It has just gone 8am on a Tuesday and the Honda Accord’s outside temperature Gauge indicates an already steamy 27º Celsius.
Twenty-seven and climbing, if the lethargic look of a lone female elephant and her calf less than 10m away, is anything to go by.
‘‘Thank God for air conditioning,’’ I think to myself as I marvel at the beauty of the Kruger National Park from the comfort of the car —the sun beating down and the heat shimmering off the tar while a fish eagle circles graciously overhead. Flapping her giant ears to cool down, the elephant nonchalantly lifts her head and stares directly at the car.
Doe-eyed, with each eyelash clearly visible, and saliva dripping from her mouth, she calmly chews her breakfast. There have been occasions in the past where elephants in musth or with calves have tipped over cars in the park if you get too close, with the end result not very pretty. Thankfully, she scans the wide-open savannah, shakes her head just once, and casually saunters off, her offspring following in the protection of her shadow.
A normal Tuesday at this time would see me navigating through a jungle of another kind —the gridlocked streets of Johannesburg en route to the office — but with the recent Heritage Day Holiday and a short break for the team at IgnitionLive, it was the perfect chance to escape the chaos of city life for the tranquillity and beauty of the bush. When it came to choosing which vehicle to take on the trip, I decided there were a couple of boxes that had to be ticked. Firstly, I needed a mid-size sedan with enough boot space to comfortably swallow up luggage for two plus a cooler box.
I needed a roomy interior with a high level of comfort due to the distances being covered, while under the bonnet should be an engine big enough to eat up the endless kilometres between Johannesburg and Malelane with ease, yet return fuel-efficiency figures that wouldn’t break the bank. Lastly, it had to have an automatic transmission, as operating a manual gearbox on the roads within the park — where the speed limit is 50km/h — simply seemed too much like hard work. As it turns out, the Honda Accord 3.5 V6 was the perfect choice.
Now in its 9th generation in the model’s 38-year history, this is the most powerful engine yet under the Accord’s bonnet. Pushing Out a healthy 207kW of power and 339Nm of torque, there is definitely no shortage of grunt. On those long, long stretches of the N4 it quietly went about its business with features such as adaptive cruise control and lane assist helping to make the journey not only more enjoyable, but safer.
Concern that the fuel efficiency of the vehicle might be on the high side, courtesy of the 3.5-litre engine, were dispelled with a return of 7.6l/100km for the round trip of just over 1 050km and with the cruise control set at the national speed limit, the engine was purring at just 2 000rpm. Impressive indeed. Interior finishes on the Accord, from the leather seats to the wood panelling and logical layout of the dashboard, are of the highest standard. Other standard features across the Accord range (a 2.0 and 2.4 litre is also available) include electric windows all round, heated front seats (no need for those on this trip!), dual-zone climate control, rear air conditioning vent and multifunction steering wheel.
Safety wise, most active and passive systems are ticked, ABS with electronic brake force distribution, vehicle stability assist, hill start assist, trailer stability assist, daytime running lights, multiple airbags and active head restraints.
Features that are also appreciated on a long road trip —and which the Accord duly delivers — are a USB port and plenty of drink holders and storage bins. Overall, the Accord delivered on all the requirements needed for a trip to the Kruger National Park — space, economy and comfort wrapped in a stylish, modern design.
Honda Accord 3.5 litre V6
Engine: 3 471cc 4-cylinder V6
0-100km/h: 7.2 seconds
Top speed: 200km/h
Fuel consumption: 9. 2 l/100km (combined cycle)
Price: R599 200