high tech roadshow

2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Coupe Automatic

  Soul Survivor: Honda's shapely and fast two-door goes whistling past the graves of its competition

2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Coupe AutomaticAlso, the Accord’s electronics are gallingly slow considering that its technology is hardly groundbreaking. As you spin and push the Honda’s super-knob to program the nav, the on-screen cursor alternately pauses and then skips wildly as the processor struggles to keep up with your inputs. Entering an address or syncing a Bluetooth phone is an exercise in target shooting. True, you can use the smaller touch screen to enter addresses directly using a virtual keyboard, which is that screen’s only really useful function. But history will record that profit-laden $2000 factory nav systems were killed off by $200 smartphones, and Honda was happy to help.

With the coupe, Honda shows its strengths in other ways. If rear passengers are in the party, the back seats welcome them with an easy-slide front-seat release and a deep, supportive scalloping to the bench foam. Honda is not known for wasting millimeters, and in the coupe, a six-footer can sit behind a six-footer without a squeeze. The rear seatbacks also fold as one via a release in the trunk, so longer items need not be left at the curb. Aside from the electronics, the only serious design dribble is with the cutout for the door grab handle, which is placed right where the driver’s left elbow wants to perch. 

Honda’s signature red start button lights the 3.5-liter V-6. It rasps with a voice sharpened to penetrate the cabin. Note the elevated sound levels in the specs, especially the 83-dBA full-throttle reading. Not that we’re complaining. Stand on it, and this Honda sounds like a Honda, built around a precision engine with its power in the penthouse and one brisk elevator going up.

It attains the 60-mph mark in a snappy 5.5 seconds. Nothing over five seconds is stunning these days, but it puts the coupe nearly even with a G37 and it whomps the Genesis and Audi A5 2.0T. The all-season Michelins mean that other performance indexes, such as the 0.86-g skidpad and the 169-foot braking, are less noteworthy and more aligned with the coupe’s genetic lineage.

On the road, however, the Accord coupe feels as tightly wound as a sapper poking a land mine. The throttle is on a short fuse and the transmission is always primed and ready. It doesn’t wait to see if you’re serious before kicking down a couple of ratios. The light-but-tense steering responds right now, with a no-nonsense alertness. Slight tugs of wheel feedback hint at the hard work being done by the tires. The brakes have a deep reserve of capability and enough shading in their operation to set up a corner perfectly. Here is yet another Honda that proves front-drive cars can handle. 

Parts of this highly caffeinated coupe are a little too amped for the car’s own good, though. The suspension is just plain harsh, causing obnoxious head-toss where it should just be lightly thumping and bumping. And the transmission sometimes feels too eager, too rough, banging home the next gear unnecessarily or throwing a ragged downshift at you when you’re just coasting up to a light.

It’s a strange machine, then, and hard to pigeonhole. Closer to its $24,140 four-cylinder-equipped base price, it makes more sense as a larger, steadfastly adult alternative to the Scion FR-S and similar. But at this price, its elegant but utilitarian interior and the tattle-tale squirm of the disproportionately heavy front end under acceleration never let you forget that it’s just the market’s best mainstream family taxi minus two doors. But it is also fast and edgy, at times a can of Red Bull on radials. It generates the performance stats of more-expensive cars, but without the brand cachet or the credibility of rear-wheel drive, a fact that will undoubtedly send some potential buyers walking.
It is, in short, a car that defies assumptions even as it defies extinction. 

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