Honda Accord Coupe — Shifting into fun

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Fun can be spelled in many ways. We just rediscovered one spelling — Honda Accord coupe with a manual transmission.

It’s a mouthful, but this tossable Accord is loaded with entertainment, otherwise known as fun on four wheels. While many people wouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car without an automatic, this vast majority is missing out on a delightful experience.

We had a blast driving the 271-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 version with a six-speed manual transmission but the 4-cylinder with its five-speed manual is just as entertaining a road carver and runner because you have to keep the 190-horsepower 4-cylinder engine percolating at the correct rpm to get the most out of it. There’s less straight ahead performance, but on the flip side there’s a big out-the-door price advantage and gas mileage is considerably better.

Unfortunately, to get a driver’s car out of the Accord lineup these days, you will have to go for the two-door. While the Accord sedan is solid family transportation with great reliability and outstanding trade-in value, driving excitement is not part of its pedigree.

Ascetically the coupe handles the current Accord design much better than the sedan. We think it is one of the hottest looking mid-priced four-passenger coupes currently on the market. Numerous thumbs up on the road and a plethora of parking lot voyeurs confirmed our opinion. And to some degree of surprise the age range of enthusiasts spanned several generations; from young to old the sporty looks of the coupe attracted an appreciating crowd.
The driving experience is truly Honda-like, which to us means a confident on-road demeanor, quality construction, great sight-lines, first-class materials, wonderful fit and finish and a bundle of useable and ergonomically designed switchgear.

Climb into an Accord coupe and your mood immediately lightens. It’s not the fall-into-the-cockpit adrenaline elevator of a Corvette or Porsche, but more a feeling that all is right with the world because all is right with my car.

Just to dispel any thoughts that the 4-cylinder version is slow, an idea we might have already planted by our aforementioned remarks, it can clear 60 miles per hour from a dead stop in about 7.5 seconds if you make good use of the five forward gears. Not fast, but fast enough and get it off the straight stretches of four-lane highway and onto some winding, tight rural asphalt and then the entertainment factor soars.

The mechanical dynamics of the Accord coupe add ease to the drive; the clutch action is liquid and the shifts are smooth and quick and both are forgiving of driver shortcomings. You could teach a newcomer to drive with little worry of a burned out clutch or a stripped gear.

Additional smiles will be induced each time you pass your favorite gas stop. It is rated at 31 mpg highway and 22 city compared to the V-6’s rather thirsty-by-comparison 25/17. Both engines, thankfully, burn regular gas.

Our well-equipped EX-L with navigation carried a bottom line of $28,790. The comparable V-6 goes out the door for $32,015. In LX-S base trim the coupe can be purchased for $23,265.

The coupe carries the character line of the sedan, which sweeps downward from the rear haunches into the fender, but in a more dramatic way. A steeply raked rear window is another big differentiator between the coupe and sedan, creating the impression that the car is in motion even standing still. The coupe proportions are just right although we still can’t wrap our mind around the front-end design in either coupe or sedan formats.

Regardless of trim level, you will find a very pleasing dashboard layout, comfortable seats and a huge greenhouse offering a great look out on all sides. The seats in our upscale test car were particularly pleasing and with eight-way power and tilt and telescoping steering wheel it was easy to find a comfortable seating position.

While coupes have swoopy good looks, they are obviously not as passenger friendly as a sedan. You sacrifice for the stylish sportiness of a two-door. But gaining rear access in the Accord is a relatively painless pursuit with flip-and-slide front buckets. One problem, the front seatback on the right does not return to its original position and has to be adjusted by the front-seat passenger each time someone enters or departs.

Once housed in back, two adults will find adequate leg room and passable head room. Four people can be comfortable for short trips. There are three sets of belts in back, but it is advisable to reserve the middle seat for a child.

The trunk provides a useable 11.9 cubic feet of storage space. This is compared to 7.4 cubic feet for its direct competitor, the Nissan Altima coupe. For more space, the rear seatback can be folded forward to accommodate longer items. Indeed, we had to fold the seat down to carry two sets of golf clubs.

We applaud Honda for its emphasis on safety. Unlike many manufacturers who still make some safety items optional, Honda provides a full line of safety equipment on all trim levels. In the case of the Accord it includes antilock disc brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, stability control, traction control, tire-pressure monitoring, front side airbags and full-length side-curtain airbags.

A sour note here — despite ABS with Brakeforce distribution, a major automotive magazine measured the Accord stopping distance in a longish 137 feet.

Our well-equipped EX-L Navigation edition carried a price of $28,790. In addition to navigation, the package includes leather-trimmed seats, a 270-watt premium audio system with seven speakers, and dual-zone climate control. Our V-6 Navigation edition had no add-ons and billed at $32,015 including destination.

We very much like the Accord coupe. We think it would be a perfect driving companion for people who don’t regularly carry rear seat passengers. And we like it with either the V-6 or the lusty four. But we especially enjoy the great fun factor the manual shifter brings to the equation.

Base price: $23,265; as driven, $28,790
Engine: 2.4-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 190 @ 7.000 rpm
Torque: 162 foot-pounds @ 4,400 rpm
Drive: front wheel
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 107.9 inches
Length: 190.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,386 pounds
Turning circle: 37.1 feet
Luggage capacity: 11.9 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 31 mpg highway, 22 mpg city
0-60: 7.5 seconds (Edmunds)
Also consider: Hyundai Genesis coupe, Nissan Altima coupe, Ford Mustang V-6

The Good:
• Sleek styling
• Excellent fit and finish
• Entertaining driving dynamics with 4-cylinder, manual transmission

The Bad:
• Sub-par braking

The Ugly:
• A coupe carrying four is sadistic