Don’t get the wrong idea, WardsAuto loves good 4-cyl. engines, both naturally aspirated and with forced induction. Our data finds a growing number of American consumers snapping them up.
But there’s no denying the punch, power, silkiness and “I’ve got this” attitude of a world-class V-6. For some of them, the tradeoff has been middling fuel economy.
Not so for the Honda Accord’s superb 3.5L SOHC V-6, which returns for a second-straight year on the Ward’s 10 Best Engines list.
Iterations of this 60-degree V-6 have raked in five trophies since 2005 (eight if you include 3.0L versions dating back to 2003).
Efficiency remains this engine’s hallmark. Last year, the clincher was its ability to exceed 28 mpg (8.4 L/100 km). This year, WardsAuto editors logged 837 miles (1,347 km) over the course of two weeks and, once again, four editors topped 28 mpg, which is remarkable in a midsize car as large as the Accord.
Turbocharged 4-cyl. engines, fast becoming the standard in this segment, struggle to post numbers like that, as did some naturally aspirated I-4s in this year’s competition.
Better yet, the 3.5L V-6 gets the job done with conventional port injection instead of direct injection, which is supposed to improve power and efficiency but also adds cost.
In 2013, Honda introduced a version of this engine with DI in the Acura RLX flagship sedan, which boasts a higher compression ratio and specific output but is more than 400 lbs. (181 kg) heavier than the Accord and a lot more expensive.
Dollar for dollar, WardsAuto finds the Accord V-6 the smarter buy and better performer. And the Acura V-6 runs on premium fuel, while the Accord powerplant is happy with regular.
Both engines benefit from the latest version of Honda’s i-VTEC (variable valve control) with variable cylinder management (cylinder deactivation), which allows both engines to operate in 3-cyl. mode under light load.
At startup, the Accord V-6 will be in high-efficiency “eco” mode and may feel a tad sluggish. Switch off eco mode, and the car springs to life as throttle response quickens and shift points come at higher rpm. Not ideal for fuel efficiency, but great for the soul.
Critics might wonder what makes Honda’s 3.5L so compelling, arguing that it’s not sexy like the Chevy Corvette’s new 6.2L small-block V-8 or the Porsche Cayman’s 2.7L flat-6.
We disagree. To put it in 1970s sitcom terms, Honda’s 3.5L V-6 is Mary Ann, whose girl-next-door beauty stole the spotlight from the Hollywood starlet Ginger on more than one occasion.
A 3-hour tour in the Accord V-6 will demonstrate to anyone that this engine is no castaway.