2018 Honda Accord Hybrid gets rid of the compromises


Family sedans may be passé in this increasingly crossover SUV-dominated market, but they still offer the best blend of practicality, drivability and economy for your typical small family. And that’s why they still dominate the sales charts. Now, with fuel prices on the rise again, efficiency is returning to prominence. For 2018, the Honda Accord Hybrid offers that efficiency without compromising the other parts of the package.

In earlier Accords, selecting the Hybrid model meant making do with a trunk that yielded to the demands of battery packaging. Those big, heavy cells that provide the electric part of the driveline equation need to live somewhere, and on the 2017 and earlier models they only fit behind the rear seats.

For 2018, the Accord rides on a new chassis that makes room for those batteries beneath the rear seats. The new, smaller lithium-ion battery pack now disappears into the structure of the car, meaning exactly the same 16.7 cubic feet of trunk space as the normal sedan. That’s 0.9 cubic feet up over the 2017 Honda Accord — the non-hybrid. And, with the batteries situated beneath the seats, the Hybrid also gets the same 60/40 split rear seatback.

Up front, a new 2.0-liter, Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine provides 143 horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque, delivering an incredible 40 percent thermal efficiency. That may not sound like much, but it’s Honda’s most efficient production engine ever. That’s paired with an electric motor that boosts total system output to 212 horsepower, 20 more than the base Accord’s 1.5-liter turbocharged four.

Interestingly that hybrid system is configured in series, meaning the car can run entirely on the electric motor and use the gasoline motor just to recharge the batteries, a la the Chevrolet Volt. But, when engine speed or acceleration demands, both motors can work in parallel to provide maximum performance.

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

That, dear readers, is what we call a big ‘ol trunk. 


But don’t expect too much on that front. I was able to drive an early version of the 2018 Accord Hybrid and found the acceleration to be on the relaxed side, more than acceptable but lacking the EV-style rush of torque that we’ve come to expect from cars like the Volt. But, this was just a hand-built prototype that had spent the day getting flogged by journalists, so a fresher car with a full battery pack may very well perform better.

The big question, of course, is overall economy and, sadly, that we don’t have an answer for yet. The 2018 Accord in its most efficient configuration, with the 1.5-liter engine and CVT, offers a combined 33 mpg. The 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid manages 48 combined, so don’t be surprised if the new car pushes that figure well into the 50s. Despite that, we should actually see a decrease in price. For 2018 the Accord Hybrid will be available in the base LX trim, losing some interior niceties in exchange for a lower MSRP. 

The 2018 Accord Hybrid hits dealers early next year and, while I was quite impressed by my time behind the wheel of the traditionally powered sedans, if you’re not in a hurry I’m inclined to think the Hybrid will be well worth the wait.


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2017 Honda CB1100 EX ride review: Retro in the best possible way



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Was anybody here around in 1969? Or the early ‘70s? Did anybody like motorcycles then? If so, you have to recall the debut of the Honda CB750 Four. That was almost as big a deal as the dawn of internal combustion, or the first time anyone ever thought to actually slice bread. Before the CB750, as far as I recall, there were only big, heavy, two-cylinder British bikes; big, heavy, two-cylinder American bikes and little, buzzy one- and two-cylinder Japanese bikes. At least in my memory. Maybe in yours, too.

Then came the CB750.

I recall sneaking into the dealership on PCH and gawking like a convert at a revival at the thing. What a bike! Four cylinders, FOUR CYLINDERS, transversely mounted! So much power, so much torque, so much possibility. The world would never be the same, I remember thinking. I took as many brochures as I could carry and plastered them on the wall of my room.

As a gawky teenager still years away from a license or a job with enough money to buy anything as magnificent as that, it slipped into memory, where it has stayed since. I wound up buying a 10-year-old BSA 650 that blew up and was sold for salvage rights to A&A Motorcycle Salvage in Wilmington for $35. Then came college, then other adventures, and the 750 Four moldered in the gray matter of my brain back near the Apollo moon landings and Miss Jane Parmenter on “F-Troop.”


2017 Honda CB1100 EX	gauges

The gauges will remind you of Honda gauges from 40 years ago

Until the CB1100 EX. Suddenly, everything gurgled back to the surface like tasty catfish fixins after pond-fishing with an M80. I first saw the CB1100 at the Long Beach motorcycle show, gleaming on the Honda stand like a chrome-plated version of the Royal crown jewels, but all bolted together. Honda’s Jon Seidel was there. He and I are about the same age and we both fondly recalled the 750 Four’s launch.

“The world was never the same,” he said.

“I had to have one,” I said, meaning I had to have a press bike for a loan.  

“Sure,” he said, “No problem.”

He became my new favorite industry executive. But one thing got in the way of another, and it was a while before I got one. Finally, one month ago, I stood inside door 5 of Honda’s Building 500 in Torrance next to a gleaming CB1100 EX as a technician screwed a license plate onto it. Finally, a CB750/1100 was mine, if only for a couple weeks.

“I may not come back,” I told Seidel.

“I wouldn’t blame you,” he said.

2017 Honda CB1100 EX	chrome

There is a lot of chrome on this bike, and it shines brilliantly

And off I rode, onto the sunny Torrance streets, chrome blinding all who came within 10 blocks, riding back into the folded gray matter of memory, back into 1969 or so. Only now I could reach the pedals.  

The CB1100 EX is basically a transporter to your youth — or my youth, anyway, except that now my youth has fuel injection and fully transistorized ignition. Horsepower is not listed in the U.S., but Europeans have put it at 88. Don’t look at that as you would a car; the CB weighs only 562 pounds, which is a lot less than a car. Unfortunately, it’s a lot more than many motorcycles. If there’s one common whine about this bike, it’s the weight. But look at the size of that 1140cc engine — it’s big. The weight can be seen as stability, making this a little more of a cruiser than a sporty bike.

All that’s OK with me; it is a very comfortable machine to ride. The big flat seat is carrier-deck grande compared to many other motorcycles over in the sport segment, and you can park your keister on it all day without cheek pain. The lack of fairings helps get cool air to the air-cooled engine, but means you’re battling the winds at anything over 65 mph. Your upright torso acts as a lever to raise weight off the front wheel, which makes the bike wander around just a bit as your body functions like a flag in the breeze. Up to 75 mph, you can still sit upright but anything more than that I found myself flopping over the tank for better aerodynamic efficiency. 

2017 Honda CB1100 EX 3 quarter

The CB1100 EX looks retro-good from any angle

The 2017 model gets an assist-and-slip clutch, which engages the bike’s torque with a light ease that adds to its daylong riding capability. The six-speed manual transmission is easy to use, with a gear position indicator in between the two big retro gauge dials.

There are three discs for stopping, two in front and one in back, all controlled by ABS. You don’t get any other electronic aids, though, so you have to pay attention — no inertial measuring unit is going to step in and save you. But you won’t be tempted to push this bike very far in turns, anyway. It is not a sport bike. But it is also not a heavy touring machine, either. Let’s call it a sporty retro cruising memory machine.

Prices start at $12,579, which includes destination. That’s steep, but I’m guessing most buyers will be older and have better credit ratings than I had in 1969. Indeed, I wonder how many guys there are like me, who remember the original CB750 Four so fondly, fondly enough to actually go buy this new one. The CB1100 EX would be an excellent everyday commuter bike. It’s freeway capable but extremely easy to ride around town, all while holding its own well enough in corners. This could be the one bike you own if you were only going to own one bike. And for anyone who remembers how much fun motorcycling was in their youth, well, I can tell you, it’s still just as much fun today.

On Sale: Now

Base Price: $12,579

Drivetrain: 1140-cc inline transverse-mounted four-cylinder, chain drive, six-speed manual

Output: 88 hp

Curb Weight: 562 pounds

Pros: A retro sporty cruiser with all the comforts of 2017

Cons: Heavy and kind of expensive


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Honda bringing Riding Assist-e concept motorcycle to Tokyo Motor Show


Honda brought balance to this year’s Consumer Electronics Show with the Riding Assist self-leveling motorcycle. Honda engineers reworked the front end of the pliant, compact frame of an NC 700, installing an evolution of the self-balancing system used on the Honda UNI-CUB to create a bike that remains upright without assistance from the rider. The Riding Assist didn’t use gyroscopes; a new brain managed a steer-by-wire system and a few electric motors that turned the front wheel, changed the front-end geometry, and enabled an autonomous mode. For this month’s Tokyo Motor Show, Honda’s bringing the next step in the tech: an electric version called the Riding Assist-e.

At the moment, we don’t have any specs on the electric powertrain, but we do know that it’s wholly separate from the robotic, self-leveling system. The under-seat electric motor likely sits above the battery, is cooled by a rear-mounted radiator, and is charged via a port on the left side of the bike. A driveshaft in the single-sided swingarm turns the rear wheel.

Segregating the Riding Assist-e electric propulsion from the electric balancing could be Honda making a statement about the self-balancing system’s versatility. Taking up space only in the front end, the balancing mechanicals could serve in any motorcycle, with any powertrain, that has enough room up front. Using the NC 700 as a donor bike during CES was likely no accident, that two-wheeler specifically developed as a golden mean for new and returning motorcycle riders seeking an easy steed. As for where else self-balancing might suit big clientele, Honda PR said during CES that, “We’re also thinking about if we could use this technology on big bikes like a Gold Wing.” (Remember, the Gold Wing is expected to get a media reveal just before the Tokyo Motor Show.)

We’ll know more in a few weeks, and we’ll have news on Honda’s other Tokyo goodies like the Super Cub C125 concept, an anniversary Super Cub 110 celebrating production of 100 million Cubs, and a Monkey 125 concept.

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Honda S2000 gets a GM LSX engine swap



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When the Honda S2000 debuted, it was probably (surely) the best vehicle to come out of the company’s Japanese headquarters since the original Acura NSX. It might now be eclipsed by the Civic Type R and new NSX, but in the early aughts, this was it — a Miata with more power and more style. Its 200-ish-hp four is perfectly suited for slicing up a road course, and the CR hardtop version looks damn good doing it. And when we say “perfect,” we mean we wouldn’t complain about 1,000 extra horsepower or so. Enter LSX.

GM’s aftermarket LSX engine debuted at the 2006 SEMA show bragging that it could handle 2,500 hp with a cast-iron racing block and two extra rows of head-bolt holes per bank for more clamping power. Current LSX prices range from about $6,000 for the 376 cubic inches to about $17,000 for the 454 cubic inches. Those two snails in front of this installation signify that there could easily be 1,000 ponies in that diminutive engine bay.

Taking the biggest engine you can find, twin-turbocharging it and shoehorning it into a tiny coupe? That’s all USA, baby. What about you? In or out? Check out what this mongrel sounds like below.


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