It’s a modest looker and amounts to a sports coupe built from the guts of a family sedan—but the 2014 Accord Coupe is the highest-performing car Honda currently builds, and a machine that, on some levels, does other Honda performance greats like the Prelude, S2000 and NSX proud.
It is the Honda Accord of sport coupes. It’s practical. Easy to drive. Every-day friendly. You can use the back seat for adult humans, since they’re big, comfortable and easy to access. It’s an easy car to enter and exit, thanks to a huge door aperture and a floor height that’s not of the road-scraping variety. There are cupholders and a big centre storage bin that’ll fit an SLR camera. And the trunk will easily accept a full complement of camping gear for a two-person weekend away. So, at a glance, it’s a sports-coupe with virtually none of the space-related compromise.
And, as a sport coupe should, it’s got some passionate styling and equipment that supports that more personal driving experience. Though based on the four-door Accord Sedan, the coupe is lower to the ground, shorter in wheelbase, and beefier in stabilizer-bar diameters. Plus, it comes with the greasy-smooth six-speed stick you won’t find with the V6 engine in the sedan. So though it’s nearly sedan sized and looks largely familiar, it’s not just a four-door with two doors cut off.
Between those two doors, you’ll find a great new interior fitting of a range-topping model, as well as slick features including a dual-tier display with adaptive touch-screen, and Honda’s Lane Watch gizmo. This uses a camera mounted on the passenger-side mirror to display a wide-angle image down the side of the car on the centre screen whenever you signal, or tap the corresponding stalk-mounted button. This is slick, and could prevent accidental side-swiping of another vehicle, pedestrian or cyclist when turning. Elsewhere, the cabin is fresh-looking, upscale and presents a welcomed departure from the fifty-shades-of-grey-plastic styling theme from the last-generation car.
But probably the best thing about Honda’s latest Accord Coupe is its delightfully furious split personality. Though it’s sensible and easy to drive gently and roomier than it looks, the Accord Coupe V6 puts on a hell of a show when you get to driving it hard.
Under the hood, a Honda staple: a 3.5 litre VTEC V6, now generating the better part of 280 horsepower. It’s smooth, eager, loves to work, and operates at full throttle with a tuned sound from its intake and exhaust. Don’t miss the rewarding howl-turned-growl as the VTEC hot cam kicks in at high revs.
And what a noise.
Operation approaching redline sees the engine sounding worked, hard, and gloriously loud and mechanical. But all the while, it seems eager and comfortable. It sounds like it likes it.
The gearbox is magnificent, too. Relatively short throws, a wonderfully smooth action and a grabby but light clutch connect the driver to the transmission, and pedal placement, clutch engagement and throttle response contribute to nearly telepathic heel-and-toe shifting, if you’re inclined.
But here’s the best part: the smoothest gearshifts come when drivers rush through the cogs at full throttle with some urgency. That, combined with the fact that the big V6 works best and sounds the most fantastic when its spinning fast, contributes to a sense that the powertrain was finely tuned to feel the most natural when having the bejesus driven out of it. Hammer down and drive with intent, and the Accord V6 makes you feel like a total rockstar.
Test-drivers will also find handling and steering that are eager and playful—fairly light but precise enough to encourage you to explore the limits a little. The brakes are similar, they bite with authority and are easy to modulate and precise. Here’s an Accord that’s ready to drop your kids off at school and visit a race-track, if you like. Plus, thanks to the new platform and new steering system and suspension tuning, it all feels more calibrated and entertaining and frisky than previous Accord Coupe models.
All of that with a comfortable and laid-back highway ride, alongside appreciable fuel mileage, despite the performance wallop.
Some will find the Accord Coupe looks a little too tame relative to its capabilities, and as great as the gearbox is when rushed, drivers a little rusty on manual transmissions may wish for easier smooth shifts when driving gently. But end of the day, for an authentic performance experience that flies under the radar and is easy to live with every day, Honda’s Accord Coupe V6 should be considered a priority test-drive.