On Autos: All-new Accord boosts performance, luxury

The Honda Accord is fully redesigned and greatly improved for 2018. (Brady Holt/The Current)

In the midsize sedan class, there’s a constant battle between the historical best-sellers: the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. And for the 2018 model year, the fight will be a particularly strong one.

Both the Accord and Camry have seen complete redesigns in the last few months, with the new Camry appearing in late summer and the Accord following in October. Both redesigns represent dramatic upgrades from their plain, sensible predecessors. At least based on quick tests, the 2018 Camry and Accord both boast dramatically improved driving dynamics; more luxurious and tech-friendly interiors; and among the roomiest rear seats of their class. Both models also now feature a generous complement of no-extra-cost safety features and outstanding gas mileage.

Historically, the Camry had been the model to focus more on comfort while the Accord would trade some ride smoothness and quietness for livelier handling. But for 2018, both appear ready to offer excellent composure either on a bumpy road or a fast curve. More than in past generations, these two sedans play in the same niche — if doing everything well can be really considered a niche.

The 2018 Honda Accord features a sleeker shape than recent generations. (Brady Holt/The Current)

There are still some notable differences between the Accord and Camry. While both models feature more dramatic styling than their predecessors, Toyota essentially added fresh details to a familiar Camry shape whereas Honda essentially threw out everything from last year’s Accord and started over. The 2018 Accord draws inspiration from the latest Civic — low, narrow headlights bookend a big chrome bar; the roofline sweeps low and long unlike the tall, upright 2017 model; and the body’s sharp creases prevent a slab-sided appearance.

Also, Honda adopted the modern trend toward using small turbocharged engines — an approach that promises excellent fuel economy when a car is driven gently but turbo-boosted performance at times the driver accelerates harder. The new Accord is available with 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, respectively making 192 horsepower and 252 horsepower.

In contrast, Toyota instead worked to perfect its naturally aspirated — non-turbocharged, non-supercharged — four-cylinder and V6 engines. Such engines can deliver better real-world mileage than turbos for drivers with proverbial lead feet, and six-cylinder engines are known for producing richer, smoother sounds than four-cylinders. The Camry has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 203 horsepower or a 3.5-liter V6 with 301 horsepower.

The 2018 Honda Accord’s interior is both more upscale and more user-friendly than last year’s model. (Brady Holt/The Current)

In EPA testing, the four-cylinder Camry ranged from 32 to 34 mpg in mixed driving, whereas the 1.5-liter Accord ranged from 31 to 33 mpg. The V6 Camry is rated for 26 mpg, and while the 2.0-liter Accord hasn’t yet been tested, Honda estimates similar performance. The Camry is also offered as a gas-electric hybrid rated for up to 52 mpg; a 2018 Accord Hybrid is due in a few months.

One other difference between the Accord and Camry is that all but the base version of the Honda support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone integration, whereas Toyota continues to favor its own built-in apps.

But overall, more than ever, the Accord and Camry stand apart from the rest of the midsize sedan class. They have a similar experience to each other, with both offering the complete package of desirable traits for a midsize sedan. They’re comfortable, functional, safe and fuel-efficient; they’re relatively stylish and luxurious; and they’re even decently fun to drive.

The 2018 Accord starts at $24,445 and the Camry at $24,380. They’re both a little more expensive than such competitors as the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, especially factoring in discounts off the sticker prices — but whatever quality you’re looking for in a midsize sedan, the latest Accord and Camry are almost certain to deliver.