Welcome Back Honda! - 2013 Honda Accord Coupe V6 EX-L Review By Carey Russ


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Honda Accord Coupe


DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

The 2013 Honda Accord Coupe V6 EX-L is a car for a driver, not an operator

Honda's got its mojo back!

Honda is one of the few affordable marques that has a passionate fan base. Those enthusiasts love Honda for its engineering prowess and the performance and handling of its cars. For sales, they are a minority, but an important and influential one.

The previous generation of Accord was criticized, especially by the enthusiast press and enthusiasts, for growing larger and softer. The growth was likely in search of greater sales, but perhaps even regular Accord buyers wanted something at least a bit sporty and not too big. Sales weren't up to the expected level, so the product cycle went faster than expected, with a new and radically-different Accord introduced for 2013.

Still offered in both sedan and coupe form, the latest Accord is recognizable as a Honda Accord, but is much more emotionally-styled than any before it. The coupe is noticeably different from the sedan in shape. Underneath the sleek new skin are major chassis improvements, and some weight reduction. The 3.5-liter V6 is mostly familiar, but massaged for better power and efficiency, and (with the automatic transmission) features variable cylinder management (VCM) for further increases in fuel efficiency during low-load highway cruising. The new 2.4-liter four-cylinder sees Honda's first implementation of direct fuel injection, and is considerably different from the older four in many other ways. A continuously-variable transmission (CVT) is offered as the automatic in four-cylinder Accords for the first time. It has a wider ratio spread than the old five-speed torque-converter automatic, for improved acceleration and cruising fuel economy. In V6 models, a new six-speed automatic replaces the previous five speed. All Accord engines run on unleaded regular, not premium.

For the enthusiasts (and anyone else who can shift for him, or herself), six-speed manual transmissions are standard in four-cylinder LX, Sport, and EX sedans and LX-S and EX coupes - and the EX-L V6 coupe. Wondering what happened to the hybrid? A plug-in hybrid sedan is expected in coming months, with a regular hybrid to follow.

So really, there is or soon will be an Accord for nearly every desire from hybrid economy to 278-horsepower, six-speed manual V6 sports performance, from honest if basic four-cylinder manual to leather and opulence V6 power.

Covering that 278-hp performance spot is this week's test car, the EX-L Coupe. It's the top of the performance lineup, with leather seating (heated in front), moonroof, keyless Smart Entry, rearview camera, and the innovative LaneWatch right-side mirror camera display among many other upscale features. The only option package is navigation, satellite radio, internal hard disc for music storage, and more, in which case it's called EX-L V6 with Navi, and that, with the six-speed stick, was my test car for the past week.

Remembering the previous Accord, and expecting an automatic, I was prepared to be unimpressed. Oh how wrong I was! From its elegant lines to its finely-detailed interior and especially the exemplary performance of the engine, slick-shifting gearbox and supple but solid suspension it's a first-class sports coupe -- the real deal, not just a "sporty coupe". Yes, it can be outfitted with nearly all of the current "infotainment" distractions, but doesn't need any. It's a car for a driver, not operator. Welcome back, Honda!

APPEARANCE: Although the new Accord sedan and coupe share chassis and drivetrain parts, the Coupe is a couple of inches shorter than the sedan both overall and in wheelbase. Most obviously the Coupe has a two-door body with a semi-fastback passenger cabin. The sculpted hood and body sides of each are similar, but not identical. Same for the front clip - the grille shape and trim are slightly different, with the coupe being a bit sportier due to its narrower chrome trim, black hexagonal grille pattern, and foglamps in squarish faux brake vents flanking the lower intake. The EX-L Coupe gets a touch of luxury look from chrome trim around the side windows; that to the rear of each door is one piece, as in expensive luxury cars. A small ducktail at the trailing edge of the trunk lid, twin exhausts, and "vents" around the rear marker lights accentuate the sport look.

COMFORT: All 2013 Accord models are well-equipped, with dual-zone climate control, rearview cameras, the "Intelligent" Multi-Information Display (i-MID), Bluetooth® with audio streaming, Pandora® internet streaming audio capability and SMS text messaging with compatible phones, and more standard. At EX-L with Navi level, the Accord Coupe is solidly in the "near-luxury" category. Meaning leather seating with a power driver's seat and both front seats heated, a multi-angle rearview camera, pushbutton start/stop with keyless proximity locking and unlocking, a 360-watt premium audio system with AM/FM/XM/CD/USB and external jack capabilities plus traffic and weather, and a tilt-and-slide moonroof. The design is contemporary and functional. Trim is honestly plastic, stippled black and matte-finish silver, with no attempt at simulating wood. Instrument and control layout and design is very good and easily visible. The manually tilt- and telescope-adjustable steering wheel has a comfortable leather rim and controls for information, audio, phone and cruise systems. The shift lever is perfectly positioned, with a comfortable leather knob and short, precise throws. Front seat comfort is very good, with moderate bolstering appropriate to the car's sporty nature. The rear seat has a surprising amount of room, at least for the outboard positions. Consider it a 2+2. The rear seatback folds completely if awkward items need to be carrier, but they'll need to fit through the trunk opening first. The trunk has grown by 1.8 cubic feet, so storage there is ample, and a space-saver spare lives under the load floor. Active Noise Control (ANC) and Active Sound Control (ASC) work in a manner similar to noise-canceling headphones together to keep the cabin quiet but allow pleasant engine sounds.

SAFETY: The 2013 Accord boasts the greatest range passive and active safety features of any Honda to date. Expect a full complement of airbags, Advanced Compatibility Engineering„ (ACE„) unibody structure, Forward Collision Warning and Land Departure Warning systems, and first-rate handling and braking. Most interesting are the Expanded View driver's mirror, with a convex outboard portion for enhanced view angle, and the LaneWatch passenger side rearview camera that is activated by the turn signal stalk, giving an excellent view of the side of the car in the central display screen.

RIDE AND HANDLING: A stiffer and lighter unibody structure provides a fine base for the 2013 Accord's suspension. The all-new MacPherson strut front suspension is anchored to an aluminum-and-steel subframe, while the lower links of the multilink rear suspension are anchored to a rear subframe isolated from the main unibody to reduce unwanted noise and vibration. The suspension tuning is supple and comfortable, but body roll when playing hard is minimal. Electric power steering assist allows a moderate effort with some road feel, no video game controller here. Brakes work very, very well.

PERFORMANCE: The 2013 Accord's V6 engine may have the same 3.5-liter capacity as previously, but it's gotten quite a makeover internally. Porting, valve timing, and the i-VTEC valve management system have all received attention from Honda's engineers, bringing horsepower up seven to 278 (at 6200 rpm) and torque to 251lb-ft at 5300 rpm with the six-speed manual. With the assumption that buyers of automatic-equipped cars value economy more than performance and involvement, those Accords have the Variable Cylinder Management system, which deactivates three cylinders when their power is not needed, improving highway economy. Torque there is 252 lb-ft at 4900 rpm.

With the stick, torque is strong in low- and mid-range operation. You could short-shift at 4500 rpm and be perfectly happy with the performance -- but you'd miss all the fun. Remember the Good Old Days of screaming VTEC top end power? It's back! VTEC switches cam profiles at 4900 rpm and then it's a kick reminiscent of a Type R, only with a sound more like an Italian V12. Even taking advantage of that as much as possible I got 22 mpg for the week, right in line with the EPA estimates of 18 mpg city, 28 highway, and 22 overall. There is an "Eco" button to the left of the steering wheel to lobotomize throttle response and maybe improve economy. Leave that to the automatic crowd.

CONCLUSIONS: Rumors of the death of Honda enthusiast cars have been exaggerated. See the 2013 Accord Coupe V6 EX-L for details.

SPECIFICATIONS
2013 Honda Accord Coupe EX-L V6 with Navi

Base Price			$ 32,350
Price As Tested			$ 33,140
Engine Type			SOHC aluminum alloy V6 with i-VTEC
				 variable valve lift and timing
Engine Size			3.5 liters / x cu. in.
Horsepower			278 @ 6200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			251 @ 5300 rpm
Transmission			six-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length		107.3 in. / 189.2 in.
Curb Weight			3400 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		12.2
Fuel Capacity			17.2 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P235/45R18 94V Michelin Primacy mxm4 m+s
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBS, VSA standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 28 / 22
0 to 60 mph				5.9  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Destination charge			$

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