No wonder it stays popular. The Accord sedan is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine and earned top scores recently in newly revised, tougher crash testing by the federal government. With refreshed styling, the 2011 Accord gets better gasoline mileage than its 2010 predecessor, too.
The new federal government fuel economy estimates of 23 miles per gallon in city driving and 34 mpg on the highway for the 2011 Accord sedan with four-cylinder engine, for example, are the best of all large, 2011-model sedans except for the 2011 Hyundai Sonata with four-cylinder engine.
One of Honda's best-known nameplates, the Accord has a higher starting retail price this model year. Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $21,930 for a base sedan with 177-horsepower four-cylinder and manual transmission. The lowest-priced Accord sedan with automatic has a starting price of $22,730.
Accords also are sold as coupes, with a starting price of $23,530 with a 190-horsepower four-cylinder. The 190-horse four-cylinder is offered in the sedan, too, and a 271-horsepower V-6 is available in both the Accord sedan and coupe.
Competitors include the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, which has a starting retail price of $19,195 with 198-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and manual transmission. The starting retail price is $20,915 with automatic transmission.
Another competitor is the 2011 Toyota Camry, which starts at $19,962 for a base model with 169-horsepower four cylinder and manual transmission. A base Camry with automatic starts at $20,884. The Camry is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a midsize car, not a large car like the Accord. EPA bases the size on interior volume.
For decades, the Accord and Camry have been rivals bidding to be America's best-selling cars.
In 2010, the Camry beat out the Accord again to claim the top-selling-car crown, but Camry sales declined last year from their 2009 levels, while Accord car sales increased to 282,530.
An additional, recent model -- the Accord Crosstour -- is more of a tall, five-door wagon in the style of today's crossover sport utility vehicles. But it added 28,000 sales in calendar 2010 on top of the 282,530.
The test Special Edition sedan, with leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, driver's seat two-way power lumbar and leather-wrapped steering wheel, was roomy, comfortable for all passengers and nimble in its handling.
It looked pleasant, too, with new grille, front bumper and trunk lid. It wasn't as jazzy-looking as the Accord coupe or some newer sedans, including the Sonata.
Still, it's difficult not to admire the Accord's base, 2.4-liter, double-overhead-cam four cylinder with Honda's variable-valve system mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The powerplant delivered smooth, capable power that was surprising for moving the lengthy sedan along without stress.
The 16.2-foot-long Accord sedan is 3 inches longer than the Sonata and 5 inches longer than the Camry. It's wider than these major competitors, too.
In a sign of Honda's attention to weight, the Accord sedan's weight of 3,279 pounds was just about the same as that of a comparable Sonata and a bit less than a comparable Camry. As a result, the test Accord sedan responded readily when I pressed the accelerator, and I merged into traffic without hesitation.
The Accord's 161 foot-pounds of torque at 4,300 rpm isn't sporting, but it comes on steadily and deliberately to power the sedan nicely on the roads.
I noticed shift points now and then, and I heard the engine under hard acceleration. The overall power delivery was fine, especially considering that the gasoline gauge didn't move much. I got more than 23 mpg on the test drive, which involved 70 percent city driving.
The sedan wound through mountain curves with poise that I didn't expect for such a large car. The double wishbone front suspension and rear multilink suspension didn't mask road imperfections, however, because passengers readily felt road vibrations as tires passed over manhole covers. I didn't notice much wind noise, but I heard some road noise.
The rear seat is nicely accommodating, even for three adults. There are 37.2 inches of legroom back there, exceeding the 34.6 inches in the Sonata.
The trunk looks roomy, with 14.7 cubic feet of space, but the underside of the lid was bare metal, with no lining or trunk lid handle.
In fact, beyond the leather-appointed interior, there were few extras in the Special Edition.