The 2013 Honda Accord will be, to paraphrase our illustrious second-in-command, a “big effin’ deal.” The perennially popular sedan may still be wonderfully competent, but it’s going to need all of Honda’s advanced know-how to ward off an ever-tightening fracas. And in that regard, Honda is throwing its newest infotainment system, Hondalink, at the 2013 Accord to keep drivers entertained while they’re driving their families. After all, if its mission is to be considered, it won’t be the driving experience that’ll be the most fun part.
Hondalink takes advantage of Aha, a media system from Harman International that grants access to Internet radio like Pandora and Slacker, podcasts from NPR and various other sources, national news reports, traffic updates, nearby restaurant recommendations from Yelp, satellite radio and auxiliary inputs, and even their Facebook and Twitter feeds read out loud. It’s all controlled via the Aha app, through the mythical “cloud.” If owners have a smartphone, they can pre-program the content they want to listen to before they drive off—and while they’re driving they can take control via voice recognition and steering wheel controls. “The Connected Generation never had it so good,” says Harman.
And like on the newly-introduced CR-V, Honda will also incorporate Pandora Internet radio and voice-to-text messaging in the 2013 Accord. And for the upcoming Accord Plug-In Hybrid, Hondalink will take advantage of charger-locating and range-reflecting EV functions that we saw when we drove the Fit EV.
“This is the next evolution of the connected car and the connected customer,” says Charles Koch, Honda’s manager of new business development.
Aha’s website states that “we are currently working with multiple automotive, CE and content partners.” Likewise, the 2013 Accord is the first car to carry the system. Honda ensures that throughout the life of the Accord—and what a long life they’ll have, if past models are any indication—Aha will be able to update itself, automatically, without requiring a trip to the dealer and an update manual heavy enough to kill small mice.
The comparison is apt: this is a brave new world for connected family sedans and the Internet-connected youth who realize that they need a family sedan more than they thought. The Hondalink system most readily compares to Toyota’s new Entune system, found in the Camry, and Ford’s SYNC in the 2013 Fusion. Entune accesses specific, popular apps like OpenTable, IHeartRadio, and MovieTickets.com, as well as web searches with Bing. Both are connected with smartphones; the difference from Hondalink, however, is that Toyota’s system won’t be free after the first 3 years. Ford’s SYNC offers song tagging, HD radio and audiobooks from Audible.com, but its voice recognition is still somewhat suspect. When we drive the 2013 Accord sometime in August, we’ll be sure to put Aha through its paces.