Honda Accord Coupe adds some panache to a tried and true recipe
By Jim Bray
Honda's new Accord, at least in sedan form, appears to be taking the market by storm. And there's good reason for this.
Always a best seller, the car copped the Canadian Car of the Year title from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada after its annual TestFest in 2012 and it's once again listed in Car and Driver magazine's annual 10 best list – for the 27th time.
That's quite an accomplishment and it indicates that the Accord must be quite a car – If media are to be believed (a big IF, indeed!). But it is quite a car. I've had issues with recent Accords – in that the past two generations were dumpy-looking outside and too complicated inside – but I've always liked the car and can see why people buy it.
The new Accord corrects most of my angst about its looks. As I said about the sedan when I reviewed it a couple of months ago, "this new Accord is a really nice car and I can find very little to whine about."
Oh, I still managed a whine or two, and will in this review, but overall the Accord – in either sedan or coupe trim – is a nice step back into the limelight for a car that was in danger of being shoved out of it thanks to stiff competition from Japan, Europe, North America and Korea.
The new Accord coupe is an evolutionary step forward from the previous generation, which itself was the nicest-looking Accord you could buy then. It's sportier than the sedan, not that anyone will mistake it for a Porsche 911 (nor should they!), and you can get it with either a direct injected four cylinder engine or a nice and torquey 3.5 liter V6.
The test car Honda Canada supplied was the V6 version with a six speed manual transmission that got my heart pounding in anticipation when I saw it, because I have traditionally loved Honda's manual transmissions and light clutch pedals.
The V6 is a great engine, but unlike a lot of the competition it doesn't offer direct fuel injection, which means it could have more oomph and better mileage if Honda had decided to march to the rest of the marketplace's tune. But for some reason, Honda chose to only introduce direct injection on the four cylinder engine. That's better than nothing, but still a rather strange oversight.
On the other hand, this V6's 278 horses and 252 pound-feet perform exquisitely despite the engine's dinosaur dna. It puts out plenty of poop, enough to propel the sedan to highway speeds – and from following to passing speeds – quickly and efficiently.
Indeed, acceleration isn't this car's problem. It's the transmission – and I really didn't expect that. Honda makes some great manual transmissions; heck, I drove the new Acura ILX "Dynamic" late last year and its six speed stick was wonderful – and that was just the most recent in a long line of Honda sticks I've enjoyed over the years, right back to the 1976 Civic I bought new.
But here, the clutch was more like an on/off switch than a pedal, and between that and a rather notchy shift lever, I had a hard time shifting the Accord smoothly. My shifts got better over my week with Honda Canada's review car, but I'm usually comfortable with Honda manuals almost immediately.
The V6 Accord's automatic transmission has an extra "gear" now, making it a six speed and finally catching up with the competition, and it can be had with paddle shifters. After my experience with the manual, I think if I were purchasing this car I'd opt for the auto/paddle combo (and thereby risk a lightning strike from Above for eschewing a Honda manual).
The Accord's handling is nice and nimble, thanks to a well tuned suspension and electric power steering that offers reasonable feel. It's a pretty decent ride.
The inside story…
As for the interior complexity, instead of having acres of buttons and knobs like the previous Accord did, there are far fewer buttons and now you get a touch screen to use for the audio system. This is a step forward, but only a small step because this particular touch screen isn't as intuitive as some and I found myself wanting to use the voice recognition system instead, except that I didn't like the voice recognition either (though maybe if I had the car for more than a few days we'd get more used to each other's style).
Speaking of hearing voices, one nice thing about the Accord's voice system is that you can shut off a lot of its prattling (via the settings menus), by putting it into an "advanced" mode. That was nice. One example of this was when I, with a bit of élan, decided to do a hand brake turn into the parking spot in front of my house (it was very snowy and slippery). As soon as I tugged on the brake handle, the car started hollering at me to release the parking brake – as if I had put it on my mistake. But after I changed the voice setting, it kept quiet when I did another such turn.
If only there were such a setting for my wife…
Other than the interface issues, however, the Accord interior is very nice. The seats are comfortable, the instrumentation is laid out well and is very legible, and there's plenty of room as well as a good greenhouse for a coupe. The front seats are heated and the driver's also offers power adjustment. The rear seat is better for two than for three, which shouldn't be surprising, and it doesn't require a lot of gymnastics to get into or out of the back.
The coupe also features Honda's multi angle rear camera, as well as the interesting new Lanewatch feature that mounts a rear view camera in the passenger side outside mirror, giving you a look backward down the right side of the car. This can be really handy if you're changing lanes or turning right at an intersection, or just want to look into the eyes of the person you're slamming into the sidewalk. The feature comes on automatically when you flip on the right signal light, and a push button in the stalk lets you activate it whenever you want.
You also get such stuff as a lane departure warning system and a low tech but effective convex section on the driver's side exterior mirror you can use to help prevent blind spots.
Honda Canada's test vehicle also had push button start/stop, dual-zone automatic climate control, an "i-Mid" Multi-Information Display on the dash, as well as an active noise cancellation system I speculate could be really handy on a long trip with kids in the back: you won't be able to hear the plaintive cries of "are were there yet?"
Okay, maybe it doesn't work that way – but it should!
The audio system pumps out decent sound, though not in the league of Honda's upscale Acura division's ELS system, which positively rocks. But you can stream to it via Bluetooth or hook your player/smart phone into it via wire, too, if you desire, and it works fine.
I'm really torn about this ninth generation Honda Accord coupe. I like it a lot, for the most part, but Honda really needs to check out some of the competition's interfaces (especially VW and the Koreans'). And then there's that clutch – though to be fair, it could have been an anomaly to that particular review car because I've never had such an experience with a Honda before.
Still, the Accord is definitely a world class car, in sedan or coupe form, and it'll undoubtedly put smiles on many, many faces as it continues to be a top seller.
According to Honda's Canadian website, the 2013 Honda Accord coupe starts at $26,345 for the basic four cylinder model. The V6 in its top EX-L trim level, starts at $37,085.
Copyright 2013 Jim Bray
Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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