To understand where the 2008 Honda Accord coupe comes from, we find it instructive to paraphrase the seminal art-house cinema classic and consummate guy movie, When Harry Met Sally:
Harry: With what did you have this great drive?
Sally: I'm not going to tell you that.
Harry: Fine, don't tell me.
Sally: The Accord coupe.
Harry: Accord coupe? Honda Accord coupe? No, no, you did not have a great drive with a Honda Accord coupe.
Sally: I did, too.
Harry: No, you didn't. An Accord coupe can do your income taxes. If you need a root canal, Accord coupe is your car...but humpin' and pumpin' is not Accord coupe's strong suit.
We transcribe, bastardize and shorten this quote not to smack down the Accord coupe specifically. Nothing in the Accord coupe's segment has been much for humpin' and pumpin', as it were. In fact, they've all been a little staid appearing and/or driving. From the blob-tastic Toyota Solara to the Pontiac G6 coupe to the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, the Accord coupe's competition has been as stolid as a guy named Sheldon.
But a coupe version of the Nissan Altima has just arrived on the market, and suddenly humpin' and pumpin' needs to be on every coupe's standard list of equipment. Honda saw the sea change coming and has properly equipped the new Accord coupe.
There's No Business Like...
When it goes on sale on September 20, the Accord coupe will look nearly identical to the Honda Accord Coupe Concept that shocked and awed the world at this year's Detroit auto show in January.
It's a genuine attention-grabber, in a sporty kind of way — something no previous version of the Accord coupe could be accused of. (There was that version back in the '90s with the triangular taillamps, but that was more just weird than anything else.) Have a gander at a current Honda Accord sedan and tell us it doesn't say, politely, "I'm an excellent all-around vehicle with industry-leading resale value."
With its sharply rising beltline, trim canopy roof and strangely tapered schnoz with turn signals that protrude like cysts, the '08 model also qualifies as weird. But look at the profile and you notice the BMW-style Hoffmeister kink of the C-pillar, and the superfast rear glass and taut rear section that calls to mind the potent Infiniti G37 coupe. Only the large front overhang hints that this sportster is based on a front-drive family sedan that carries its engine near the tip of its nose.
My, What a Large...Everything You Have
The other thing you'll notice upon your first real-world glance of the '08 Accord coupe is that it looks really big. Part of that impression is an illusion perpetrated by the taller, longer nose of the new model. "Presence," as Honda would describe it.
But the Accord coupe is larger than the model it replaces. Its wheelbase and overall length grow by about 3 inches. It's wider by an inch and a half and taller by half an inch. Even the wheels get bigger — the standard rims for V6-powered coupes are huge-for-Honda 18-inchers. (Four-cylinder models come with 17-inch wheels.)
There's more room inside, too. The passenger cabin grows by 5 cubic feet of space, with about an inch of additional legroom for the backseat passengers. And also like virtually all new cars, the Accord coupe weighs more than the car it replaces, specifically about 250 pounds more. The only thing to get smaller is the trunk, which loses 1 cubic foot.
For comparison, the Nissan Altima coupe is nearly identical in size and weight to the previous Accord coupe. The Toyota Solara is nearly identical in size and weight to the new Accord coupe.
Like the new sedan, the coupe rides on a double-wishbone front suspension, familiar from previous Accords and a newly designed multilink rear suspension, tuned to be slightly stiffer than the sedan. In our brief drive on smooth roads around Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the coupe felt plenty compliant. But we'll reserve judgment until we get the car on roads of our choosing.
The body is well controlled, but the Accord coupe, which carries more than 60 percent of its weight over its front axle, is still not a vehicle that will urge you to push it. It's more lively than it is lusty.
For fear of being rear-ended by vacationing East Coasters, we never got a chance to bury the brake pedal, but in casual driving, the coupe's brakes drew no attention to themselves. And that's generally a good thing. The coupe's steering is like that of basically all other Hondas, alert and linear of response.
Honda Accord CL Type-S?
The 268-horsepower V6 coupe we drove came with a six-speed manual (a five-speed automatic is also available) and felt almost exactly like the discontinued Acura CL Type-S coupe. Possibly this is because the CL was an Accord-based attempt at a sport coupe with almost as much power as this new Accord and sharing a six-speed manual and clutch mechanism that feels exactly the same.
This is to say: not entirely fantastic. The small-knobbed six-speed shifter is a little notchy and the clutch take-up is abrupt, making an Accord coupe with this powertrain difficult to drive smoothly.
We have no complaints about the power, though, despite the fact that Honda is narrowly outgunned by the 270-hp Altima coupe. But this engine — a 3.5-liter in place of last year's 3.0 — is far smoother than Nissan's vaunted VQ-Series V6. The V6 in the manual-transmission Accord coupes makes do without the cylinder deactivation system of other '08 Accords and consequently gets three fewer miles per gallon on the highway.
The base engine is a 190-hp 2.4-liter inline-4. In typical Honda fashion this motor, which spins out 34 more hp than the engine it replaces, provides more than adequate refinement and power — based on our sampling of the motor in an Accord sedan.
Still an Accord
Honda says it focused on making the interior of the coupe (and the sedan) a more luxurious place than in the previous generation of the car. OK.
The truth is, the Accord feels as it always has, like a very high-quality midsize, midprice vehicle — a segment that gets larger and more luxurious with each generation. We question whether ditching the well-liked touchscreen navigation system in favor of an iDrive-like control knob is really progress. And the array of more than 30 buttons that surround the control knob is intimidating.
And the Accord has a high level of standard gear and a full complement of safety equipment. All Accord coupes get side curtain and front-side airbags, active front head restraints and electronic stability control. All but the cheapest LX-S trim line get a 270-watt stereo with an auxiliary input and speed-sensitive volume control. Coupes powered by the V6 come standard with leather seats, power sunroof and dual-zone automatic climate control system.
The '08 coupe will see a modest price increase from last year's model. A base-level LX will set you back about $22,000 and an EX-L V6 with the six-speed and navigation system will start around $30,500.
Man, You're So Competitive!
So, all right: The Accord coupe is still not the car for serious humpin' and pumpin', but it's a little closer than before. At least the coupe now makes a case for itself with sporting — even daring — styling. And it is quick. The Altima coupe we tested recently, with the V6 and CVT, ran zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. We expect the Accord V6 with the automatic will be a little off that pace considering it weighs about 300 pounds more.
But front-drive coupes aren't dedicated drag racers and a run in the mid-6s is plenty quick enough. Besides, being smooth, handsome and dependable leaves a better lasting impression than just being a quickie.
Now if we can just figure out what to do with this stupid, wagon-wheel, Roy Rogers garage-sale coffee table.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.