Ah, technology, the amazing thing that makes our world turn faster and faster. Every day sees new advancements and modern progress has reached a blindingly quick pace. Blink and you’ll miss it. We really haven’t looked back since one of our early ancestors first picked up a sharp stone and thought, hey, I can organise me some dinner with this! If you analyse it deeply, technology has but one role –– to make our lives easier. Technology leaves less for us to do and in general makes life that much more enriching. The natural by-product, of course, is that technology isolates us from the process at hand. The more it does for us, the less we feel. The question is, where’s the sweet spot?
A recent drive in the tremendously high-tech Honda Accord Hybrid boarded me on this train of thought. The new Accord is a highly impressive machine and one of the most technologically up-to-date cars available in India. Happily, we happen to have a unique frame of reference to see how the Accord has evolved over the years, thanks to our consulting editor Bob Rupani and his 1989 Honda Accord. Bob’s car is a left-hand drive model that was brought in from the USA over 22 years back. The car is in pristine condition and it even has some features that today’s Accord lacks. Bob was gracious enough to let me drive his Accord alongside the new one and it was quite an enlightening experience. Separated by nearly 30 years, it’s fascinating to see what the Accord used to be and what it has developed into since.
For starters, both are handsome machines but in completely different ways. The new Accord is spaceship futuristic with its flashy full-LED headlamps, and sleek lines and lashings of chrome. The Hybrid’s cabin is packed with brightly coloured digital meters, gauges and displays. This is in stark contrast to the old model’s simple but smart layout with big, easily accessible buttons. Quality is good enough to have lasted all these years with still no major squeaks or rattles! From the outside, the ‘89 Accord cuts a genuinely likeable shape with clean, squared-off lines and a lovely curve to the rear windscreen as it meets the thin C-pillars. And of course, there’s the drama of watching those cool pop-up headlamps emerge from the bonnet. Thanks to modern pedestrian safety regulations, pop-up headlamps are a thing of the past and you can only marvel at them on cars like this ‘89 Accord.
Every category of car has gone supersized with evolution and it’s no different with the Accord. The Hybrid dwarfs the old one and it’s also considerably more luxurious. The new car has some amazing features like an active noise cancelling system that cuts out external sound so well you have to strain to hear people have a conversation right outside the car. Given how old Bob’s car is, it’s a pleasant surprise to see that it features cruise control – I imagine this was quite the impressive machine back in its day. Another thoughtful and quite unique feature is the valet lock. With a separate ‘valet key’, you can lock the glove box and also the boot and fuel lid opener levers placed on the floor to the left of the driver’s seat. This means you can keep your valuables in the glove box and boot without any fear when handing your car over for valet parking.
The new Hybrid is undoubtedly faster than Bob’s Accord which runs a carbureted 2.0-litre engine that made about 100PS or thereabouts. The Hybrid’s advanced engine-electric motor combo makes about double the power. Naturally, the driving experiences are poles apart. The new car is ultra smooth, cabin silence is eerie and technically, it doesn’t have a gearbox. Instead, the motor and engine outputs are curated by a ‘power control unit’ and power is sent to the wheels via Honda’s e-CVT, where an electric motor replaces the pulleys from a traditional CVT. In stark contrast, the old Accord’s engine is simple to the point that it doesn’t even have Honda’s famous VTEC variable valve timing. The new one, meanwhile, not only packs i-VTEC but also Honda’s electronic variable timing control (E-VTC). With all its tech, the fuel-sipping Hybrid will probably consider its forebear a complete drunk…
Ah, but the joys of driving the old car – the thrill of throwing that firm 5-speed manual gear lever with a heel-and-toe downshift, the delectable braap from the aftermarket exhaust (the car is otherwise completely stock). It’s all so mechanical! As Bob puts it, “Hold the thin-rimmed steering wheel and you feel an instant bond with the front tyres and, via them, the road. The accelerator pedal, brake, clutch and gear shift lever all talk and link up with you and you can almost feel every gear rotating. It’s akin to a doctor using a stethoscope to feel your heartbeat and checkout the functioning of other organs.” Sure the space-age Hybrid is a techy thrill of its own but it lacks these basal sensations that make driving enthusiasts go weak in the knees, the sensations that made us love driving in the first place!
Bob is the second owner of this car and it has run about 45,000 miles (72,500 kilometres). He has the full service history and the car has never given him any serious problems in all these years. A true testament to Japanese reliability, even the paint has its original shine! The new car with all of its sensors, motors, batteries and what have you has very big shoes to fill in this department.
As per classic car event rules, cars manufactured before 1990 are now considered to be modern classics or young timers, as they are referred to in some parts of Europe. This means Bob’s Accord can actually participate in vintage and classic car events, not just in India but around the world. There’s a long time before the Hybrid can even think of classic car status, but considering it is one of the early torchbearers of hybrid tech in India, who knows!
Images by Anis Shaikh