EXPERT REVIEW

The Detroit Newspapers's view

It seems a bit weird to say “sex appeal” and “Honda Accord” in the same sentence, but it’s not totally implausible when you’re talking about the redesigned 2006 Accord coupe.

The sporty two-door gets a major freshening this model year, with revised front and rear styling, more horsepower and a comprehensive list of standard safety features.

We drove a top-of-the-line Accord EX-V6 NAV (short for standard navigation system) with no options. Bottom line: $29,950, including a $550 destination charge.

SHE: I was feeling pretty hot in the Accord coupe and made the mistake of mentioning that to your friend John, who really shot me down over the phone. He instructed me to go back out on the driveway and take a good hard look at the Honda “H” logo planted in the middle of the Accord’s grille. He insists that it looks like a carved Halloween pumpkin with a single tooth. After he said that, I just couldn’t get the image out of my mind.

HE: Was that my buddy John O’Lantern? We call him Jack for short, but only in October.

SHE: If you buy a coupe, it’s not about practicality. It’s about image. And besides, I still like the Honda coupe despite Jack’s, I mean John’s, snarky comment. You get an amazing car that’s built in America with lots of upscale features, including a standard moonroof, for under 30 grand. And that revised exterior is gorgeous, with a nice, arching roof and touches of exterior drama, like oversized headlights and taillights.

HE: I give the Accord coupe high marks for being a great street performer, as well as a pretty good looker. It won five stars from me on several counts. Honda upgraded the suspension and tires, giving the Accord coupe even better handling and ride quality. The 3.0-liter V-6 engine’s output has been bumped slightly to 244 horsepower, which is more than enough juice for passing and merging on the freeway. The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth, with short throws. And, despite all that muscle, this powertrain gets decent fuel economy at 21 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway.

SHE: I’m a big fan of Honda because it is so dedicated to safety. Our Accord coupe had a long list of standard safety features, including side curtain air bags, stability control, antilock brakes and daytime running lights. Honda even lists the federal government’s crash-test ratings on its window sticker. Of course, they are superior. As a consumer, I really like a company that doesn’t skimp on safety.

HE: But there were some things we didn’t like. There is limited headroom and few amenities in the rear. And the thick rear pillars block your vision. But we both agreed that the two-tone cabin, in black and taupe, looked striking and sophisticated.

SHE: My other gripes involve more practical concerns. Even though the Accord coupe features split-folding rear seats, the controls are in the trunk and the seats are difficult to reach to flip down. So this vehicle is probably a bit impractical for people who have little kids and need to use things like car seats. And while I liked the standard moonroof, I was surprised to see the controls are to the left of the steering wheel so the front passenger can’t operate them. I vote for equal access to controls in the front seat. But I have to say that the nav system, which included voice recognition, was fairly easy to operate.

HE: This top-of-the-line Accord coupe should work its magic on buyers who are looking for a well-executed product with performance and style.

– – –

2006 Honda Accord 2DR EX-V6 NAV

Type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, 5-passenger coupe.

Price: Base, $29,950 (inc. $550 destination charge); as tested, $29,950.

Engine: 3.0-liter V-6; 244-hp; 211 lb-ft torque.

EPA fuel economy: 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway.

Where built: Marysville, Ohio.

12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan*: $1,394. (Estimate. Rates may be higher or lower, depending on coverage, driving record.)

Anita: 4

Likes: Sporty touches like leather-wrapped black steering wheel. Super safety features, including vehicle stability control and brake assist. Excellent attention to the smallest detail — the power outlet in dash is covered with carbon-fiber trim. Quiet cabin.

Dislikes: Friend criticized its “jack o’lantern” face with single tooth. Moonroof controls are to left of steering wheel so front passenger can’t operate them. Split-folding rear seats are a pain; pull cords are located in trunk and seats are hard to reach to flip down. Twin rear exhausts on V-6, not V-8, seem like overkill.

Paul: 5

Likes: Workmanship is top drawer. Slightly more powerful V-6 is a good performer, especially on highway. Sweet six-speed manual transmission with short throws. Easy-to-read gauges. Standard amenities include navigation system, XM satellite radio. Great handling. Decent fuel economy.

Dislikes: Large rear pillars on coupe impede visibility. Limited headroom in rear. Rear amenities need work; no vent or fan control in rear, cupholders don’t adjust.

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