Faster But Not Furious
Jim Powell, Mon, 09 May 2011 03:43:54 PDT
In the 1960's, young adults would take ordinary 2-door coupes and sedans and "hot-rod" them. Wide tires, free-flowing exhaust systems, front air dams and rear spoilers were added to these cars on a budget and young men were happier. Manufactures like GM, Ford, Chrysler/Dodge, and even American Motors decided to add these modifications at the factory and the manufacturer's muscle car was born.
Four decades later and young adults are still influencing modern coupes by creating the "Tuner" car with wide-performance tires, racing exhausts, and body kits. Tuners have been modifying Honda Civics and Accords for years and Honda has jumped in with a dealer installed kit called the Honda Factory Performance (HFP).
Customers begin with a brand new 2011 Accord Coupe, the Accord EX-L V-6 Coupe, in my case. This car already can come with nice luxury touches like a USB Audio Interface, rear-view camera, satellite-linked navigation, and auto on/off headlight feature. Additionally, Accord EX-L V-6 models receive a two-position memory system for the driver's seat and interior updates on all models include new seat fabrics, updated instrument panel design, and better interior materials. The complete revision in 2008 brought a center console with easy to grab knobs and buttons and a wide digital screen that I find easy to see in bright sunlight.
One critique is that Honda insists on duplicating all the readouts with a second digital readout below the large screen. This means you can see the audio information at the same time you have a navigation map on the larger screen or climate controls at the same time you are searching for a new station. Like using Microsoft Windows, it is confusing to look in several places and having 4 ways to get something done. Honda used to keep things simple but they have chased after Mercedes-Benz's and BMW's techno-luxury complicated multi-use joysticks. These distract the driver from the road in front of them.
All this HFP happens on the exterior of the Accord Coupe and gives it a true "tuner car" look. The engine my test vehicle is Honda's 3.5-liter, 24-valve SOHC i-VTEC V-6 engine. This motor produces 271 horses and a very quick torque-driven acceleration that moves the car throughout the rpm's without pause. Without any modifications, this variable-valve top end drives the front wheels with real authority and does not disappoint driving enthusiasts.
Honda uses their Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) technology which reduces the number of cylinders that are called for while cruising along. I have driven this engine in several other Hondas like the Odyssey and still cannot detect when the computer deactivates 3 of the 6 cylinders to improve fuel economy. Now take the same engine and put it into a much lighter Accord Coupe and feel the power while getting 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Unfortunately, this VCM system is only available with the automatic transmission. This all starts at $29,730.
I leaned kind of hard on the HFP Coupe with a real clutch and a stick-shift and expected some gas guzzling to be going on. Yet, I got 25.2 mpg overall with the HFP coupe being rated at 17 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. The Accord EX-L V-6 Coupe with the 6-speed manual transmission has the same 3.5-liter V-6 VTEC engine but without the VCM system. Honda then uses a performance-tuned valvetrain to keep the power at peak torque all the way up to red-line. The intake and exhaust system are enlarged for better breathing which adds to mid-range torque and more passing power.
Now, dealers add the Honda Factory Performance equipment for $5k which includes enhanced levels of handling and some "tuner" looks. The total cost for a 2011 Honda Accord Coupe HFP begins at $35,000 plus. When installed by a Honda dealer at the time of purchase, all HFP products carry the same 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty as the rest of the vehicle. Most noticeable is an HFP suspension package that lowers the car height by 15mm. This may not sound like much but the hood ended up being chest-high and I crawled into and out of this ride. This driver's position feels low like a Lotus Elise and the bucket seat is just inches off the ground.
The wheel/tire package has been engineered specifically for this Accord application to improve cornering and braking. This is accomplished, and twisty roads were calling me the whole week I had this car. However, the PDS-10 19-inch alloy wheels and Yokohama AVID ENVigor 245/40R19 94W tires makes this car very loud on tar strips and grooved pavement. The exhaust remains stock but the road noise is increased exponentially. On smooth asphalt, the ride is decent and wind noise is non-existent.
The HFP ground-affects kit includes side underbody spoilers, a HFP front bumper underbody spoiler, and a HFP rear bumper underbody spoiler. The HFP badge is added to the trunk. This may be subtle but gives a signature that Honda is watching the market and people who love Hondas. Hotrods are still being built in America today, even with cars that are environmentally clean and fuel efficient.
I salute Honda for stepping up with factory accessories even if the cost is more than most would pay for good effects, suspension modifications and wheels. The good news is that those who do opt for the HFP kit will be able to finance the whole Accord Coupe HFP package and that was not an option a few years ago.