Monthly Archives: March 2018

Totally transformed Camry gets uppity with better-than-ever Accord

We compare the Honda Accord 1.5T Touring and the Toyota Camry XSE

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The Honda Accord 1.5T Touring and the Toyota Camry XSE.

It was always a given that the Honda Accord appeals equally to engaged drivers and to those who simply want a dependable, user-friendly transportation appliance. The Toyota Camry, on the other hand, always prioritized the appliance side at the expense of driver appeal. Then came their 2018 redesigns and the decades-old plotline underwent a total rewrite. The Accord is better than ever … but overnight, the Camry acquired honest-to-goodness driver appeal, too. Enough to challenge the Accord? Did the Camry lose any left-brain virtue in the process? To find out, we drove the highest-trim base-engined versions of each contestant.

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring

  • Price: $35,790 (base); $35,790 (as tested)
  • Engine: 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder
  • Transmission/drive: CVT/front-wheel
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.2 city/ 6.8 highway
  • Alternatives: Buick Regal, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda6, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat

Looks
Like Toyota, Honda penned a fastback shape, but its softer contours and extended side glass (daylight opening, in car-designer-speak) lend it a long-and-sleek look. The Touring trim includes even-wider 19-inch rims than the Camry’s, plus LED front fog lights, but no skirts and spoilers.

Accord-dash
Some may find the Accord’s driving position a little low.

Interior
The Accord’s 2018 do-over scooped even more space out of an already roomy car – enough to reclassify it from mid-size to large based on interior volumes. The Camry pips it for rear headroom, but the Accord has more shoulder room, and especially leg room, out back. Some may find the driving position a little low and the dashboard design is unadventurous, but the ergonomics – gauges, switchgear and free-standing touch screen – are almost impeccable. Front storage space is better than in Camry, too.

 There’s more leg room in the Accord’s 2018 do-over.
There’s more leg room in the Accord’s 2018 do-over.

Performance
Last year’s base 2.4-litre “four” is displaced by a turbocharged 1.5 that generates 192 horsepower and the same number of “torques,” the latter spread generously across a broad rev range. Matched to an equally new-age continuously variable transmission, the little engine delivers steady, linear acceleration en route to 97 km/h in 7.3 seconds (according to Car and Driver).

Most of the time the transmission avoids that tedious CVT “slipping clutch” feel; on full-bore acceleration, it mimics the stepped shifts of a conventional. Manual transmission is available on several trims but not on the Touring. What the Touring may lack in overt powertrain driver appeal, it makes up with the brilliant handling: quick steering, decisive turn-in, taut body control, and stubborn resistance to understeer no matter how hard you lean on it. For those who have a different concept of “handling,” the Accord’s steering is a tad heavier than the Camry’s, but it needs less twirling in tight manoeuvres.

Technology
In the connectivity/infotainment ledger, the Touring trim has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Siri and Navi, SiriusXM, HD Radio and WiFi hotspot. On the driver-assist side, the Honda Sensing package includes adaptive cruise with stop and go, forward-collision warning and mitigation, multiangle backup camera, parking sensors front and rear, road departure mitigation and active lane-keeping assist.

 The Honda Sensing package offers a multiangle backup camera.
The Honda Sensing package offers a multiangle backup camera.

Cargo
The Accord trunk’s 16.7-cubic-foot volume is best-in-class, although the cavity is a bit irregular in shape; the floor is narrower between the wheel housings than the Camry’s, but there’s more floor space in Accord aft of said housings.

 The cavity is a bit irregular in shape.
The cavity is a bit irregular in shape.

The verdict
8.9

If cars this good can’t entice buyers out of crossovers and back into mid-size sedans, nothing will. Hats off to Honda, too, for continuing to offer a manual gearbox.

2018 Toyota Camry XSE

  • Price: $35,090 (base); $35,630 (as tested)
  • Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder
  • Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/front-wheel
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.5 city/6.1 highway
  • Alternatives: Buick Regal, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda6, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Volkswagen Passat

Looks
This is a Camry? The new shape bulges with muscular assertiveness, amplified on the XSE by a black mesh grille, “go faster” body kit and brawny 19-inch wheels. Not to mention the black roof, which is a $540 option with some colours.

 The boldly styled dashboard may scare Camry traditionalists.
The boldly styled dashboard may scare Camry traditionalists.

Interior
Last, year the Accord and Camry were equally roomy mid-sizers. But while the 2018 Accord has upsized inside, the Camry has lost a couple of cubic feet. The back seats are still plenty roomy for adults, but not as expansively so as the Accord’s. Up front, the Camry’s driver’s seat is a little more accommodating if you want or need to sit high. The boldly styled dashboard may scare Camry traditionalists, but the mix of conventional and touch controls on the asymmetric, shiny black centre stack functions well (although Toyota seems to assign “Home” and “Menu” the opposite meanings to every other auto maker).

 The Camry’s back seats aren’t as roomy as the Accord’s.
The Camry’s back seats aren’t as roomy as the Accord’s.

Performance
The Camry’s old-school naturally aspirated 2.5-litre “four” normally makes 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft, bumped up to 206 and 186 respectively on the XSE. With 203 hp, Car and Driver measured 0-97 km/h in 7.9 seconds while our own impromptu drag race had the 206-hp Camry virtually neck and neck with Accord.

Generally, we prefer naturally aspirated engines and (in the absence of an available manual box) conventional automatics and the Camry certainly feels hot to trot. But it’s also a little rough around the edges: noisier than you’d expect even driving gently, while the transmission occasionally shunts its shifts and lingers too long in the lower gears. But the handling is a revelation. Response, grip, steering feel – Toyota finally “gets it.” And all without compromising ride quality.

Technology
The Camry XSE lacks the industry-standard smartphone integration ( CarPlay etc.); instead, you get much the same result by signing up for Toyota’s proprietary Entune App Suite Connect and subscription-based GPS Scout (only the range-topping XLE V6 has embedded Navi). For Luddites, Toyota still includes a CD player. On the driving co-pilot side, Toyota Safety Sense package is similar to the Accord’s Honda Sensing but adds pedestrian detection.

 Toyota still includes a CD player.
Toyota still includes a CD player.

Cargo
The Camry’s 15.1-cubic-foot trunk is a tad below class average and notably smaller than Accord’s. Its flat floor is wider than Accord’s at their narrowest points, but the seats-folded pass-through is shallow.

 The Camry’s trunk is notably smaller than the Accord’s.
The Camry’s trunk is notably smaller than the Accord’s.

The verdict
8.7

It used to be that you could have fun driving an Accord and none in a Camry. Now, you can have fun in a Camry, too – yet still without sacrificing any left-brain attributes. For hard-core gearheads, the Accord may still have a slight edge, but for most of the market the difference is no longer enough to matter.

Two epic rivals setup their sedan game

History has its fair share of epic rivalries. Coke vs. Pepsi, Tupac vs. Biggie, Batman vs. Superman. In the automotive sphere, Honda Accord vs. Toyota Camry is one of the most hotly contested rivalries there is.

Both cars have been wrestling for family-sedan supremacy for decades and have come fully overhauled for the 2018 model year, so of course it was time to bring them both together to see which one is the better car. Style On the design front, Toyota has been going on a rampage recently after getting a mandate from its CEO to stop making boring cars. Some might not like the Camry’s new look (its designers had the audacity to call it sexy), but it definitely can’t be classified as boring anymore. While some people find its design overwrought with too many fake vents, a massive in-your-face grille and a mishmash of seemingly random angles, others find it aggressive and attractive. Its new available quad tailpipes, rear diffuser and contrast black roof might be a bit overkill on a family sedan.

The Accord takes a more understated approach. With a new sportback design, the Accord has an easyto-digest and less polarizing cohesive design that helps it look more expensive than it actually is. The design of the Honda isn’t perfect — the grille dominated by a chrome unibrow and a lot of black plastic doesn’t quite sit right — but its cleaner lines, swoopy curves and tidy proportions could appeal to more people simply because it might age better than the Camry. While some people accuse the Honda of looking boring, others prefer its simple sophistication. Same story inside The Camry’s risktaking with design is also obvious inside. With an eyecatching asymmetrical dashboard layout and the availability of bright red leather seats, it certainly stands out from the crowd in a good way. Except for a few cheap-feeling plastics, the materials used inside are also high quality and everything seems screwed together tightly.

Honda definitely didn’t take as many risks with its more traditional layout and design, but the materials used are all close to meeting luxury car standards and the build quality is obvious. The interior as a whole is more thought out and exhibits a higher attention to detail than the Camry. With the Accord, it’s the little details that make its interior smarter than the Camry — stuff such as buttons that are more clearly labelled and intuitively placed or a wireless charging pad that can be hidden away just make it more user-friendly. All the tech you could want Camrys come standard with Toyota Safety Sense P, which includes important safety features such as collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic, lane departure alert with steering assist and automatic high beams. Camry does. In terms of safety, the two cars are pretty equally matched. The Accord’s adaptive cruise control, however, is smoother to use and feels more natural. The Camry’s system leaves too much space between you and the car in front, even on its least sensitive setting. Cars just end up cutting in and then it slams on the brakes, making the whole thing a bit jerky.

Both cars are also available with features such as wireless charging, mobile hot spot capability, and a head-up display, although the Honda has a few things the Camry doesn’t, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a capless fuel filler, ventilated seats, and NFC communication.

I also prefer Honda’s new infotainment system over the Camry. The graphics are cleaner and more modern, the menus are easier to navigate, and the intuitive setup makes it easy to master. The Camry’s system is just a bit more confusing and seems a generation behind Honda’s, but it’s still a big improvement from before.

With 437 litres, the Accord has a bigger trunk than the Camry, which has 428 litres. The back seats in both sedans are also very generous with their passenger space, although the Accord’s sportback design seems to allow for a bit more headroom. The drive It’s easy to be impressed by how the Camry drives now because it feels completely different than it used to. Toyota actually made me drive the new Camry on a race track, which it wouldn’t have done unless it was trying to prove a point.

The point is that the Camry isn’t a spongy mess to drive anymore.

No, it wasn’t fun to drive on a track, but the improvements to its driving dynamics became immediately obvious.

The steering has a heavy weight to it and exhibits a new-found responsiveness, and the suspension is even a lot stiffer than it used to be, which means the sedan feels more confident and less sloppy in a corner than it used to. The four-cylinder model is punchy enough, although Toyota is bucking the trend by continuing to offer a V6 option. The optional 3.5litre V6 makes 301 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque and it’s hooked up to a smooth eight-speed transmission. The base engine is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder model — interesting because it’s not turbocharged yet still feels pretty alive with 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. With both engines, passing someone or getting up to highway speeds is no issue at all, and the V6 offers some much-appreciated urgency.

The Honda also gets two engine options, although unlike the Camry, it is no longer available with a V6. The base 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which gets a CVT or a six-speed manual, outputs 192 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque, which is more than the previous model. The upgraded 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine outputs 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque.

Historically, the Accord has always been the better driver of the pair, but with this new generation of models, the differences are less stark.

The way the Accord drives isn’t too different from the way the Camry drives. I have no real complaints about driving dynamics for either. They’re both smooth, predictable, easy and very good at doing what they’re supposed to be doing, which is operating in the background without any drama. Like the Camry, the Accord has a heavier steering setup and a more rigid chassis, so it too feels better in a corner. Driven back to back, the Accord’s steering, handling, and body control seem sharper than the Camry, but it’s not a huge difference. The Sport mode in the Accord also makes more of a difference, making the car a bit sharper in all regards. The Camry’s sport mode doesn’t seem to do that much.

The four-cylinder Camry LE has a fuel economy rating of 8.1 L/100 km city, 5.7 highway, and 6.9 combined, which is not too far off from the 1.5L and CVT-equipped Honda Accord’s 7.9/6.3/7.2 L/100 km.

And what about pricing? It’s gone up a bit from last year, but Honda packs the new Accord with more standard features, which helps justify the increase. Pricing for the 2018 Honda Accord starts at $28,212 and tops out at $40,612, while the Camry starts at $28,105 and tops out at about $42,205. The Verdict: 2018 Honda Accord vs. 2018 Toyota Camry They’re both exceedingly good at what they do — they drive decently, come standard with a bunch of really useful safety features and technology, and both offer a higher-end experience than they used to. The Honda Accord, however, just seems to be smarter, sharper, more user-friendly, and as a whole, offers a more complete and cohesive package.

Add in the fact that the style will age more gracefully, and it’s easily the best car in this segment. The Camry is a really good car, but the Accord is just that much better.

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