Honda has the watchwords 'smart and agile' for the new Accord, and it is certainly a leap forward from the present, rather conservative model.
From the moment you fire the engine up and blip the fast-reacting accelerator, the sportier exhaust note is apparent and the engine sounds more urgent at all times. The steering feels weightier and more communicative than many Japanese saloons, and indeed more so than other Honda products tend to, although perhaps not as lively as the Mazda6. The five-speed manual gearbox is light and easy to use, with typical Honda efficiency.
Despite its leaning towards a sports saloon, the ride did not feel too firm or uncomfortable, although it would have to be set sterner tests than a smooth German autobahn for a definitive judgement.
The five-speed 2.0-litre model we drove was also fairly low geared.
On a German autobahn at about 85mph in fifth, the engine was turning over at just above 4,000 rpm. Wind noise and tyre roar were low, and the whole package felt refined.
Honda needs it to be if it is to compete against the likes of Volvo, Audi and Saab.
There is plenty of space in the back for tall passengers, and the boot is large (32 litres more than the out-going Accord) without being cavernous. It's about the right compromise between the two, I'd say.
In many ways, the Accord and the Mazda6 share very similar philosophies, and more than a passing physical resemblance, from the arrowed nose and sharp headlights, through to a high tail.
The Accord 2.4 Type S model is particularly striking, with deep body skirting giving it an even more aggressive stance.
Big chunky door handles, wide wheel arches and sharp rear lights all add to a much more confident, design-focused model.
Aerodynamics have been improved, with Cd rating down from 0.30 on the old model to 0.26 on the new.
The attitude of the car centres on involvement for the driver, an essential requirement, Honda believes, to attract fickle user-choosers in the premium sector.
The dynamic, arrowed nose is replicated inside across the centre console of the dashboard, which has been constructed with good quality plastics. Dials are backlit and light up before the engine is switched on.
Despite being pre-production models and being partially handbuilt, the Accords felt solid and high quality. Shutlines were consistent and doors closed with a resounding thump.
The seating position, with a fully adjustable steering wheel, is good, and the seats are also much more supportive than in the outgoing model. Gone are the spongy sofas, replaced by much sexier, high bolstered seats to support against lateral forces. Honda engineers also said a complaint of the old seats was that they were too flat under the thighs, so the new ones have plenty of rake to draw the occupants back in the seat. The new Accord body is 12% stiffer torsionally than its predecessor, 70mm longer, 10mm wider and 20mm taller.
Designers have also spent a lot of time looking at pedestrian safety, ensuring the bonnet and nose of the car absorb as much force as possible in a collision. To date, Honda is the only manufacturer to achieve a three star rating for pedestrian safety in the Euro NCAP crash test series, for both the Civic and CRV.
The manufacturer is also hoping to bring the average age of owners of its cars down. Last year the figure dropped from 57 to 50, on account of the Civic Type-R and Jazz, and it is hoping the Accord will help as well.