Car Reviews

One Year And 18,766 Miles Of Being Couped Up

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So here we are, one year after I took delivery of a 2014 Accord EX-L V6 six-speed coupe, eleven months after the first update, and five months after hitting the 12k mark. As fate would have it, at the same time the crew at Automobile was enjoying a free year in a car almost exactly like mine, courtesy of Honda. This, incidentally, is where the true nature of the autojourno biz comes into play: I laid out slightly over $9,300 in monthly payments, insurance, and maintenance to do exactly what the Automobile crowd did for free.

Well, not exactly; I also took mine to a racetrack. A few times.

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Nominally speaking, the purpose of my March trip to Putnam Park was so I could drive a Lingenfelter-tuned Corvette ZR1 for R&T and coach Josh Condon, the magazine’s bald but brilliant front-of-book-editor, into a measure of competence driving said 750-horsepower creature in temperatures that never cracked the high side of forty degrees Fahrenheit. Since I’d traveled there in my new Accord, though… why not try it, as well? With just 3,000 miles on the V6, the Accord was broken-in enough to absolutely dust a couple of competently-driven Scion FR-S coupes around Putnam Park — for three laps, anyway. That’s all you get out of the amusingly undersized front discs. Keep in mind that the V6 Accords do get a brake upgrade over their four-cylinder siblings, but that’s like saying Attack Of The Clones is an improvement over The Phantom Menace. It’s just different degrees of sucking. If you want to know how Honda provides this much car at this price, looking at the brake hardware will help you understand.

As mentioned in my previous article at the 12,000-mile mark, the Accord did very well around R&T’s “Motown Mile” during the Performance Car Of The Year testing. In October, I took it to the same Southeastern Ohio roads we used for that article and decided that I preferred it to both the VW GTI and the Subaru STi — with the caveat, naturally, of the brakes.

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After a full year, however, I’m still using my old Audi S5 as the yardstick by which I judge the big Honda coupe. In the kind of winter we’re having right now, I’d rather have the Audi, and by a long shot. There’s nothing like ten-below temperatures to expose shortcuts in materials quality, and I’m afraid to say that the Accord has some flaws here. The driver’s seat has been creaky since Day One and in cold conditions it makes a crinkly-crackling noise. I’m going to have that looked at, I think. The fuel door is misaligned, and by not much less than the gap that enraged young Derek last year. None of the body panels really line up the way I’d like them to.

I’ve been to my local dealer twice since taking delivery, in both cases to have the Honda-recommended maintenance performed. It’s much cheaper to have basic service intervals done on an Accord than, say, a Porsche Boxster, but I don’t think that really comes as a surprise to anyone. Come March, I’ll go talk to them about the driver’s seat and the fuel-filler door.

What else can I complain about? Well, there’s a bug in the media interface that causes the display to be a bit garbled when playing music from an Android phone. The Acura TLX I drove late last year had an updated version of the same system that didn’t have the problem, so I suspect that 2015 Accords won’t, either. The sunroof is a bit noisy both closed and open. If, like me, you use your car as an office and a restaurant and everything else, you won’t like the way that salt and other tiny particles clog in the perforated leather. In cold weather, the windows stick shut easily and the clutch feels soft. The headlights aren’t brilliant and you’ll have to drive to Canada to get an Accord Coupe with LED headlights. That, or break into the Ohio factory where they are installed. The center console feels delicate and wobbly, although no more so than what you get in a Camry or Altima.

Against that list of annoyances, the Coupe offers: a strong, clear sound system. Great visibility. Sensibly-located LATCH tethers. Plenty of storage space. Comfortable seats with long thigh bolsters, which really matters when you’re carting a taller woman around. (Or dude, I suppose, but I don’t care about that.) Fast defrosting time. Decent A/C. Legible instrumentation. Big side mirrors. A lot of trunk space. A super-cool “EarthDreams” badge on the plastic intake cover. You get the idea.

Since September or so, I’ve been intermittently commuting to a couple of jobs in downtown Columbus via a 15.6-mile route that is mostly freeway driving. In those conditions, I’m seeing a consistent 24-26mpg. That’s not brilliant, but the S5 couldn’t crack 15mpg in the same circumstances, and it wasn’t much faster in real-world use despite the Accord’s best C/D-test showing of [email protected] against the Audi’s [email protected]

Experienced drag racers will note the 0.6-second gap in ET against the 2mph gap in trap speed and suspect, correctly, that the Accord is traction-challenged. It’s not just that the Honda spins its front wheels from a dig; even a Yugo GV does that. It’s more that you can be rolling down the road at 40 in second gear and spin ‘em easily. Pushed hard enough, the coupe will chirp in third like a 440-powered Chrysler. It’s virtually always possible to spin at least one of the front wheels at any time.

This trait, along with some completely unfounded complaints about the steering and suspension, was enough for Automobile to give the Accord EX V6 low marks in their four-season testing. “To me, the standard Accord sedan is a much better-executed vehicle than the coupe, which is trying too hard to be something it’s not,” quoth Joey Capparella in the magazine’s wrap-up review. Joe Lorio noted that the Accord’s “extreme-enthusiast specification” was “disappointing”. I’ll have to admit that my first reaction to both comments was less than respectful, but after looking both of these fellows up I think I understand why they wrote what they did a little better.

If you think of this car as an “extreme enthusiast” Accord, you’re bound to be disappointed. This isn’t a Type-R or even an Si. Nor is it trying to be. It’s just a family car with a big motor. That’s a recipe as old as the flathead Ford, you know. If the Accord sedan is the successor to the everyday-sedan retail-purchase throne once held by the ’74 GM A-body, then this is simply a modern take on my mother’s ’77 Cutlass Supreme, which was (over)powered by a 403-cubic-inch V-8. That car wasn’t sporty, it wasn’t extreme-enthusiast, and it could spin its tires at any time. It was popular, but not enormously so. History shows that most people chose a V-6 or a small-block in the Seventies A-bodies, and that most people choose a four-cylinder Accord today.

Mr. Capparella is simply too young to remember the days when high-powered, soft-suspended coupes ruled the American road, and the odd historical astigmatism that the automotive press applies to any discussion of the pre-OBD-II era cloaks that time in vaguely ironic labels of “Malaise” or “Jimmy Carter telling the country to put on a sweater”. The fact remains, however, that hundreds of thousands of new-car buyers once chose vehicles that were spiritually similar to this Accord. Cars that had plenty of room for Mom and Dad and two kids and the groceries but which sacrificed a tiny bit of practicality for a tiny bit of style. Cars that looked pretty boring but which could match anything short of a Corvette when the view through the windshield showed two lanes merging to one up ahead. Cars that didn’t pretend to be able to win an SCCA race or roost a fire road or carry a ton of dirt or tow the Space Shuttle but which somehow were purchased by normal people in significant numbers regardless of those missing pseudo-qualities.

If you think that a CVT-powered four-cylinder Accord is the best Accord, good news: you’ll be able to buy one ten years from now. If you want a little bit of power, or a bit of two-door flair, or the ability to actually choose your own actual combination of synchromesh gears through moving a lever that is actually connected to those gears by a steel linkage, you’d better move quickly. The Accord Coupe isn’t an M3 wannabe or a Boomer-friendly CUV or a four-wheeled expression of self-flagellating enviro-piety, and since it’s none of those, it’s something else: an endangered species.

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