First drive: 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid [Review]

The 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid gets an added dose of power and style.

Long before the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 and Ferrari LaFerrari, there was the Honda Accord Hybrid. OK, so the original Accord Hybrid, launched for the 2005 model year, wasn't exactly a supercar, but it was the first hybrid to put performance ahead of all-out economy. Unfortunately for Honda, the buying public wasn't ready for a hot rod hybrid and the Accord Hybrid was put to rest after 2007.

The Accord Hybrid returned for the 2014 model year, but with a very different mission; using a four-cylinder engine rather than the previous model's V6, the 2014 Honda Accord was geared for economy, not performance.

The updated 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid largely follows that script, but Honda engineers have managed to eke out an additional 16 horsepower and 6 lb-ft of torque for the new model year, making the '17 Accord Hybrid the most powerful mid-size hybrid sedan money can buy. Honda apparently likes to have its cake and eat it too as the more powerful 2017 Accord Hybrid is also the most efficient vehicle in its class.

So, has Honda finally found the perfect balance of economy and performance with its 2017 Accord Hybrid? Come with us as we find out.

Catching upHonda treated its gas-power Accord lineup to a mid-cycle nip-and-tuck last year, but the Accord Hybrid was left in the waiting room. The design doctors at Honda finally found the time to see the Accord Hybrid for the 2017 model year, resulting in a light exterior refresh. Changes include new headlights, reworked bumpers and updated taillights. Although minor changes for sure, the result is a better looking sedan with a more up-scale presence.

The interior of the Accord Hybrid has also been revamped, with the most notable change being a new touchscreen infotainment system located in the center of the sedan's dash. Already in use in other Honda vehicles, the high-resolution screen cleans up the car's overall look by doing away with a multitude of buttons and knobs, although we lament the demise of the volume knob.

The nuts and boltsAlthough just a mid-cycle update, Honda engineers took a pretty deep dive into the 2017 Accord Hybrid's drivetrain, with improvements made to the car's gas engine and electric drive system.

Those changes start with an updated 2.0L Atkinson cycle DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder engine. The Accord Hybrid's four-cylinder now incorporates an exhaust heat recovery system that enables the engine to warm up more quickly and therefore reach its optimum operating temperature sooner. That tech is a first for Honda and will likely spread to other vehicles in the company's lineup.

Horsepower for the Accord Hybrid's gas engine is up slightly to 143 while torque has grown by 7.5 lb-ft to 129 lb-ft.

To that gas engine Honda has mated an updated electric motor that is smaller and more powerful than the unit it replaces. Controlling everything is a new power control unit that's mated directly to the Accord Hybrid's single-gear transmission.

Power for that electric motor is supplied via a lithium-ion battery pack. For 2017 Honda has managed to shrink the battery's overall size by 33 percent, netting nearly one extra cubic foot of truck space compared to the previous model. The battery remains robust enough to support all-electric driving for short distances.

Total system output stands at 212 horsepower, making the Accord Hybrid the most powerful vehicle in its class. Despite besting the competition in power, the Accord Hybrid is also tops for fuel economy, receiving 49/47/48mpg city/highway/combined ratings from the EPA. During our day of testing we saw averages in line with the EPA's predictions, although the car we selected for our photo shoot proves you can dip into the upper 30s if you really whip into it.

On the suspension front the 2017 Accord Hybrid has been equipped with new reactive dampers that Honda says give the car a flatter ride and improved balance. Brakes have also been updated to provide improved feel.

High-tech throughoutThe Accord Hybrid's advanced electronics don't stop with the bits under hood. In addition to its onboard infotainment system, the Accord Hybrid is available with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. All 2017 Accord Hybrid models also come standard with Honda Sensing, which includes Collision Mitigation Braking, Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Keeping Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control.

On the roadPutting the 2017 Accord Hybrid through its paces on the winding backroads on Napa Valley, California, it quickly became clear that the sedan's mission is still economy first and driving enjoyment second. That being said, the 2017 Accord Hybrid is still a competent handler with a planted feel and direct steering; just don't expected to feel any of the Acura NSX's DNA pulsing through the steering wheel.

Acceleration isn't neck snapping, but the Accord Hybrid has plenty of zip for daily driving, especially with its new Sport mode activated. Power is routed through a single speed gearbox, but the end result is a similar feeling to a Continuously Variable Transmission. As such the Accord Hybrid can suffer from engine drone when the accelerator is in use.

But hard acceleration is just about the only time the Accord Hybrid's cabin is noisy. Honda has injected the new Accord Hybrid with added sound deadening throughout (including dynamic dampers in the floor), resulting in an extremely quiet driving experience. That quiet cabin is matched perfectly with a smooth-riding suspension, giving the Accord Hybrid the feel of a more expensive luxury vehicle.

Likewise, we found the Accord Hybrid's front buckets to be soft and comfortable during our day-long drive. One thing we'd like to see added, however, is ventilation for front seat occupants. The Accord Hybrid is at least well-suited for the colder months with available heated front and rear seats.

Pricing infoThe 2017 Accord Hybrid starts at $29,605, which appears on paper to be a hefty premium over the $22,355 Honda charges for its entry-level gas-powered Accord. However, with standard features like Honda Sensing, remote start and a 10-way power driver's seat, the base Accord Hybrid more closely matches the $25,730 Accord EX.

The Accord Hybrid is also available in EX-L form for $32,905, which adds leather seats, heated front seats, Display Audio Interface and a moonroof. The $35,955 Touring is the top-spec Accord Hybrid model and includes navigation, LED headlights, parking sensors and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Leftlane's bottom lineStylish, efficient and comfortable, the 2017 Honda Accord does just about everything well. And although it's not really a high-performance hybrid for the masses, the 2017 Accord Hybrid's added giddy-up is certainly welcomed.

If you're after an all ‘rounder, the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid should be at the top of your list.

Photos by Drew Johnson.

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