It began at the airport - well, at least it did for me. I flew out of Los Angeles at 1:00am PST, on my way to Atlanta for another TOV group test. We try and do these things once a year, rounding up a couple of Honda and Acura's latest cars to get to know them better. We drive them thousands of miles, take them to the drag strip, the auto-x, the dyno. We nap in them, eat in them, and occasionally emit noxious odors in them.
Well, the redeye wasn't the best way to get started, but I arrived in Atlanta at 8:30am EST, allowing us to get in a full day - but we wouldn't be testing cars the first day. Rather, Sage Marie of Honda PR set up a plant tour for us at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama. Sage picked up Jeff and then they met me at the airport in a Silver Pilot. Hmm, full DVD system, reclining rear seats, gosh I could use the sleep. Time to pop in something boring like Man on the Moon - but no such luck, nobody brought a movie.
We drove about two hours to Lincoln, Alabama, dodging highway patrolmen, sherrifs, etc. along the way - we literally saw dozens. Someone must have tipped off the gendarmes that TOV was in town. We arrived at the Honda plant to find an absolutely massive production facility, and a nearly identically sized new facility under construction. We were met there by several members of the plant team, including plant manager Chuck Ernst. They proceeded to give us an all access tour (including the cafeteria for lunch) that was simply amazing. This plant pumps out 150,000 Odysseys a year, and that will soon double! Even more impressive, they build all their own engines on site. If you've never been to a foundry, or seen (and felt) a 2300 ton press stamp steel, you owe it to yourself to visit an auto plant. Stay tuned for a more in-depth story on our visit, including Jeff dodging sparks on the welding line! :-)
After the plant tour, we drove back to Atlanta and took a short drive in the Accord V6 MT6. More impressions and data will follow, but the powertrain reminded me very much of the CL-S 6spd test we did last year. Only the clutch on the Accord was much better. Why Honda doesn't get more accolades for its V6's is beyond me - they're simply awesome.
Tomorrow, Tuan joins us with the TSX and we start putting on some serious miles. Check in tomorrow night for our Day 2 report.