New Car/Review

1997 HONDA ACCORD SPECIAL EDITION COUPE

by Tom Hagin

Honda

SEE ALSO: Honda Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 20,200
     Price As Tested                                    $ 20,785
     Engine Type                          2.2 Liter I4 w/PGM FI*
     Engine Size                                 132 cid/2156 cc
     Horsepower                                   130 @ 5300 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               139 @ 4200 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  106.9"/70.1"/185.6"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3048 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                    17 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      185/65R15
     Brakes (F/R)                                      Disc/drum
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                 60 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            23/30/26
     0-60 MPH                                        9.9 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17.7 seconds @ 80 mph
     Top-speed                                           115 mph
     * Programmed fuel injection

The Honda Accord is well-known as being one of the most perfect small family sedans. That's probably one reason it's one of the best selling vehicles on the planet. It comes in base DX, mid-trim LX or top-line EX trim, with a value-packed Special Edition model in between. The SE trim is available on sedans and coupes and not as a wagon.

Over the past decade the moniker SE usually meant that the vehicle was a hot-rod version, using stiff suspension, larger brakes and a more powerful engine. But when attached to Honda's Accord, SE means an upscale stereo, alloy wheels and a simulated woodgrain center console. This week we put an Accord SE coupe to the test:

OUTSIDE - The Accord coupe is wide and sleek, with a high beltline and trunk. Its nose is tilted back and the hood sweeps gracefully over the low roof. The side windows are flush, the bodywork gaps are small, and the windshield wipers are positioned just below the trailing edge of the hood. Its sleek design contributes to an impressive .32 coefficient of drag, which increases fuel mileage and reduces wind noise. Honda applies tasteful amounts of chrome in the form of a thin strip around the side windows and grille, which gives it a slightly elegant look. Special Edition Accord models come standard with body-color side moldings, alloy wheels and a power tilt-and-slide glass sunroof.

INSIDE - Inside the Accord, there's a familiar layout with all controls in a familiar place, which Honda went to painstaking lengths to develop. Its interior styling is fluid and organic, but appears a bit passive, though it's easy to forget that this car stems from a sensible sedan. It offers a comfortable driving position, the analog gauges are easily read, and the turn signal and wiper stalks are at finger-tip reach. The Accord Special Edition starts life as an LX coupe, but extras such as an AM/FM/CD stereo, leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless entry and a security system load it to near-luxury status. Other standards include air conditioning, power windows, door locks and mirrors, as well as cruise control, lockable, fold-down rear seat and variable speed intermittent windshield wipers.

ON THE ROAD - The powerplant of the SE is an aluminum 2.2 liter four cylinder engine that uses a single overhead camshaft and 16 valves to produce 130 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque. Twin balance shafts inside the engine do a commendable job of smoothing vibrations, a phenomenon inherent with four cylinder engines. Refinements over the last few years in the intake manifold tract and combustion chambers have made excellent gains in efficiency, as we squeaked out over 30 mpg on one of our frugal highway runs. The SE gives sprightly acceleration, but could use more punch, so our suggestion is to place the EX model's 145 horsepower version of the same engine under the hood of the SE, which would give it the power it needs. Our test car carried Honda's redesigned electronic four-speed automatic transmission, with a system the company calls Grade Logic. This is designed to reduce the chances of gear hunting on up or downhill grades, and it works beautifully.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - All Accords ride on independent suspension front and rear, both ends featuring a double wishbone layout and gas pressurized shock absorbers. Honda engineers have wrung both a smooth ride and good handling from the Accord, though understeer under heavy cornering is a front-drive vehicle trademark, and the car exhibits this trait. An increase in chassis rigidity over the previous version, along with specially calibrated engine mounts help control unwanted bouncing and jarring over rough pavement. Its rack-and-pinion power steering system is speed-sensitive, which means that it's easier to turn the steering wheel when the car is stopped, which helps during parking maneuvers, but gives more road feel at highway speeds. The Accord SE uses front disc and rear drum brakes, which stopped well during our braking tests. Four-wheel disc brakes and an anti-lock braking system (ABS) are not available on Special Edition models.

SAFETY - Dual airbags and side-impact beams are standard.

OPTIONS - Floor mats added $90.

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