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Honda’s ninth-generation Accord got its first mid-product cycle freshening for 2016, with both gasoline-powered sedan and coupe models receiving tweaks to styling and suspension for a revitalized look and improved driving experience. Interestingly, there was no 2016 Accord Hybrid or Plug-In Hybrid.

Which was interesting. Gasoline prices have been low, and hybrids do cost more than their purely internal combustion equivalents. The 2014-15 Accord Hybrid introduced some novel powertrain technology in its “Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive”, hereafter referred to as i-MMD. Honda’s original Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system used its electric motor to assist the gasoline engine. Think “electric supercharger” for its effect. Late production IMA systems did actually run in pure electric mode under some conditions, but Honda didn’t make a big deal about that. Which may have cost them points with electric vehicle (EV) fanatics.

In the i-MMA system, power to the drive wheels — front in the Accord — is primarily electric. Most of the time, the gasoline engine — a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder — powers a generator, which provides electricity to both charge the lithium-ion battery pack and run the traction motor, which powers the wheels. Regenerative braking provides further battery pack charging. Under a light load, as in steady-speed cruising on level ground on surface streets or the highway, the engine shuts off and is disconnected from the drivetrain, and the car operated in EV (electric vehicle) mode. At higher speeds or going up hills at speed, the generator motor and traction motor are deactivated and motive power comes solely from the gasoline engine. Changes between modes are nearly imperceptible, and best noted by the information displays on the instrument panel.