Let me get this out of the way first: I have not been so annoyed by a manual transmission since the 2003 Ford Mustang Cobra. Forget the six-speed manual in the otherwise superb 2008 Honda Accord EX-L coupe, and get the five-speed automatic. As much as I like the manual transmission in, say, the Honda S2000 and the Civic Si, that’s how much I don’t like it in this Accord.
Which is kind of surprising, as I enjoyed this combination in the last-generation Accord coupe. But for whatever reason, the grabby, too-light clutch and lazy shifter just didn’t work for me. Your results may differ.
Otherwise, I have virtually no complaints, as Honda stylists have delivered a mainstream car that looks like a cross between a Lexus and a BMW 6-Series — it’s one of those cars that look better on the road than in photos or on the showroom floor. The Accord sedan is handsome, too, but the coupe styling looks like a completely different car. You’ll pay about $15,000 more for two fewer doors and a lot less room in the rear seat, but hey, I’m not sitting back there, am I?
The 2008 Accord coupe, 3.2 inches longer than the 2007 model, starts at $20,360, with a 2.4-liter, 190-horsepower four-cylinder — that’s 13 horsepower more than the base Accord sedan. The test car, with a 3.5-liter, 268-horse V-6, is at the other end of the Accord food chain — our EX-L had leather, a navigation system, big P235/45-18 Michelin radials on alloy wheels, and more attitude than any Accord, ever. The price was $31,145, including shipping: It had no options, nor were there any available.
The perforated-leather bucket seats are supportive and very comfortable even on long drives. Controls for the stereo and navigation system were the victims of mild style-before-substance, but not to an objectionable point. Honda has long had one of the more user-friendly nav systems, and this one is no different.
The Accord’s V-6 is very quiet and as smooth as any engine on the market. It has a very sophisticated Variable Cylinder Management system (VCM), which operates on all six cylinders when power is needed, but then drops to four or three cylinders when it isn’t. This results in EPA-rated fuel mileage, on regular gas, of 19 miles per gallon city, 28 mpg highway.
But wait: That’s with the five-speed automatic transmission. Accords with the V-6 and the six-speed manual don’t get the VCM, so fuel mileage for the manual is 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway. The engine in the test car had Honda’s regular VTEC variable valve timing, and variable intake management instead of VCM, which is supposed to improve low- and mid-range torque and make racier noises, but I’d prefer the fuel mileage.
Honda charges exactly the same for the manual and the automatic in the EX-L coupe — one more reason to pass on the six-speed. The manual transmission offered with the four-cylinder engine is a five-speed, by the way.
On the road, the Accord coupe corners quite well, but as much as we might wish that BMW-like handling came with its BMW-like looks, it doesn’t. The ride is quite good, finding a happy medium between comfort and sport.
As you’d expect, safety features abound, including stability control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution, traction control, side and side-curtain air bags and front active head restraints and a security system. Especially nice: All that comes as standard on even the least-expensive Accord coupe.
The 2008 Accord — sedan or coupe — has the look and feel of a far more expensive car. Aside from the unloved manual transmission, this EX-L coupe is a coupe.
Sentinel Automotive Editor Steven Cole Smithcan be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.