"It's the journalist special." That phrase, coined by our own senior editor, quite accurately sums up our initial impression of the Honda Accord Coupe EX-L V6 w/Navi 6MT (breathe). The Accord may be one of the best-selling cars in America, but we'll bet our bottom dollar that only a very, very small percent of the already meager coupe sales are made up of expensive EX-L Navi models fitted with the manual transmission. But give or take a few nitpicky options, this is the way we'd spec our own Accord Coupe if asked to.
Sure, it may seem that Honda outfitted this car just for us, but as we found out in our week-long test, there are plenty of reasons to like the two-door Accord. It's like vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup on top – the safe, reliable, trusty Accord underpinnings with an extra helping of sweet stuff. Honda knows it isn't going to move many two-doors equipped like this, but we think potential Accord Coupe buyers would be wise to check out the V6/manual package. Follow the jump to find out why.
Photos by Steven J. Ewing / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
In creating the coupe, Honda made a lot of aesthetic improvements to the Accord beyond simply lobbing off the two rear doors. New fascias front and rear add a healthy dose of sex appeal to the Accord body, and the handsome ten-spoke wheels of our top-trim test car nicely round off the package. We wish Honda would adopt this design language for the more popular sedan, but we understand the automaker's conservative approach in styling the high-selling four-door. In the land of Camry and Altima, non-offensive design goes a long way to attract the widest range of consumers. Still, we're happy that Honda opted for the Express catalog rather than the Sears catalog when picking out the Accord Coupe's clothes. Smaller headlamps and the rakish rear end go a long way in transforming the coupe into a more upscale-looking machine. It's simply sharp.
The biggest accomplishment of the sleeker design is that it does a good job of masking the Accord Coupe's relatively large proportions while still managing to be much more stylish than its stablemates. At 190.9 inches long, 72.8 inches wide and 56.4 inches tall, the coupe is only slightly larger than its closest competitor, the Nissan Altima Coupe, and if we're judging, the Honda barely wins the beauty contest.
So while the exterior styling gets a thumbs-up, the Accord's cabin still gives us mixed feelings. Without a doubt, Honda makes some of the most buttoned-down, well-built interiors on the market, but we had a hard time warming up to the obtrusive center stack awash with buttons and knobs. Our tester came equipped with Honda's navigation system, which uses a relatively large screen set back into the dash with all of the functional bits laid out on the center stack. We won't dispute the fact that everything is clearly labeled and nicely crafted, but we found ourselves in hunt-and-peck mode while searching for audio controls and HVAC switches. We got used to the layout after a couple of sessions, but in a time when more and more automakers are switching to cleaner, simpler center stack layouts, it's sort of odd to see Honda sticking to such a cluttered design.
Ergonomics aside, the Accord Coupe's cockpit is a relatively pleasant place to spend time in. It sports a modern design and loaded-up models like our EX-L tester get the full kit of optional goodies. The heated leather seats are comfortable and supportive with good bolstering for both our backs and butts, and the high-tech-looking dash is nicely complemented by the integration of a six-disc CD changer, Bluetooth connectivity, MP3 and auxiliary cable inputs, a premium sound system with seven speakers and dual-zone climate control. Really, this car is more Acura CL than Honda Accord, and consumers looking for a coupe with relatively luxurious appointments won't be put off by the nameplate – assuming you can get over the smorgasbord of buttons, anyway.
Honda offers two engine choices for the Accord Coupe. Base models use a relatively efficient and powerful 2.4-liter inline-four, and higher-end models (our tester) benefit from a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 271 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 251 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. Honda has never been known for producing mills that unload gobs of twist in the low end of the rev range, but we're still relatively impressed with the output of the bent-six. Power delivery is very linear with no abrupt jolts of oomph at different rev points in each gear, but you'll find yourself downshifting to achieve the requisite thrust for jaunts from 40 to 70 miles per hour. Fuel economy for the V6 is rated at 17/25 miles per gallon (city/highway), but we only managed about 21 during our drive. It's certainly nothing to write home about, but it's par for the class.
Our test car's six-speed manual transmission made us eager to move around between the gears. Much like Honda's interior quality, the automaker never ceases to impress with its do-it-yourself gearboxes, even in the larger Accord. Throws from one gear to the next are shorter than you'd think, and with a nicely weighted clutch pedal, gear engagement is reassuringly solid and surprisingly sporty. It's a slick stick that's easy to operate and engaging to use, and anyone who values driver involvement should skip the five-speed automatic when going over the options list.
Beyond the fantastic transmission, Honda has done a bit of work to dial in more suspension feedback than you'd find in the sedan. In addition to the larger 235/45 Michelin Pilot tires encompassing 18-inch alloy wheels (17s are the largest available on the four-door), both the front and rear stabilizer bars are larger on the coupe, and the end result is an Accord that's slightly more agile through the bends. Yes, there's still body roll that occurs during higher-speed cornering, but we attribute this to the fact that 99.9 percent of Accord Coupe buyers aren't looking for something that's dynamically brilliant. Still, the Accord will deliver when hustled, and the end result is greater dynamics than you'll find in an Altima Coupe.
The Accord Coupe's steering further strengthens its dynamic feel. Turn-in is sharp with immediate feedback from the front wheels, and the sensation of precision and agility doesn't lighten up as you work your way through the Accord's 2.48 turns lock-to-lock. We've said it before, but proper steering feel is one of the most crucial sense points in a car's overall relationship with the driver, and the Accord Coupe certainly delivers.
But when you're shopping for cars in the $30,000 range, there are plenty of options that are better steers than the Accord. A Ford Mustang, Hyundai Genesis Coupe or Nissan 370Z will deliver a whole lot more in the way of enjoyment, but Honda isn't trying to compete with these rear-wheel-drive back-road stars. Instead, the automaker is more focused on creating a car that provides ample amounts of luxury without being a complete snoozer on the road. Our loaded-up tester rang in at $32,015 (including the $710 destination charge), and while it might seem like a relatively hefty price to pay for something that wears an Accord badge, it seems like a pretty fair amount to shell out for something so nicely appointed. By contrast, a similarly equipped Altima Coupe will cost just slightly more, and it isn't nearly as good to drive or live with as the Honda.
The Accord Coupe fits into an odd segment within the marketplace. Sure, everyone knows the Accord name, but seldom know that a two-door variant exists. And with more functional, practical choices available in the $30,000 range, it's easy to see why the two-door Accord is overlooked. We'd be lying if we said that the Accord Coupe was one of our top five choices in its price range, but it isn't because we don't like it – it's just that, as enthusiasts, better options are available. But for the small amount of people who actually go out and pick one up, they won't be disappointed. It may be vanilla, but it's still ice cream.
Photos by Steven J. Ewing / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.