In The Autoblog Garage: 2008 Honda Accord Coupe

Click above for high-res gallery of the 2008 Honda Accord Coupe

Honda's Accord has grown at every redo since the model's inception, and this latest version is no different. We've already tried out the sedan, so we borrowed the two-door version to sample the Coupé lifestyle, wherein you actually pronounce those acute accents. Our first impression is that the Accord Coupe is the best Monte Carlo never made, while retaining a fundamental core of Hondaness. Accords have always been half cool, half dorky, with the scale tipping one way or another depending on the generation. This latest one continues that trend, and we wanted to find out if the 2008 Accord Coupe is crushingly cool or heavily noisome.

All photos © 2008 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.

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The last time the Accord Coupe looked lithe was two generations ago, and the new one is much, much larger than the tiny thing it started out as so many years ago. Even though the coupe is down a couple inches in both wheelbase and overall length on the sedan, size is on par with the BMW 6-Series! It's not just the overall footprint that takes its inspiration from BMW, there are also Roundel styling touches. The roofline is classic two-door, with a chrome accent and a euro-chic kick at the base of the C-Pillar. The nose treatment's inherent aggression works well on the Coupe, with its raked back windscreen and fast roofline. Honda's design idiom has traded frippery for lines that are classically attractive; this big two-door will look just as sharp in ten years.

Your angle of attack is important when coming up on the Accord Coupe, else the car looks awkward instead of bold. From the rear, there are fat haunches and chamfered corners with large taillights that lead the eye directly to a deep character line gesturing down the bodysides and imparting a lunging stance. Twin chromed tailpipes add symmetry, and a subtle lip spoiler squares off the slightly bulbous trunklid. The rear cargo hold is quite accommodating, and the shape of the opening allows surprisingly large and bulky items to fit. Up front is where most of the ungainliness occurs. Angry eye headlamps and an underbiting airdam can dwarf the wheels and make the stance seem narrow - no mean feat when you're rolling 18-inch rims.

Being a coupe, space in the interior suffers, but the Accoupe forces as little compromise as possible. It's easier to climb into the backseat from the passenger side due to the lack of a power seat for whoever rides shotgun. A flick of the wrist folds and slides the front passenger seat out of the way, offering entry to the grown-up sized back seat; there's just plenty of room in the Accord Coupe. Climbing over the sill and into the back will never be graceful, but Honda's done about all it could to facilitate ingress and egress. If a coupe is on your wishlist, you're likely already aware of the limitations of the layout.

We peeked inside and found Honda has designed a thoughtful, if slightly flawed, driver's environment. It's virtually identical to the Accord sedan, though the roofline is lower. Materials are high quality and the design is largely restrained and clean. Bolstering hugs your torso snugly in the comfy seats, and the leather in our test car was soft and fragrant. It's not all sweetness and light, however. The spumy layout of the radio, HVAC and navigation system controls is frustrating to learn and difficult to use. An up/down toggle for temperature? Fail. Rockers for radio tuning and cabin fan, neither within easy reach? Fail. iDrive-like control knob? Half-Fail.

Positioned up high in the center of the dash under a hood is a large LCD screen for the navigation and ancillary menus. Honda included a button on the dashboard to toggle between day/night/off, handy for night driving where the ability to douse the screen without digging through seven submenus is a plus. During the week we spent with the Accord, we never got comfortable using its joystick/knob and slightly labyrinthine menus, but given a modicum of effort and a little more time, we think it would become second nature eventually. The rest of the controls and instruments are easily understood and in the right places. Nothing at all feels cheap inside the Accord.

Honda's 3.5-liter V6 was under the hood of our test car and its 268 horsepower is largely unconcerned with the nearly 3,600 pounds of car with which it's taxed. Balancing the serious brawn is a cylinder deactivation system, Variable Cylinder Management, that enthusiastically turns the six into a three as early and often as possible. The switchover is largely undetectable, and it's surprising how long you can keep the green "Eco" indicator on the dashboard lit. In a mix of city and highway driving, we saw 23.5 mpg, besting the EPA combined rating of 22. The big six even achieves a PZEV/ULEV-2 rating, even if it's not quite as frugal as we'd like.

Underway, the Honda DNA is evident. Ride motions are well controlled and wallowing is not allowed. When the road goes curvy, the Accord Coupe can make use of those 235/45/18 Michelins without scraping its chrome door handles off the pavement. Even with a V6 capable of delivering a hard shove into the seat, we didn't find torque steer to even be on this car's radar. With its relatively sharp handling, the Accord Coupe reminds us of Preludes gone by, but this car has, you know, balls. The downside to the large and relatively low profile tires is that the ride can be choppy, and there's a fair bit of roar in the cabin when cruising the highway. Besides the noise, we also had difficulty finding a satisfyingly comfortable driving position. There are armrests on both the door and in between the front seats, but we found them positioned too low on which to rest our elbows. That sounds like a minor quibble, but it's fatiguing to put in significant miles when you're only able to prop your arm on the top of the door panel.

There are several alternatives to the Accord Coupe - Toyota's Solara and Nissan's Altima Coupe are its most direct two-door, front-wheel-drive competitors. The Accord is a winning combination of size, speed, and luxury, though. Optioning up the Accord Coupe can push it past $30,000, however, which might be offensive to some buyers. But Honda's reputation precedes this car, and you can rest fairly assured that it will eclipse the proscribed 100,000-plus mile tuneup interval, with passengers who have wriggled in and out of the back seat offering the only whimpers. As an everyday conveyance, the Accord Coupe extracts virtually no penalty while offering performance when you ask, and definitely weighing in on the cool side of the scale.

All photos ©2008 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.

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