2010 Honda Accord EX V6

Missing only a blau mit weiss roundel

Substitute BMW's blue and white roundel for the stylized "H" in the middle of the steering wheel and few drivers would figure out they were piloting a 2010 Honda Accord EX-L (L for leather) V6 sedan and not a BMW. If you could keep the charade going, many would like it better than a BMW.

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First, few can tell the difference between the 271 horsepower produced by the Accord's 3.5-liter V6 and the 300-plus horses available in some BMW's. Most drivers will, thankfully, release the gas pedal long before either engine has a chance to show its full potential. The Honda's five-speed automatic up-shifts with a precision virtually indistinguishable from a BMW, though it lacks the gimmicky computerized double-clutch downshifts found on some.

Next, the Accord EX-L's ride is BMW-taut and its steering offers the same confidence-inspiring feeling as do offerings from Munich. Indeed, our rear-seat passengers expected-and would have appreciated-a bit less firm suspension from the Honda. (They were, however, very pleased with the head- and legroom, but complained about the noise level. The Honda's seats, front and rear, have the same butt-gripping side support that's long been found in BMWs.

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Inside, the two makes are strikingly similar. The Honda has a very simple and elegant instrument panel: The speedometer and tachometer dominate, both surrounded by brushed aluminum trim rings. Sadly, Honda created its own version of BMW's i-drive. With a plethora of confusingly placed buttons, this is probably easy to operate in stop-and-go freeway traffic near Honda's U.S. headquarters in California. But in Lincoln, Alabama and Marysville, Ohio, where the Accord V6 Sedan is assembled, traffic moved fairly continuously. At 74 to 79 mph, we didn't have time to figure out on the fly which buttons do what.

While the Accord's steering is extremely precise and offers excellent feedback, the Honda's suspension deviates markedly from a BMW when pushed to the limit. The difference is the Honda's Michelin Pilot HXM4s, which offer comparatively little grip compared to the rubber found on BMWs. However, very few owners of either brand will ever intentionally push their vehicles to discern the difference. Trust us: Don't chase an aggressively- and well-driven BMW around a freeway transition ramp in an Accord.

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At this point, fans of Bimmers (a "Beamer" is one of the company's motorcycles or something we can't explain in a family website) will point out the advantages of their brand's rear-wheel-drive over the Honda's front drive. In theory, they're right. In practice, they're wrong. Far back in the day, BMWs offered more grip in front than is possible in a front-wheel-drive car. However, this setup requires driver skill and an acceptance of personal responsibility lacking in today's American society. Said another way: It's easier to spin out in a rear-drive car. To prevent that, BMW went to great lengths to stop their owners from backing their cars into the guardrail.

As any racecar crew chief will tell you, this isn't difficult. Start with rear tires that are wider than the fronts. Add a large front anti-roll (aka "sway") bar, increase rear camber and, maybe, toe-in, and install electronic stability control. The result is a rear-wheel-drive car that handles much like a front-driver in extreme situations: The front tires lose grip before the rears. The driver says, "Oh, Scheisse!" and lifts off the gas. The car slows down naturally-or with the help of the ESC-and the driver continues on his way. More slowly.

Said another way, 90-plus percent of the population will be unable to tell the extreme handling difference between the Honda Accord EX-L and a BMW.

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Two areas where the Honda beats the BMW hands down is in purchase price and repairs. The fully loaded-navigation system, 270-watt, 7-speaker sound system, satellite radio-2010 Accord EX-L sedan that Honda loaned to us stickered at $31,815. You'll have to drop down to the 230-horse BMW 128 to get below that figure. Picking one repair-a water pump replacement-will set you back about $1,000 on the BMW, but less than two-thirds that with the Honda.

If we were purchasing an Accord, we would skip the navigation system, which would drop the Accord's price to about $30,000. For $1,800 you can get four of the most expensive portable GPS devices and a lifetime of mapping updates. Built-in navigation systems will make no sense until the price becomes competitive with remote systems and they offer something the portable systems can't. Many current built-in systems don't even offer free mapping updates and traffic reports: For the $1,800 premium, you'll have to give me a lot more. For 2010, the Accord offers Bluetooth hands-free control of cell phone, sound system and more. Personally, that's still not enough to sway me toward the navigation system package.

Around town, on a tight, twisty racecourse, and on a 500-mile road trip, the CTS wagon proved as capable and satisfying as its well-received sedan counterpart. Its performance is good, its steering crisp, its handling athletic, its braking strong and stable, and its ride smile-inducing comfortable all day. If you like the CTS sedan, you'll likely love this handsome, highly capable wagon. Shop them all, but give this beauty a good, long look. (www.cadillac.com)

The bottom line: If you'd like BMW feel and BMW performance for a lot less money, definitely test drive the 2010 Accord EX-L sedan. (www.automobiles.honda.com)

About the Author

Mac Demere is a veteran auto journalist and former racecar driver who can be reached through macdemere.net.

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