The sports car according to Honda
Back in the '80s, when my passion for cars hit me before puberty did, I'd dream of one day driving Porsches, BMWs, Ferraris and Lamborghinis. On the other hand, I'd dream of one day owning a sports coupe such as the Honda Prelude. In fact, I still do.
Today, however, the Prelude is gone and Honda hasn't offered a real sports car since the much-loved S2000. Until they wake up and smell the toast burning, we'll have to do with "sporty" cars such as the Civic Si, the CR-Z (!) and the Accord Coupe.
Actually, the 2012 Honda Accord Coupe, at least in EX-L V6 trim with a 6-speed gearbox, is not a bad imitation of a sports car at all. Then again, maybe I'm just getting old.
Honda's 3.5L engine may not be the most powerful, or the sweetest sounding, V6 on the market, but overall it's strong, efficient and admirably smooth. In the Accord, it produces 271 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. When paired with the 6-speed stick, it makes for a very fast Accord.
Honda arguably makes the slickest manual transmissions, and this one is a pleasure to operate with a better clutch and shifter feel than you'll find in competitors such as the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, the Nissan Altima Coupe and the Ford Mustang. The automatic also does an excellent job, by the way, despite also counting five gears.
Zero to 100 km/h takes 6.6 seconds, while the quarter mile is a done deal after 14.4 seconds at a speed of 161 km/h. Sure, the Genesis Coupe 3.8 and the Mustang V6 have more muscle, but the Accord is no slouch.
What the Accord Coupe lacks in character, it makes up for in everyday user-friendliness and refinement. The aforementioned adversaries, save for the Nissan, provide a more aggressive drive, but none are as smooth as the Honda.
Still, the Accord is front-wheel drive, so you must cope with torque steer when accelerating enthusiastically on a street corner. And when that happens, the stability control system kicks in abruptly. Granted, this car is more about fast cruising and less about closed-course shenanigans, but that doesn't mean it can't do both.
My fuel consumption over the course of the test week averaged 11.8 L/100km. With the 5-speed automatic, the V6 gets cylinder deactivation which shuts off part of the engine under light loads, but not with the 6-speed manual.
Refined good looks
Since its 2008 redesign, the Accord sedan sports a chubby, bloated appearance. Somehow, the Coupe is big without looking big. Its proportions seem right with a dynamic profile and a rising beltline. While not as striking as the Genesis Coupe, the front and rear fascias of the two-door are more aggressive than the sedan's, and rightfully so. I just don't like the shape of the redesigned-for-2011 taillights. Oh well.
Inside, you get a classy, if not very adventurous, design that's highlighted by a tasteful amount of silver-painted trim. The centre console's array of buttons look fussy and confusing, but after you spend some time getting used to the layout there is some logic to the design.
The navigation system is operated via a king-size multifunction knob which works well. However, the screen's graphics and maps would look perfect in the '80s-era Prelude I used to dream about. Hopefully, it will improve in the 2013 Accord, which will be totally redesigned.
The Accord is a big coupe, and the front seats will make just about anyone comfortable. Even in back, there's ample room for two adults or three children, even though the middle kid will be sitting on a lumpy cushion. No one will be stricken by sudden claustrophobia. Trunk space is also pretty voluminous at 338 litres, with a wide opening for loading in bigger objects.
Manual or automatic, an Accord Coupe EX-L V6 will set you back $35,990 before taxes, freight and delivery charges. It costs less than an Altima 3.5 SR ($38,198) or a Genesis Coupe 3.8GT ($36,999), but you can get a loaded Mustang V6 Premium for just over 30 grand.
The coupe might not be as practical as the sedan, but it's more engaging. It's no sports car, and I wouldn't have pinned this up on my wall back when I was an almost-teen, but it tries really hard to be a sports car and the way it seems to do everything right makes it very likable. Let's hope the 2013 Accord Coupe is just as good.
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