Popular opinion is that Honda has not been a friend to enthusiasts in recent years. The company killed the awesomeS2000, got away from building low-cost driver’s cars like the CRX, ruined the Civic Si (on multiple occasions, most notably in 2002 and again in 2012), and kind of neutered Acura into a listless near-premium brand devoid of its original charm. But there are bright spots: We’re finally going to get a Civic Type R in the US, and while the new NSX is a long way from the lightweight original, it’s still an extremely impressive specimen.
And then there’s the Accord Coupe, which doesn’t necessarily look like a typical performance Honda on first glance. Honda has been building the two-door Accordfor decades, even as virtually every other mainstream brand has abandoned the segment. What’s even more interesting, is that Honda makes one for the car guys. The company builds a V6-powered, two-door coupe with a six-speed manual transmission that probably accounts for maybe half a percent of the Accord’s overall volume. Such a blatant disregard for things like economies of scale could only be achieved by a brand with a real passion for performance.
Now that the Accord has been fully refreshed for 2016, we set out to revisit our V6/manual hero.
- This naturally aspirated V6 produces 278 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque, which admittedly isn’t as much as you’d get from the slightly larger V6 engines you’d find in the likes of the Dodge Challenger, Chevrolet Camaro, orFord Mustang. But the Honda is extremely willing to rev. That, combined with a startlingly smooth, linear torque curve, means the 3.5-liter Earth Dreams V6 is remarkably composed in both normal and aggressive driving. Low-end grunt is easy to access, despite the 6,200-rpm torque peak, while the throttle response is relatively sharp for what you might expect in an Accord.
- It sounds spectacular too, with a howly, Civic Si-worthy exhaust note and a notable lack of any piped-in induction silliness. It simply sounds like, you know, an engine – and a very good one at that.
- The buttery smooth, six-speed manual transmission has a light action, making this a true case where all you need to shift is a flick of the wrist. The clutch pedal is light and the catch point is almost too broad, meaning it’s easy to ride the clutch until you get used to this setup. Once you adjust, heel-and-toeing this front-drive coupe actually becomes an entertaining activity. Our only complaint is that the shift knob itself is too small for the size of the vehicle – a minor thing, sure, but it just doesn’t feel substantial enough to not seem flimsy.
- The MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension is too soft and forgiving to feel truly sharp or entertaining on the road – this might be a sporty car, but it’s still got mainstream sedan bones, remember. The Accord rolls too heavily, and squat and dive are too pronounced, although the overall ride comfort and sense of straight-line stability is befitting of a muscle car. Feedback is adequate through both the steering and chassis.
- The Accord Coupe retains some of the best qualities from the four-door model. The interior materials among the best in the segment, the seats are broad, supportive, and comfortable, and the car comes with everything you could want. The dual-screen infotainment system is still boneheaded, but the inclusion of Apple CarPlay makes it easy to ignore most of the system’s foibles.
- Our tester was an EX-L V6, and this $31,760 model is the only way to score a six-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission in the Accord – the top-end Touring trim is an auto-only affair, and everything else has the four-banger. In the EX-L, you miss out on some cool stuff, like 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, and rain-sensing wipers, but you also save $3,200 and get that awesome six-speed stick. Still, more traditional sport coupes offer a bit more cluck for your buck. Take the Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium, for example. It starts at $30,295, comes standard with heated/vented seats (the Accord’s are only heated), Sync 3, HID headlights, and offers a more entertaining driving experience.
Say what you will about today’s Honda – the company is still fighting the good fight between practicality and performance, driving charm, and general livability. The Accord Coupe is the best example of this battle. Building a real performer – one that’s fun, entertaining, quick – out of an otherwise milquetoast four-door family sedan is an impressive feat. The fact that said vehicle is still so balanced for weekend twisties and rush-hour freeways, though, is more impressive still. The Accord Coupe is a fun partner, and is perhaps the biggest piece of proof that the performance heartbeat is still strong at Honda.