EXPERT REVIEW

Boston.com's view


I’m loving the comeback of the coupe. Audi’s a player, BMW’s in the game, as is Dodge with its new Challenger. Other new coupes include the Pontiac G6, the Toyota Camry Solara, and Infiniti’s eye-popping new G37S.

Today’s test car, the 2008 Honda Accord Coupe, holds an admirable spot in this class. It features typical Honda wizardry in the control panels, a tight fit and finish inside, and comfortable leather seating with rich bolsters.

I’m not including obvious coupes – meaning sports cars – in this category. I’m referring to cars that can be bought as sedans with four doors, or coupes, with two. You lose some back seat access, but once someone clambers aft with the front seat flip-slide engaged, there is plenty of space. Even the deep rake of the back third of the roofline does not eat into headroom. That said, the third-passenger middle position in the backseat is strictly for kids, not adults.

The word “coupe” may seem like a contradiction when it’s tied to the Accord and Camry, but it’s an obvious move on the part of Honda and Toyota move to build a sportier image for great-selling cars that are often seen as being mundane.

The G37S from Infiniti does it with plenty of grace. The Solara, not so much. The Accord Coupe falls between the two. It runs on a shorter wheelbase than the sedan – 107.9 inches compared with 110.2. That means the sedan runs a bit smoother on the highway, but that the coupe is feistier in corners.

The top version of powerplant also is feisty. In our test car, it was linked to a five-speed automatic that shifted adequately (a manumatic option would make it better) , and a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that cranks out 273 horsepower. Honda bills the Accord Coupe as yet another fuel saver, but pushed hard sometimes, I only got 18.2 miles per gallon.

At first, it won’t be easy to recognize the new Accord coming down the street, especially from the side. A distinct flaring starts at the base of the front bumper, goes up over the front fenders, is picked up again at the front door gap, and rises over the rocker panels and rear fender before flattening out. Twin, chrome-tipped exhausts tucked up into the bumper add a sporty look.

More sport is provided by the slit-like headlights (which are different from the sedan’s more rounded lamps), the rear spoiler molded to the trunk, and the large drop of glass from rear roof to the chopped trunk lid. Despite that chop, the trunk is spacious.

In fact, there’s a roominess to this car, particularly up front, that you might not expect in a sporty coupe.

You can also opt to add wood accents, and our test model’s leather bucket seats.

Particularly intriguing is the “terraced” dashboard, which features a sweep of hooded gauges that give way to a center navigation screen.

It all runs forward and above the lower dash, giving the appearance of raised eyebrows.

The center console features a large, up-down, right-left control button, that also is a dial for myriad functions. The audio is easily controlled by a smaller dial above, and large, rectangular buttons off to each side.

On the road, the Accord was a snappy as most people will ever need – firm in corners, quick to pass, easy to roll out into traffic from entrance ramps. It is far from mundane.

Practical, tight, and sporty is the theme here for 2008.

Royal Ford can be reached at ford@globe.com.

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