throughout the cabin in order to track eye and head movements, blood pressures, etcetera in order to deliver a level of in-car comfort that far exceeds anything Bentley, or anyone else, currently offers. The cabin is even capable of automatically aerating its atmosphere with a sandalwood and moss fragrance.
Whether we’ll be able to experience this particular Bentley coupe by 2035 or not can’t be known outside of Bentley’s inner circle, but we should remember that automaker’s have to plan their upcoming models decades into the future, so something quite similar may be in the books.
The EXP 100 GT is certainly a vision of distinctive beauty that should be welcomed by car enthusiasts of any era, and is much truer to Bentley’s brand heritage than the kind of electrified, autonomous, monobox SUV/MPV-thingy they’re more likely to offer in 15 years’ time. Until we find out what’s actually coming down the line, make sure to check out our complete gallery above and nice collection of videos below.
What’s the best-selling electric car of all time? That’s actually a pretty cut and dry question, but nevertheless it gets debated more often than it should be.
Some point to Tesla that’s made massive inroads into the EV market in recent years, but while the brand has racked up plenty of overall sales, no individual model has yet come out on top. Since the first Tesla Roadster went on sale in 2012 and calendar year 2018 came to a close on December 31, the U.S. all-electric brand had sold an approximate total of 532,000 units, which far and away makes it the most successful electric car producer, but despite reportedly receiving 325,000 reservations of the Model 3 after only a week of being unveiled in 2016, and that waiting list having grown to 455,000 units by August of 2017, the car’s actual deliveries hadn’t exceeded 238,000 by April 21, 2019, which while impressive for any startup automaker, is still far behind the real EV sales leader, Nissan and its much more plentiful Leaf.
Before we receive a slew of “What about the Toyota Prius?” questions in our inbox, take note the Prius isn’t really a full electric vehicle, but rather a hybrid that still relies on a regular gasoline-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) to get where it’s going.
Unlike a full EV, the Prius’ battery and electric motor supplements the ICE’s motive power, and can only be used for 100-percent electric mobility at low speeds (under 20 km/h) and short distances (such as in public parking garages). Toyota now produces a plug-in hybrid model named Prius Prime, which provides longer distances of all-electric use at higher speeds, but it hasn’t sold very strongly so far.
Alternatively, Nissan’s Leaf is a pure electric vehicle that totally relies on its battery and electric motor for motive power, so therefore needs to be regularly recharged from a home or public charging station, instead of refueled at a gas station like the Prius and other hybrids. Where the two iconic green cars enjoy similarities, however, is in their best-selling status, the Prius as the all-time leader amongst hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) and the Leaf as the undisputed electric vehicle (EV) champion. And yes, if you were wondering when we’d get to the Leaf’s total sales number, Nissan has sold and delivered more than 390,000 Leaf hatchbacks since it became available in 2010.
Making sure it maintains its leadership, Nissan now offers the 2019 Leaf with two power units, both of which are more formidable than the single battery/motor combination provided with last year’s model. As part of the 2019 model upgrade introduced halfway through 2018, Nissan gave its Leaf a new 40kWh Li-ion battery and uprated 110-kW (147-horsepower) electric motor, which was a 16kWh improvement over the old version. This meant that it could (and still can) travel up to 243 kilometres on a single charge compared to only 172 km with the previous model, a 69-km increase that made all the difference in the world. Still, not willing to rest on its laurels, the new Leaf Plus connects a 62-kWh battery to a 160 kW (214 hp) electric motor for an estimated 363-km of range.
“With the addition of LEAF PLUS, the Nissan LEAF is now available with two battery options and a choice of four trim levels – each featuring the many advanced technologies offered under the banner of Nissan Intelligent Mobility,” commented Steve Rhind, director of marketing, Nissan Canada Inc. in a press release.
To be clear, starting this April the 2019 Leaf is available in four trims instead of just three, but two of its previous trims are no longer available. The new base trim is the $40,698 Leaf SV, which is now followed by the $43,998 Leaf S Plus, the $46,598 Leaf SV Plus, and finally the $49,498 Leaf SL Plus, with a $1,950 destination charge added to all models.
The new base price is therefore $3,900 more expensive than the outgoing version, but this is due to the cancellation of regular Leaf S trim, which was priced at $36,798 through the last half of 2018 and calendar year 2019 thus far. What’s more, the regular Leaf SL, which added luxury features such as two-tone black and grey perforated leather and microfibre-like Bio Suede PET cloth upholstery, an Intelligent Around View Monitor, Driver Attention Alert, seven-speaker Bose premium audio, turn signal repeaters integrated within the side mirror caps, and more for $42,698, will no longer be available for order in Canada either (they’re both still offered in the U.S.), but you may be able to locate one or the other at a Nissan retailer.
Comparing apples to apples, the price difference between the regular Nissan Leaf and new Leaf Plus in SV trim, which are mostly similar, is $5,900, but take note that along with increased performance, 120 km (or about 50-percent) or so of added range, and an enhanced recharging system (keep reading), the Leaf Plus SV also includes a slightly reworked front fascia featuring special blue highlights, an “e+” logo plate on the lower portion of the charge port lid, and new rear badging (depending on trim level), while other standard enhancements include forward collision warning, Rear Door Alert (which warns if someone or something has been left in the rear seating area), and a 1.0-inch larger 8.0-inch centre touchscreen (a 7.0-inch touchscreen is standard and the old base 5.0-inch display has been discontinued).
Also notable, the infotainment systems found in both regular Leaf SV and Leaf S Plus base models now come standard with a navigation system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, satellite radio, etcetera, but only SV trims provide voice recognition, NissanConnect EV (that remotely connects the car to your smartphone), six audio speakers (instead of four), and more.
Additionally, the $3,300 more affordable Leaf SV adds 17-inch alloy wheels instead of the 16-inch alloys that come standard on the Leaf S Plus, as well as fog lights, an electronic parking brake (in place of a foot-operated parking brake), an auto-dimming centre mirror, a Homelink universal garage door opener, an eight-way power driver’s seat with two-way lumbar, a tonneau cover, and a bevy of advanced driver assistance features such as autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection (which basically includes the SV Plus model’s forward collision warning), auto high beams, dynamic cruise control with full speed range and hold, ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous self-driving, Steering Assist, blindspot warning, lane keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and more.
The menu of items just mentioned is also standard with the new Leaf SV Plus, while a shorter list of luxury features spoken of earlier in this story, when covering the now outgoing Leaf SL, is also pulled up to the new Leaf SL Plus model, albeit with a big $6,800 difference in price thanks to its performance and driving distance enhancements.
Now is probably an apropos opportunity to explain that plenty of electric vehicle owners consider range performance similarly to how conventional car buyers may be willing to ante up more for faster acceleration and better all-round handling. No matter which way you look at it, the two different Leaf models ensure “that there’s a Nissan LEAF to meet the driving needs of a wider range of customers,” as said in a press release.
Speaking of those who just want to take off a little quicker, despite weighing in at 1,737 kilograms (3,831 lbs) compared to 1,580 kg (3,483 lbs), the new Leaf Plus reduces sprint times by 13 percent over the regular Leaf, which will let its drivers “confidently pass slower-moving vehicles, exit corners faster and more seamlessly, and merge easily with fast-moving traffic,” says Nissan. Additionally, Nissan has given the new Leaf Plus and extra 10 percent more top speed, with more “comfortable cruising” capability being the target.
This being an electric vehicle, faster charging times will be an even greater reason to opt for the new Leaf Plus. Along with all the other upgrades, its new standard 100kW-capacity quick charging system allow for an 80-percent recharge within just 45 minutes (as per the Nissan Canada retail website). If the only option is a 75-kW DC quick charger it will only take another 5 minutes for a total of 50 minutes in order to reach that 80-percent goal, or alternatively 60 minutes is what’s needed when using a 50-kW DC quick charger. Of note, the regular Leaf requires approximately 40 minutes to achieve the same 80-percent charge with the 50-kW DC quick charger, but be forewarned that you can’t connect it to the 75-kW or 100-kW DC fast charging stations.
If you’ve already set up a regular 240-volt home charging station, the new Leaf Plus will require about 11.5 hours to fully charge, or approximately 3 and a half hours longer than the regular Leaf. Also, the Leaf Plus can be driven for about 35 km after about an hour on the same 240-volt charger, which is good to know if you just want to top it up while visiting the mall.
While not filling up at a traditional pump it’s always important to remember that EVs use resources, and to that end both Leaf models are ultra-efficient, with energy equivalent ratings of 1.9 Le/100km city and 2.4 highway for the regular Leaf, or 2.1 Le/100km city and 2.5 highway for the new Leaf Plus. Litres of gasoline are never part of the equation, of course, but rather the Le/100km rating system can be a helpful tool in understanding how electric vehicles’ energy consumption compares to the fuel economy of gasoline-powered vehicles, not to mention how each EV’s energy use compares to the other.
What’s more, it’s important to note that the new Leaf Plus’ battery doesn’t impinge on interior packaging at all, with both front and rear seating compartments identically sized for comfortable accommodations all-round, plus cargo volume still capable of being loading up with 668 litres (23.6 cubic feet) of gear when its rear seats are in use, and 849 litres (30.0 cubic feet) when the standard 60/40 split-folding seatbacks are lowered.
So now that you know all that’s changing with the Leaf halfway through its 2019 model year, you may want to take advantage of the savings still available if you’d rather opt for the less powerful regular model, whether choosing non-Plus versions of the base Leaf S or top-line Leaf SL, because there are still some available at Canadian Nissan retailers (depending on your area). This said, if you’d rather pay more for quicker charging, added range, and improved straight-line performance, the all-new Leaf Plus is already starting to show up at those same dealers.
To find out more about all the available 2019 Nissan Leaf and 2019 Leaf Plus trims, packages and options, including pricing for each, and/or to learn out about any of the rebates potentially available, not to mention dealer invoice pricing that might just save you thousands, be sure to visit this page right here on CarCostCanada.
I said this before and I’ll say it again, the new Accord is the most attractive car in its midsize sedan class, and one of the best looking to ever be sold in this segment. Not only that, I find it better looking than a lot of premium-branded sedans, and wouldn’t doubt that some who might have never purchased in this class before will now consider doing so solely because it exists.
This scenario may have played out on Canada’s sales charts last year, with the Accord being the only mid-size sedan to see growth from January 2018 through December’s end. OK, its archrival Toyota Camry barely escaped the red by growing a scant 0.1 percent over the same 12-month period, but Accord deliveries were up 2.4 percent during an era that’s seen the mid-size sedan decimated by crossover SUV popularity. This last point was evidenced by other Accord competitors seeing their market shares eroded significantly, the next best-selling Chevy Malibu’s sales down 16.3 percent, followed by the Fusion dropping 34.8 percent, the Nissan Altima lower by 21.4 percent, the Hyundai Sonata by 33.6 percent, Kia Optima by 27.5 percent, Volkswagen Passat by 29.5 percent, Mazda6 by 9.8 percent, and Subaru Legacy down by 28.1 percent. That’s an unbelievable level of mid-size sedan carnage, but the new Accord solely rose above it all.
Of course, there’s a lot more to the 10th-generation Accord than just good looks. There’s an equally attractive interior filled with premium levels of luxury and leading edge electronics, plus dependable engineering borne from decades of production and non-stop refinements. The first hybrid drivetrain was introduced as an option to the seventh-generation Accord way back in 2005, skipped a generation and then came back as an option with the ninth-gen Accord in 2013, and now it’s here again.
As with previous iterations, the latest Accord Hybrid looks much the same as the conventionally powered model, which I appreciate because it’s not trying too hard to stand out and keeps the Accord’s attractive styling intact. Truly, the only noticeable difference is a removal of tailpipe finishers, the Hybrid featuring some discrete chrome trim in their place. Chrome in mind, both no-name Hybrid and Hybrid Touring trims feature the same chrome exterior details as the regular Accord’s EX-L and above trims, Sport model excluded.
Touring upgrades that aren’t as noticeable include full LED headlamps that feature light emitting diodes for the high as well as the low beams, plus unique signature LED elements around the outside of the headlamp clusters, chrome-trimmed door handles, and the availability of no-cost as-tested Obsidian Blue Pearl exterior paint instead of standard Crystal Black Pearl or $300 White Orchid Pearl, the only two shades offered with the base model.
Now that we’ve got the obvious visual changes from base Hybrid to Hybrid Touring trims out of the way, the top-line model also replaces Honda’s exclusive LaneWatch blind spot display system with a Blind Spot Information (BSI) and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor system, while adding adaptive dampers to improve handling, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display (HUD), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, passenger side mirror reverse gear tilt-down, a HomeLink garage door remote, a powered moonroof, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, voice recognition, satellite and HD radio capability, HondaLink subscription services, wireless device charging, an AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot, driver’s seat memory, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, a heatable steering wheel rim, perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, and more for $40,090 plus freight and fees.
Incidentally, I sourced 2019 Honda Accord Hybrid pricing right here at CarCostCanada, which not only breaks everything down into trims, packages and standalone options, but also provides information about available rebates as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Additionally, items pulled up to the Hybrid Touring from base $33,090 Hybrid trim include unique aerodynamically designed machine-finished 17-inch alloy wheels, auto-on/off headlight control with automatic high beams, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, a remote engine starter, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display within the primary gauge cluster, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with tablet-style tap, swipe and pinch gesture controls, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, near field communication (NFC), 452-watt audio with 10 speakers including a subwoofer, two front and two rear USB charging ports, SMS text message and email reading functionality, Wi-Fi tethering, overhead sunglasses storage, a 12-way powered driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar support, heatable front seats, the HondaLink Assist automatic emergency response system, plus all the expected active and passive safety features including front knee airbags.
Some safety features that might not be expected include the standard Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance systems, incorporating Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow, Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), and traffic sign recognition, this being enough to earn the regular Accord a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS when equipped with its upgraded headlights, while all Accord trims get a best-possible five stars from the NHTSA.
The long list of Accord Hybrid Touring features comes in a cabin that exudes quality and refinement, thanks to premium-level soft synthetic surfacing on most surfaces above the waste, authentic looking matte woodgrain inlays spanning the instrument panel and door panels, tastefully applied satin-silver accents throughout, supple leather upholstery on the seats, door inserts and armrests, padded and stitched leatherette trim along the sides of the lower console, the front portion protecting the inside knees of driver and front passenger from chafing, and some of the highest quality digital displays in the class.
Immediately impressive is the brightly lit primary instrument package that looks like a giant LCD panel at first glance, but in fact houses a digital display within its left two-thirds while integrating an analogue speedometer to the right. The screen on the left is filled with hybrid-specific info by default, but you can scroll through numerous other functions via steering wheel controls, resulting in a very useful multi-info display.
Likewise you can project key info onto the windshield via the HUD by using another steering wheel button, the system showing graphical information for route guidance, the adaptive cruise control system and more up high where you can see it without taking your eyes off the road.
Over on the top portion of the centre stack, Honda’s new infotainment interface has become a personal favourite amongst mainstream volume brands, thanks to high definition displays, wonderful depth of colour and contrast, plus fabulous graphics, the elegantly arranged tile system easy to figure out and plenty attractive to look at. Being a hybrid, a number of cool animated graphic sections are included, while the navigation system’s mapping was excellent and route guidance easy to input and precisely accurate, plus the backup camera was equally clear and dynamic guidelines helpful. Yes, I would’ve appreciated an overhead 360-degree bird’s-eye view, but the ability to see a variety of views thanks to its multi-angle design, no matter the trim, is a bonus that others in the class don’t offer.
The final digital display is Honda’s dual-zone automatic climate control interface, which is attractively designed in a narrow, neatly organized, horizontal row that includes an LCD centre display, three knurled metal-edged rotating knobs, and a variety of high-quality buttons for the HVAC system and heated/ventilated front seats.
I should mention that all of the Accord Hybrid Touring’s switchgear was excellent, and much of it beautifully finished with aforementioned satin-silver detailing, while the audio system knobs got the same grippy and stylish knurled metal treatment as those used for the HVAC interface. Much of the design shows an artistically flair too, particularly the recessed speaker grille behind the fixed tablet style display atop the dash, and the 3D effect used to raise the top buttons on the HVAC interface above those below.
At the very base of the centre stack is a little cubby filled with a 12-volt power outlet, a charged/connected USB port and a wireless charging pad that’s large enough for big smartphones like the Samsung Note series. Interestingly Honda has done away with the classic old auxiliary plug, replacing it with near field communication (NFC) as noted earlier, and three more USBs, the second one found within the centre storage bin under the armrest, which includes another 12-volt charger as well. The bin has a nice removable tray as well, which feels very high in quality and is rubberized so that it doesn’t rattle around like so many others in this class. This is just one of many details that let you know the Accord’s quality is above average.
The leather seats are nicely styled with perforations the three-way forced ventilation noted earlier. The driver’s was extremely comfortable, with good side support for this segment and excellent lower back support. On that note I was surprised that Honda not only includes a power-adjustable lumbar support with fore and aft control, but it’s a four-way system that also moves up and down to ideally position itself within the small of your back. That’s unusual in this class, even when compared to some premium models like the Lexus ES 350 and more directly comparative ES 300h hybrid that only include two-way powered lumbar. Likewise for the Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid, plus a few others in this segment that don’t measure up either.
The seating position is good, probably on par with the aforementioned Camry, but I must say neither is excellent when it comes to adjustability. Their steering columns don’t offer enough reach, forcing me to power my seat too close to the pedals in order to achieve optimal comfort and control of the steering wheel. We’re all made differently, and I happen to have longer legs than torso. The compromise was a more upright seatback than I would have otherwise liked, but doing so allowed ample control and decent comfort, so this is how I drove all week.
Controlling the gear selector is a lot easier, although if you’re not familiar with Honda’s new assemblage of buttons and pull levers it’ll take some getting used to. The Accord Hybrid comes standard with the complex selector, and while it might be a bit confusing at first try I recommend giving it a little time before getting flustered. I’ve had a lot of opportunity to use this system in a variety of Honda models, the new Odyssey and Pilot immediately coming to mind, while it’s similar to the system used in new Acura models, so now I don’t swear at it when trying to find reverse in the middle of a U-turn. Other than the pull lever-type electromechanical parking brake found at its rearmost section, it consists of three pushbuttons, for park, neutral and drive, and another pull lever for reverse. I almost never use neutral, simplifying the process further, so it’s a tug on the lever for reverse and a simple press of the large centre button for drive or park, that’s it.
Next to the parking brake there’s another set of buttons for Sport, Econ and EV modes, plus a brake hold button. I left it in Econ mode most of the time and EV mode whenever it would allow, because this is what hybrids are all about, saving fuel and minimizing emissions and cost. This said the Accord Hybrid is one of the thriftiest vehicles I’ve driven all year, only costing me $24 after a week’s worth of very thorough use, and that’s when gas was priced at an outrageous $1.55 per litre. At today’s slightly more agreeable prices it would allow even more savings, its claimed 5.0 L/100km city, 5.0 highway and 5.0 combined fuel economy rating one of the best in the non-plug-in industry.
So what’s all the mechanical and electrically charged wizardry behind its superb fuel economy? A unique two-motor hybrid powertrain joins an efficient 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine to provide the Accord Hybrid with a class leading total system output of 212 horsepower, while its electric drive motor puts 232 lb-ft of near instantaneous torque down to the front wheels.
To clarify, one of the electric motors drives the front wheels, while a smaller secondary motor serves mainly as a generator, providing electric current to the drive motor in order to supplement or replace power from the battery during lighter loads, such as cruising. The second motor also starts the engine that in-turn adds torque to the wheels, but it’s never used as the motive driving force for those wheels.
Additionally, the car’s Electric-Continuously Variable Transmission, or E-CVT, removes any need for a conventional automatic transmission, or even a traditional belt/chain-operated continuously variable transmission (CVT), both of which inherently rob performance and efficiencies from the powertrain. Instead, Honda’s E-CVT drives the front wheels directly through four fixed drive ratio gearsets, without the need to shift gears or vary a planetary ratio. This means there is no “rubber-band” effect when accelerating as experienced in regular CVTs, or in other words the engine is never forced to maintain steady high rpms until road speed gradually catches up, this process causing a much-criticized audible “droning” effect with other CVT-equipped cars. Honda claims its direct-drive technology benefits from 46 to 80 percent less friction than a conventional automatic transmission, depending on the drive mode.
What’s more, you can choose between three standard propulsion modes as well, including electric-only (providing the 6.7-kWh lithium-ion battery is charged sufficiently), gasoline-only, or blended gas and electric (hybrid).
Despite my favouritism for Econ and EV modes, Sport mode worked very well, making itself immediately known after engaging at a stoplight by bringing the engine back to life from its auto start/stop mode, and then boosting acceleration significantly at takeoff. A set of standard steering wheel paddles improves the driving experience further, although flicking the right-side shifter to upshift while accelerating does nothing perceptible, this because the paddles are primarily for downshifting during deceleration. Therefore, tugging on the left paddle when braking, or pretty much any other time, causes a gear ratio drop that really comes in handy when wanting to engine brake or recharge down a steep hill, or when setting up for a corner.
And I must say the Accord Hybrid handles brilliantly for a car in this class. Really, the only vehicle in this segment with more agility around curves is the latest Mazda6 and possibly the Ford Fusion Sport, and these by the narrowest of margins, with Accord Hybrid seeming to dance away from its closest competitors, including the Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE that I tested earlier this year, which is the sportiest version of that car.
The Accord Hybrid handles long, sweeping high-speed corners well too, while its ability to cruise smoothly on the highway is as good as this class gets. It’s underpinned by the same fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension as the conventionally powered Accord, while my tester was once again outfitted with the upgraded adaptive dampers for a little more at-the-limit control and enhanced ride quality. This gives it a wonderfully compliant setup where ever you’re likely to drive, whether soldiering over bumpy back alleys, fast tracking across patchwork pavement, or negotiating wide bridge expansion joints, all of which were experienced during my test week.
My only complaint were front parking sensors that continually went off in regular traffic, highlighting an image of the car’s frontal area on the touchscreen when vehicles were merely pulling up beside me in the adjacent lane. I’ve encountered this problem with a few other cars over the past couple of years, and it’s always annoying. I pressed the parking sensor button off and on again, which remedied the problem until it happened again after a couple of days, at which point I rebooted the system the same way and never had to deal with it again.
This foible and the aforementioned lack of telescopic steering reach aside, the Accord Hybrid was a dream to live with. The rear seating area, a key reason many buy into this class, is as spacious as the regular Accord and more so than many in this segment. With the driver’s seat set up for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame, which as noted was set further back than average due to my longer legs, I was left with nearly a foot from my knees to the backrest ahead, plus so much room for my feet that I was able to completely stretch out my legs and move my shoes around underneath the front seat. Really, its rear legroom comes close to many full-size sedans. Likewise, there’s plenty of headroom at about three and a half inches, plus more than enough shoulder and hip space at about four to five inches for the former and five-plus for the latter.
This said I was disappointed that Honda finished off the rear door uppers in hard plastic. They’re not alone in this respect, but others do a better job pampering rear occupants. The previously noted Mazda6, for instance, at least in its top-line Signature trim level that I tested last year, which incidentally uses genuine hardwood inlays throughout, finishes the rear door panels as nicely as those up front, making it closer to premium status than anything else in its class. In most other respects the Accord nudges up against premium levels of luxury too, including excellent rear ventilation from a centre panel on the backside of the front console that also houses two USB charge points, while the outboard seats are three-way heatable as noted earlier, and there’s a nice big armrest that flips down from the centre position at exactly the right height for adult elbow comfort, or at least it was perfect for me. Honda fits two big deep cupholders within that armrest, which should do a pretty good job of holding drinks in place.
The trunk is sizeable too at 473 litres (16.7 cubic feet), which is exactly the same dimensions as the regular Accord, plus it’s also extendable via the usual 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. This said there are still some hybrids that don’t allow much expandable storage due to batteries fitted within the rear bulkhead, so I can’t really complain that Honda doesn’t include a centre pass-through like Volkswagen’s Passat, which would allow rear passengers to enjoy the heated window seats after a day on the slopes. On the positive, a handy styrofoam compartment resides below the trunk’s load floor, ideal for stowing a first aid kit or anything else you’d like to have close at hand. It comes loaded up with an air compressor that could potentially get you to a repair shop if needed, but I’d personally prefer a spare tire so I could make it farther if damage to the tire doesn’t allow it to hold air.
So is this the best hybrid in the mid-size class? The new Accord Hybrid would certainly get my money. It looks fabulous, delivers big inside, and provides all the luxury-level features most will want, plus it drives brilliantly and delivers superb fuel economy, while Honda’s experience building electrified powertrains should make it plenty reliable.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press