When you've been competing in the American automotive market for 25 years and have carried off numerous awards, you must be doing something right.Representative of that "right" designation is the Honda Accord, an American-built automobile that has been the subject of kudos by newspapers and buff books over the years. Continuing in this light is the 1997 Honda Accord, a car designed, engineered and produced in the United States.All Accords sold in the United States are manufactured by Honda of America Manufacturing in Marysville, Ohio. Available in sedan, coupe and wagon, the '97 Accords offer a balance of handling, ride, comfort, sportiness and practicality.That a pretty tall order for one automobile, but the Accord does it via several improvements.The models have been given a redesigned automatic transmission for smoother shifting that enhances performance. An improved air conditioning system with faster cool-down raises the comfort levels. And new applications of insulation contribute to a quieter ride.The Accord comes in three series consisting of the entry level DX, middle LX, and top-the-line EX - all determined by trim and powerplant applications.The engines are either high-tech four-cylinder or V-6 multivalve powerplants that feature single overhead cams and four valves per cylinder.Performance enthusiasts who prefer four-cylinder power can choose a high output 145-horsepower four that features Honda's VTEC (variable timing and lift electronic control) system that adds 15 horses over the standard four-cylinder.Both motors displace 2.2 liters (131.6 cubic inches), but the advantage of a dual range camshaft gives the nod to the VTEC in the power department.If you really want to stand on the gas, the obvious choice is Honda's all-aluminum, 2.7-liter (163-cubic-inch) V-6.This motor isn't a VTEC, but it has 24 valves. Its greater displacement results in 170-horsepower. To get it, you have to go to an EX or LX sedan.Hooked to the V-6 sedans, and the EX wagon, which is powered by the 2.2-liter four, is an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. This has a GLC (grade logic control) feature that takes the guesswork out of choosing which gear it's supposed to be in when going up- or downhill.This comes under the so-called "fuzzy logic" concept in which the automatic automatically figures out the appropriate gear required and holds to that ratio rather than "hunting" between two gear ratios.A manual five-speed is standard on the four-cylinder sedans and coupes.With either transmission, the Accord's control and ride qualifies as outstanding, courtesy of the advanced effort-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel double wishbone suspension system.In terms of handling, the Accord's steering is dead-on whether going through sweeping turns or sharp switchbacks. It's pinpoint accurate and responds to minute movements of the steering wheel.Likewise, with double wishbone sus pension arms on all four wheels, coil springs, and a front stabilizer bar, this front-drive goes where a driver points it. That's the essence of control, a chassis that doesn't play tricks on you.All '97 Accords share the same 106.9 inch-wheelbase. At 188.4 inches, the sedan and wagon are about 3 inches longer than the coupe.This accommodates five people, although the coupe's back seat is going to be a little close for adults.Cockpit layout, instrumentation and controls follow a fairly basic design theme - two front seats separated by a console that mounts the shift lever. Stereo and climate controls are located in a fairly upright center section pod. Instrumentation is the standard four gauge speedometer-tachometer-temperature-fuel.Honda's strong suit is affordable motoring. Entry level prices start at about $15,500.
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