published Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Test Drive: Accord Coupe injects sport into mid-size class

The Accord Coupe is sleek and stylish.
Staff photo by Mark Kennedy
The Accord Coupe is sleek and stylish. Staff photo by Mark Kennedy

* Model: 2013 Honda Accord Coupe EX-L V6

* Exterior color: Alabaster Silver

* Interior color: Black

* Engine: 3.5-liter V-6

* Horsepower: 278

* Transmission: six-speed automatic

* Fuel economy: 32 mpg highway, 21 mpg city

* Dealer: Economy Honda

* Price (as tested): $31,140

There’s nothing that says “empty-nester” like a two-door coupe.

While popular mid-size sedans like the Honda Accord count yearly sales in six-figure multiples, family-friendly four-door models make up the lion’s share of sales.

Still, there’s something about the rakish roof line and the buff rear third of the two-door Honda Accord Coupe that has always attracted a fair number of driving enthusiasts who have emerged from the fog of parenthood and its required SUV ownership.

Any more, the Honda Coupe is one of the few two-door options available outside the luxury class.

Earlier this week we tested an Alabaster Silver copy from Economy Honda in Chattanooga to see just how much sportiness can be packed onto the bones of a family car. Turns out, the Accord Coupe V-6 has enough beauty and brawn to attract buyers for whom the back seat is an accessory, not a necessity.

STYLING AND COMFORT

The Accord Coupe looks good in silver, the color of serious sports cars. The wedge-shaped body looks like it’s ready to be catapulted into the wind by the 278 horses under the hood.

There’s actually a manual transmission version of the Accord Coupe available (although our more commonly-equipped tester had a six-speed automatic). Most car companies have shelved their clutch pedals.

Honda is good at grouping popular add-ons into simple trim levels. Our top-of-the-line EX-L V-6 test car boasts leather interior and a strong, six-cylinder engine. (There’s also a four-cylinder variant of the Accord Coupe for those who are more in tune with the visual presentation of the car than the performance.)

The sheet metal of the Accord Coupe is striking with its nose-to-the-road front fascia, and a sculpted rear end unbound by four-door architecture. Our test car was shod with 18-inch alloys and good-looking Goodyear Eagle tires.

Befitting a car that stickers north of $30,000, the Accord Coupe EX-L has such niceties as heated front seats, active noise cancellation and a smart key for push-button ignition and keyless entry. For you audiophiles, our coupe came equipped with a 360-watt AM/FM/MP3 stereo system. A Pandora interface and XM Radio are in place.

The killer app on newer Accords is a lane-change safety feature that points a camera at your right-rear blind spot and projects the image on a dash-mounted LED screen as you merge easily back into traffic. As we get older, executing a yoga pose just to change lanes on the freeway becomes a pain.

There are a lot of thoughtful details in the interior of the Accord Coupe, including carbon-fiber-like door-panel inserts and brushed aluminum door pulls. A one-touch moon roof and heated side mirrors add to the near-luxury vibe.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Actually, because of the way the front seats slide forward and the back seats tilt backward, rearward passengers in the Accord Coupe don’t have it too bad. The car’s rear window extends forward as part of the roof line and actually creates a panoramic effect back there.

The 3.5-liter V-6 engine is a high-revving powerplant that turns the Accord Coupe into a real driver’s machine. According to Motor Trend, the V-6 coupe scoots from zero-60 mph in 6.6 seconds. On our test drive on Highway 153, the Accord’s V-TECH engine sprang to life with a throaty growl.

Honda has always assumed that drivers have at least a passing interest in hearing what a car sounds like, so they don’t go overboard dampening the exhaust, wind and tire noise. The effect is a more engaged ride — unlike some car-makers who want their cars to be as isolated as a bank vault.

BOTTOM LINE

Our test car carried a sticker price of $31,140 including a $790 destination fee. That buys a bullet-proof sedan that actually turns heads on the turn-pike.

For empty-nest baby boomers and/or childless 20-somethings looking for a cure for the common car, the Accord Coupe is just the right medicine.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...

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