Honda's New Accord Coupe
Steve Schaefer, Thu, 2 Oct 2008 08:00:00 PDT
Dependability, Quality and Reliability. That's what DQR stands for and that's what Honda's flagship Accord has supplied since its introduction in 1976. The Accord has been one of the top five sellers in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, putting Americans into nearly 10 million Accords in that 32-year span.
The Accord has also changed incredibly over its lifetime. That's partly because Honda's customers have grown up, but also because the automotive market has metamorphosed into something very different today. From a single hatchback model to sedans, wagons, and coupes in multiple model ranges, the Accord occupies a place once owned by Oldsmobile's Cutlass in the 1970s and before that, the full-sized American car, ubiquity and popularity.
The 2008 model marks Honda's eighth-generation Accord, and like the other seven generations, it's bigger than its predecessor. Its wheelbase has grown 2.3 inches and overall length by 3.2 inches, but, most important, interior volume has slipped over 120 cubic feet for the first time, pushing the Accord into the Large Car category. Because its primary competition is in the large midsize car category, this could be a competitive advantage. With lighter-weight materials and careful engineering, weight has increased by less than 200 pounds.
However, compared to the first Accord, the 2008's wheelbase has grown 16.5 inches, width by 8.9 inches, and overall length by an astounding 31.3 inches. Weight has, naturally, increased from 2020 pounds to as much as 3,577 pounds, depending on model.
Today's big, powerful Accord offers two four-cylinder engines and one V6, with horsepower ratings of 177, 190, and 268 respectively. The original Accord's "powerplant" generated just 68 horsepower. But taking power to weight ratios into consideration, the little Accord offered sprightly performance, especially in the 1970s, when compliance with smog laws had sapped much of the power from larger engines.
My Accord test car was a gray Coupe model, built in Marysville, Ohio, the birthplace of most Accords sold in America. This factory, which opened in November of 1982, was the first to build Japanese cars in the U.S. The original Coupe was the first product designed by Honda R&D America, Incorporated, and was built exclusively at Marysville. As such, it was the first American-built Honda to be exported back to Japan.
The original Coupes were two-door variants of the four-door sedan, but starting with the sixth generation Accord of 1998-2002, styling came from the U.S. studios while the sedan was designed in Japan. The seventh generation continued this pattern, so today's new Accord Coupe is significantly different from the sedan. It's much more dramatic, even aggressive, for an Accord. It measures 3.2 inches shorter than the sedan, sits 1.7-inches closer to the ground and is very slightly wider.
And equipped with the 268-horsepower V6 and a model-exclusive six-speed manual transmission, it has become something of a sports car. Cars with V6 engines and manuals are rare today and often of German ancestry. This new Accord is for drivers who want some driving excitement but still crave the comforts of a full-sized car with a usable back seat.
Official fuel economy numbers for the V6 are 17 City, 25 Highway. I achieved 21.4 mpg overall. While this is hardly hybrid territory, the Accord Coupe is a large, powerful car. The EPA's Green Vehicle Guide awards it a 7 for the Air Pollution score and a 6 for the Greenhouse Gas score well above average, and enough to earn Smartway certification.
Over the years, Accords have incorporated new technology, from aluminum cylinder heads to racecar-inspired double-wishbone suspension to multiple airbags. The 2008 models introduce the Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, which optimizes the car's ability to disperse crash energy in a frontal collision. The new model has greater rigidity and offers new frame rails that improve aerodynamics. Next generation Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) helps the engines run more efficiently, even as they become more powerful.
The Accord Coupe is far removed from its original little hatchback ancestors, but excellent resale values, based on high desirability, make it a good deal. Prices, of course, have risen with size and equipment levels. The first Accord retailed at $3,995 (in 1976 dollars, of course). Today, the 2009 Accord Coupe LX-S with the 190-horsepower four-cylinder engine starts at $22,255. You can step up to the EX level, EXL with luxury features like heated, power-adjustable leather seats and climate control, and at the top, the EXL with V6 like my tester. My 2008 test car, with navigation system, carried a base price of $30,510, plus a $635 destination and handling fee.
Thirty-three years and eight generations later, the Accord still delivers the goods. DQR, safety, value, good environmental numbers, and, with 268 horsepower and a six-speed, fun too.