I just got back a few days ago from my summer road trip: Boulder to Kansas City and thence the Lake of the Ozarks, where I relaxed for a week with my kids and enjoyed both the summer heat and the cool indoor air conditioning. I wrote about the Lake trip elsewhere – see Summer Vacation at the Lake of the Ozarks – but what I didn’t talk much about was the transit. Honda kindly loaned me a 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid TRG and that’s how I drove there and back, about 1,500 miles total. The Accord was great, comfortable, loaded with a great sound system, and offering up just a bit shy of 40mpg fuel efficiency on the long haul.
If you’ve never driven on a road trip, you’ve missed out. Those long haul drives where your goal is 400 miles or more are a rather unique experience, filled mostly with the tedium of the open highway. Sure you can drive fast (and I did utilize an Escort Max360c Radar Detector to avoid speed traps), but it’s also somewhat of a meditative experience. Certainly it’s hard to avoid contemplating how we humans like to jam together in dense urban areas when there are thousands of square miles of nothing. Farmland where the fields of corn and other crops are horizon-to-horizon.
The route from Boulder to Kansas City is very much like that, a haul of about 620 miles. That’s a lotta driving, but the speed limit along most of the road is 75mph, meaning you can safely go 80mph. Math shows that at that speed you can chew up 620 miles of road in about 7 1/2 hours. Of course, you can’t keep that clip up the whole way, but it’s mostly fast, empty highway I-70, one of the great east-west Interstates in the USA. I’ve done this drive so many times I know the cities on the route, from Denver to Burlington, Colorado, then Kanorado, Colby and Witchita, Kansas. Then it’s time to tackle the complex Kansas City highway system (on a map it looks logical, with 435 as the “ring highway”, but the signage can be quite daunting).
Through it all, the Honda just chugged along, doing great. Even when the road ahead was, well, straight as that proverbial arrow:
From Kansas City, it’s another two and a half hours of smaller backroads (like the above) to get to the Lake of the Ozarks in the middle of Missouri. Again, familiar territory as I’ve driven that route dozens of times. It goes through these tiny rural towns with populations in the 3-digit range, including some quaint places with one or two block “downtown” areas that look like they haven’t changed in fifty years or more.
Like Cole Camp, Missouri, where I took this photo of the Accord in front of the town’s Museum:
I always wonder about the lives of people who live in these rural hamlets too. I imagine it’s a simpler, agrarian lifestyle, focused on farming and the ancillary businesses related to running large farms in the midwest. And farming isn’t oxen and plows, it’s way more high-tech than you may realize, with GPS-based tractors, sensors throughout fields analyzing precipitation and soil health, drones, and much more. It’s not the 1800’s anymore, after all.
Cosseted by the comforts of the Accord interior and the many controls accessible from the dashboard, the time went quickly. Here’s the dashboard to give you a sense of the fit and finish of this comfortable sedan:
A critical feature for long road trips is cruise control, and the 2021 Honda Accord features Adaptive Cruise Control, one of the best modern safety features of the last decade. But Honda didn’t stop there, adding a newly redesigned Low Speed Braking Control, Blind Spot Information System (yes, you do have to change lanes yourself), and Lane Keeping Assist System and Road Departure Mitigation to ensure that there is a lane you’re about to change into. All in all, a lot of steps towards a fully automated self-driving vehicle, and the open road with no other vehicle within a half-mile? That’s exactly where the self-driving features are most beneficial!
Notice in the above photo the weird gear shift buttons of the Accord too. It takes a bit of getting used to, but with the depression for reverse and ridged button for drive, it very quickly became intuitive so that I found myself driving through parking lots without a single peek at the center console.
The 2021 Accord Hybrid adds some great new interior features too, including both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I love CarPlay as it’s a logical extension to my iPhone experience that lets me keep my eye on the road/dash even as I’m selecting playlists, pausing an audiobook or double-checking directions. Wireless charging is another new addition, though I tend to just have a wire in the car to ensure the connection never glitches.
And oh, that fuel efficiency. The Hybrid adds a little bit to the price tag of this super popular vehicle, but 38.3 mpg was delightful. Across 1500 miles, that saved me over 16 gallons over my already reasonably fuel-efficient Mazda CX-5. At $4.00 gallon, that’s over $60. More importantly, it’s one less stop for gas on the highway too. Here’s the terrific range, average mpg, and more on the main gauge display:
The theoretical optimal fuel efficiency is actually 44 in city driving (41 on the highway) but given the vagueries of actual driving conditions versus EPA optimal testing, I feel like 38.3 mpg was pretty darn good. With practice, I might have been able to even bump it up to 40 or higher, which would be fantastic.
Because it’s a hybrid, the drive is very peppy and responsive, both from zero to speed and accelerating at highway speeds. It’s only a 2.0L i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine, but I found it a fun and zippy drive, whether in the city or out in the sticks. New for 2021 is a redesigned powertrain for this vehicle too, offering stronger and more responsive acceleration and that improved braking experience too. Both were well appreciated.
A road trip is also about packing and managing cargo, suitcases, and everything else needed for a road trip, and I found the Accord’s trunk to be quite spacious, certainly sufficient for all of my baggage, including a big cooler of food:
At times I did have all the kids in the car too, and they appreciated the surprisingly good rear legroom, as shown in the below:
Finally, after two days of driving (I spent the night in Kansas City both to and from the Lake), I made it to our little place on the waterfront. Just in time to enjoy a sunset from our deck:
Ahhh, doesn’t that make you want to join me there? It’s just as pretty as it looks too…
The car did great with the more rural roads, even the occasional gravel or dirt road. It looked quite at home in that environment, actually.
Check out those front lights and the newly redesigned front grill too. Nice job with this one, Honda!
Finally, though, the sands ran through the proverbial hourglass and it was time to head home. On this drive, heading west, west, west, I did encounter some interesting weather, the most picturesque of which was this storm front hovering over Kansas City:
Okay, it was a bit daunting to head towards those dark clouds, but the Accord handled it well, and the automatic windshield wipers ensured I had good visibility. Or as good as was possible in the heaviest moments of downpour, at least.
Turns out that the Honda Accord is the #2 best selling car with under-35 drivers in the United States, with its cousin the Honda Civic #1 in that slot. It’s justified. The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid TRG is a terrific combination of style, safety, and comfort. It was a great road trip car, whether it was just me jammin’ to some Sirius XM while zipping through endless highway or a full vehicle of people popping out to the local G2M market for dinner fixings. Definitely, one to check out, y’all.
CONFIGURATION: 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid TRG with 2.0L i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine. There were no optional additions, it was a stock vehicle of the TRG line. MSRP: $36,240.00.
Disclosure: Honda loaned me the Accord Hybrid for almost two weeks for my road trip and holiday, which was super nice of the company. Much appreciated, thanks so much, Honda!