2008 Honda Accord Coupe and Sedan

Regis Lefebure

The traditional knock on Hondas--especially Accords--is that they're characterless appliances, overrefined transport modules that recall wheeled versions of Asimo, Honda's own humanoid robot. But in the past few years, it seems that Honda has begun to let out the reins and allow its talented engineers to infuse their designs with something that was heretofore in short supply: personality.

Just look at the new, way-attitudinal Accord coupe. Where Accord styling used to err on the side of apologetic--"Hello, I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm the Accord"--the 2008 Accord coupe, with its raked side glass and chunky, aggressive front end, gets in your face right away with some Samuel L. Jackson swagger. It is not a polite car. And, I say, it's about time.

Viewed in profile, the Accord coupe looks like it has too much front overhang, but from any other angle it looks pretty fantastic, an impression bolstered by the unexpected amount of attention this car garnered. I mean, I know it's a new model, but I didn't expect an Accord to attract so many curious onlookers--and compliments.

Incidentally, Honda introduced the Accord not in Maui or the French Riviera but in Boston, a place with some attitude of its own. This also happens to be my stomping grounds, so in lieu of Honda's organized drive down to Cape Cod, I veered into my own Southie hood, which boasts some of the nastiest roads this side of Baja. Without a bit of exaggeration, there's one stretch of road near my house that's made entirely of patched potholes, a frightening tarmac collage of ragged bumps. The Accord coupe sailed over this mess with only a distant symphony of thuds from the tires and very little motion from the body. This is a solid vehicle. So solid, it seems as if they could cut off the roof and make a very handsome convertible while maintaining a reasonably stiff structure. C'mon, Honda--don't tell me you haven't taken the measure of the Chrysler Sebrings of the world and thought about that one.

The coupe is designed to recruit younger buyers into the Accord fold, and it's aiming at that crowd with a mix of high-tech features and performance that's up to the sprightly Nissan Altima standard. For instance, the Accord coupe offers eighteen-inch wheels, which will never earn it the cover of DUB magazine but are the biggest wheels ever fitted to a production Honda. There's a variable-ratio steering rack that offers nuanced responses just off-center (say, during a lane change) but quickens the ratio near the ends of steering lock, to help you swing into parking spaces a bit quicker. That's the kind of elegant Honda engineering we know and love. Another Accord first that fairly booms Honda's quest for younger customers: an available subwoofer.

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